Katie's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 31, WA)

My brother Jeff was just 31 when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer. He passed away nearly two years later in June 2013. He left behind his beautiful wife Nicole and two gorgeous daughters, aged six and four.

Jeff did not have any symptoms that rang any alarm bells until he started to feel like he had no energy. He looked pale and we urged him to visit his doctor for some blood tests which showed him to be anaemic. He then had a colonoscopy and gastroscopy, which showed up a large doughnut- shaped tumour in his colon.

Within three weeks of the diagnosis he had surgery to remove the tumour and 33 lymph nodes, of which 17 had cancer. Lying in the hospital bed he joked, ‘at least I haven’t got cancer anymore!’ He then underwent more than six months of chemotherapy, travelling 1.5 hrs every fortnight for three days at a time.

When he was given the all-clear he was still very skinny and pale, and he and his family set about adopting a healthier lifestyle with more wholefoods, less processed foods and less chemicals in the home. However, during his chemo and remission the doctors and dieticians told him to fatten up on red meat and sugary drinks, which they later found were the worst things he could have done!

The doctors told him they would scan him again in 12 months time, but what they had thought was scar tissue on his lymph nodes was in fact the cancer flaring up. Five months after he finished the chemo, he experienced epi-gastric pain. Scans confirmed the cancer had returned, this time to the lymph nodes behind his liver.

This time the chemo made him a lot sicker, he began to lose even more weight and complained constantly of abdominal pain. After three months of chemo the oncologist changed his treatment to a new oral chemo type, taken daily. Jeff was informed that if this chemo didn’t have results, then there would be no other treatment options for him.

Jeff and Nicole went madly searching for alternative treatments, which were probably too late. As my brother said, he was one step behind the whole way. They turned to a vegan diet, removed all chemicals from their home, drank filtered water, cut out sugar and processed foods. He drank bush teas, had reiki sessions and began meditating. They also went to the Ian Gawler Foundation retreat in the Yarra Valley, where he learnt about eating and preparing foods to prevent and reduce cancer, meditation, forgiveness and finding peace.

Upon return from the retreat, just when they were feeling confident they could beat this, his scan results showed six tumours in his brain. He began a further four weeks of radiation. But at this time his abdominal pains became too much and further tests showed that the cancer had spread to his stomach, liver, spleen, bones, lungs – as he said, he was riddled with it!

He was told that he had 2-3 months to live. He passed away four weeks later. We had a very special two weeks in hospital with Jeff and everyone important in his life was able to say goodbye to him. He was very much at peace at the end, and this gives us comfort.

Our immediate family, relatives and friends raised more than $4000 for Bowel Cancer Australia and are now all aware of the symptoms and have had individual health checks.

My message for all people is to start making healthy changes to your lifestyle NOW to PREVENT bowel cancer. And for people affected by the disease, research as much as possible and do as much as you can for yourself, particularly in regards to your diet.

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