Donna B's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 43, VIC)

A busy mother of four and a professional working within in a very public leadership role, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at just 43 years of age.
Like many people, I thought bowel cancer was an older person's disease and despite a family history of it, didn't think I needed to worry about it just yet.
I had been experiencing some significant abdominal pain and discomfort since walking the Kokoda track (July 2013) nine months earlier. When I got back home the pain continued spasmodically. I was busy with parliamentary commitments and looking after my family and just couldn't seem to find the time to have the required medical tests to determine the cause. In February 2014 I sought medical advice at my GP. Ultrasounds and blood tests were inconclusive however a colonoscopy picked up a large tumor. Six days later I had surgery followed by six months of chemotherapy.
If I had not found the time when I did, the prognosis could have been very different.
I have had to make a number of changes to my diet as it was difficult to determine foods that agreed with my bowel. Certain foods caused either severe constipation or diarrhea so I spent five days at a retreat and a vegan diet was recommended, although I now have limited red meat and the occasional chicken and fish.
It is very difficult when confronted with cancer. My sons were devastated but they also became a terrific support for me. I experienced highs and lows, tried to remain positive but often at 3am I'd wake with nightmares. Despite the shock of a cancer diagnosis and the challenges of treatment, I continued in my role at work until recently with the change in Government.
I love being given a second chance to be healthy and hope to grow old with my sons who are currently 21,19,17 and 14 and one day enjoy grandchildren!
I am passionate about raising awareness. If I can help to save one life by spreading the messages about looking after your health and the importance of early detection, then that's a good thing. Bowels may not be the most appealing topic of conversation, but it is a conversation we need to have. Make a vow to talk bowel.
Former Liberal MP Donna Bauer served as a Councillor for the city of Kingston from 2008 and was elected Deputy Mayor in 2009 in recognition of her hard work and commitment to her local community. She was the Member for Carrum from 2010 - 2014. She has taken up the role of a Bowel Cancer Australia Ambassador.
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