I had supported two close friends who had been diagnosed with the disease and knew of a relative and another acquaintance who had it.
My mum started to experience symptoms suggestive of bowel cancer about twelve years ago.
A tumour was discovered, and so she started to pester me and my siblings to have a colonoscopy to be sure we were all okay.
As a result of her persistent prodding, we all went and had colonoscopies.
My brothers and sister all came up clear.
I credit my mum for saving my life.
Without her continually checking to be I followed through, I might be in my coffin today.
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in March 2007.
When my good friend came to seem me at the hospital, he said, “Welcome to the club.”
It is a club – a unique club –where your beliefs are tested and you question many facets of life and the universe.
It’s a club where you can become very egocentric and wholly focused on yourself, your treatment and your future.
It’s a club that no one wants to be a member of.
At that time, I felt as though suddenly my life had been turned upside down by this invader in my body.
Why me, I thought.
Surely this diagnosis is wrong.
Then the pragmatic questions set in....
Is my life insurance up to date?
What will happen to the kids when I die?
When we’re 20, we all think people who are 50 are old.
Once we turn 50, we realise we have plenty of life left to live.
I had an operation, some bowel removed.
I searched the Net for answers.
And cried some more.
I didn’t know how this was affecting my wife, how it was affecting my Mum, how it was affecting my Dad (who was diagnosed with prostate cancer a year earlier) and especially how it was affecting my kids; they supported me throughout the process, which meant so much to me.
I searched for answers and in some cases, I’m still searching.
I completed twelve courses of chemotherapy over six months.
In amongst all this stuff happening to me, on the morning of my eleventh treatment, Mum passed away.
She had fought the battle and it was time for her to go.
As her eldest surviving child, I was determined to do the eulogy at her funeral.
It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
I owe her my life.
She conceived me (with Dad’s help obviously), gave birth to me, delivered me and by pestering me constantly in 2006/07 she saved my life.
I had no symptoms.
If I had not had a test done, I probably would have been buried before Mum.
Listen to your parents!
More importantly, listen to your body.
If my mum had gone to the doctor earlier instead of procrastinating, she too might still be here today.
The message is clear. . . Don’t wait until it’s too late.
If you are age 50 or older, screen for bowel cancer at least once every two years, as per medical guidelines.
If you are experiencing symptoms suggestive of bowel cancer for two weeks or more, see your GP.
If you are at increased of bowel cancer due to a family or personal history, speak to your GP about what you should be doing to manage your risk of developing bowel cancer.
My two sons will need to be vigilant since bowel cancer runs on both sides of our family.
I really am one of the lucky ones.
Although I still have peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet, as my surgeon says, “It’s a lot better than the alternative.”
I would like to finish by mentioning that I am an avid Melbourne football Club supporter and have been for many years.
I followed Jim Stynes through his distinguished football career and his sad passing a couple of years ago.
If he had gone to the doctor to check out that first spot on his back he might still be with us today.
"If you don't have cancer, cherish life. If you do, cherish life even more." – Jim Stynes
Don’t wait until it’s too late.
To find out more about Bowel Cancer Australia's February public awareness campaign "Don't Wait Until It's Too Late" visit stopbowelcancer.org.