David G's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 51, NSW)

I was diagnosed with bowel cancer (first stage) at the age of 51 as a result of a routine check-up with my GP. Previously I had no symptoms or warning signs of the cancer. During a check-up with my GP I asked about the Government Screening Kit which I had received but ignored. My GP handed me another kit and recommended I do it. I undertook the stool test which came back positive.

My GP recommended I have a colonoscopy as soon as possible - it was booked and undertaken two weeks later. Three weeks later I went in for surgery and had 10-15 cm of my lower bowel removed.

I was measured for a stoma although ultimately this was not required. Initial treatment recommendations were made which were many and varied. There was a huge amount of information to process and having my wife attend the many appointments with me proved invaluable.

Due to the cancer being caught so early, I sought the advice of an independent doctor who guided me to a clearer understanding of my options. I declined the option of having chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I felt it was the right decision for me.

My recovery has been really good. Initially I was eating a very bland diet and was visiting the toilet a lot more than I do now. I was given dietary advice on leaving hospital but to be honest, the information consisted of lists of good and bad options, which were very limited and sometimes not that clear. It was probably the most difficult part of my recovery.

During a routine PET scan a very small tumour on my thyroid was discovered. Apparently it had a one percent chance of being cancerous. After further tests, it turned out I was indeed in that one percent, so that was another surgery I underwent. Thankfully that side of things is also under control.

Two years on I am all clear. I still need ongoing colonoscopy and blood tests, but they are no longer as frightening. The entire process opens you up to a whole other world, and in the blink of one positive test, so many more issues can arise that you had never even contemplated.

This experience has made me realise the importance of talking to your family about their medical history. Until I was diagnosed I had no idea both my aunt and grandmother had had bowel cancer.

When bowel cancer is detected, the best thing you can do is to make sure your doctors pursue it quickly to reduce further problems long term. If in doubt, always seek a second opinion.

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