My story is about my husband Jack who passed away last December after a long 13 years battle with bowel cancer.
Back in 2003 he had the first symptoms of some blood in his stool but the GP who he was seeing at that time told him not to be so rough on himself and gave him some suppositories. He was 65 at the time and took his GP’s word for it. If only the bowel cancer test kits had been available in those days.
Two years later he saw another GP about a non-bowel related issue. When asked at the end of the consultation if there was anything else. My husband mentioned that he was still seeing some blood in his stool and that was the start of it.
Having been sent or a colonoscopy he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had an operation. The initial results seemed to indicate that it was caught early enough but 4 years later it was in his liver.
Another operation and for 5 years all seemed to be well but then it has spread to his lungs and eventually it claimed him.
Given my experience, I’m a great believer that early testing for bowel cancer is essential. Shortly after the free test kits came out, I met a man who told me he wasn’t going to do the test because he was afraid of the test results. Because there was bowel cancer in his family.
I eventually convinced him that he really should do the test and when he told me later that the result had come back clear he was grinning from ear to ear and said that he would continue to do the test whenever due.
Another important factor is research. When my husband was first diagnosed in 2005 we asked the doctor what to expect and the answer was:
Stage A it would only be in the bowel and an operation would get rid of it.
Stage B, when it has gone outside the bowel and into lymph nodes will need more treatment but survival rates are still quite good.
Stage C when it has spread to other organs there is nothing that can be done.
The surgeon who did the bowel operation found nothing outside the bowel so, as a Stage A, things looked good.
But in 2009 it was in his liver. When we saw a liver surgeon he told us that, had my husband come to him 2 years earlier he would have had to send him home and suggest a good holiday as there would have been nothing that could be done.
By 2009 however they could operate with a major improvement in life expectancy. After the operation my husband had 5 years of good quality life before we found that it had spread further.
Having lived through it all with him and having first hand seen the major advancements in bowel cancer treatment I am happy to support Bowel Cancer Australia and Decembeard Australia. My husband had a beard and moustache which may have lost a lot of colour over the years but he wouldn’t have gone without it.