Seher's bowel cancer story (father diagnosed age 67, NSW)

My family was shocked by the news in April 2011 when first told my Dad had bowel cancer. It was difficult to process as my Dad is such a healthy man.

Initially my Dad went to his GP to have a check up on his prostate. It was after his assessment that the GP was concerned Dad’s bowel may require further investigation. After discussing his health with his doctor it was apparent Dad had experienced a change in his bowel habits, was anaemic and had noticed gradual weight loss.

Soon after the GP appointment, Dad was sent for a colonoscopy and told he had bowel cancer. Following Dad’s diagnosis, he had several specialist appointments, immediate surgery to remove the cancer, then more appointments to determine next steps. He was given a colostomy and was started on chemo. He also had prostate concerns so there were further investigations for that.

I attended some appointments with Dad to interpret what was being said due to his limited English (Turkish origin). I visited my parents each weekend to also support Mum through this time. My sisters and I took Dad to hospital on the day of his surgery and waited until he was in recovery. There were plenty of hospital visits and visits to my parents following the surgery. I also made sure I was supportive to Mum as she was very stressed during this time.

I held two fundraising events to raise money for Bowel Cancer Australia - I raised about $1500 because I believed it was important to raise awareness about the illness. So even though I couldn’t help Dad to get the cancer out of his body, I could help other people learn about it and potentially prevent it.

I see some serious downfalls in our health system at times, but especially for my parents who do speak limited English, it was and is hard for them to access information they can understand that can put something as serious as cancer into simple language in order to understand what type of cancer Dad had and what his prognosis was. The word cancer for my parents was very scary, so straightaway it was assumed there is a negative result due to lack of understanding.

We need more types of services that tell the families what to expect, what there is to deal with, and what the family can do to make it easy for the patient, while respecting their dignity.

It has been a big learning curve so far, but Dad is doing really well, his treatments have worked successfully and he continues to be a very positive person.



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