Martin's bowel cancer story (diagnosed age 60, NSW)

My name is Martin and I’m a happily married father of three and grandfather of one, working as a General Manager in the building industry. I want people to hear my story so that they understand that bowel cancer can happen to anyone at any time.

I was sent the bowel screen test kit in 2006. I took the test and the results came back negative. In mid-April 2011, I noticed blood in my stools and thankfully I acted immediately. I am normally a procrastinator, but in this instance I acted swiftly. I saw my GP straightaway and was referred to a gastroenterologist. I had a colonoscopy in June and was diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer, which had gone into the bowel wall. I had often wondered how I would react if ever I was told of such a problem. I was actually very calm and I guess my practical nature just said….ok, that’s the prognosis, now how do we deal with it? That’s exactly what I said to the doctor.

I then went about talking to anyone whom I knew had been there already, and just started asking questions and found a surgeon of good repute to do my operation.  

I had a bowel resection at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney in July to remove an 11 cm-tumour and fit an ileostomy. I was then given chemotherapy for five consecutive days a month for six months at Norwest Hospital. I had some awful side effects from the chemo, including nausea, diarrhoea, dry and ulcerated lips and lethargy and tiredness. The oncology nurses were great and jumped on the nausea straightaway, and helped me to continue with the chemo. My oncologist prescribed some steroids to be given with the chemo drugs, and they worked fantastically well in controlling the nausea. Meanwhile, I tried to stay positive and strong throughout this process and carried on going to work, except for some time off after surgery and again with an annoying urinary tract infection I picked up during chemo. 

I finally had my ileostomy reversed on 8 February 2012, just in time for a golf trip with my wife and friends that I had arranged a year ago! My recent CT scan has come back all clear and, although I am still struggling to get my bowels back to normal, I’m definitely moving forward from what was a challenging time in my life. And I have been absolutely blown away by the support I have received from family and friends along the way.

My message to anyone reading this would be not to procrastinate – see your GP straightaway if you have any concerns. Keep communication channels open and talk to people. Don’t keep things to yourself. I found talking to others, whether they were previous cancer sufferers or friends, to be very helpful. Stress, pressure and worry are three things I just don't believe in – they won't help you or anyone else. Stay positive and just work through any issues.

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