My name is Rob and at the age of 43, I was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer that metastasised (spread) to my liver.

Normally, I would be training for my next Ironman or running events or training others to do the same. Instead, I’m training (fighting) to get to the most important finish line of my life!

This World mCRC Day, let’s come together, spread the word on awareness, take up the fight as one world, and kick bowel cancer in the arse!

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Bowel cancer! It’s something a lot of people think of as an “old man’s” disease.

But the truth is It doesn’t discriminate, affecting men and women, young and old! 

Every week, nearly 300 Australians are diagnosed with Australia’s second deadliest cancer - one in ten of them will be under the age of 50.

My journey (or ‘S#@! Show’ as I like to call it) started in July 2020!

I presented myself to my GP because I had blood in my poo.

My GP was going to treat me for haemorrhoids, but my partner, who works in healthcare, insisted that I get a colonoscopy.

We paid for the procedure ourselves.

Two weeks after having the scope, we were pulled into a room and told that I had rectal cancer.

In a split second, my world came crashing down on top of me….

To be honest, I can’t really remember much of the conversation after the doctor said the word “cancer”!

All the sudden, I found myself getting passed from pillar to post -  getting MRIs, CT scans, blood tests and all sorts of things that were just so foreign to me.

The whole-time time I kept thinking this was a mistake or some crazy dream.

I’m fit, healthy and strong!

For God’s sake, it had only been 10 months since I proposed to my partner at the finish line after completing an Ironman!

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After the most agonising week, filled with darkness and disbelief, we were called in to have a meeting with the doctor.

At that point we were told the cancer was only very local –  in the rectum, along with a couple of lymph nodes. I would start radiotherapy.

It’s crazy, but the relief we felt that it had not spread anywhere else was amazing.

So away I went to the cancer clinic, got my 3 tattoo dots, and prepared myself for 6 weeks of radiation and oral chemotherapy.

Radiation wasn’t too bad apart from it feeling like my rectum was nuked and it looked like the surface of the sun!! Doing number 2s was not fun……!                

Following 6 weeks of radiation, I was ready for surgery.

I was rescanned and then pulled into the hospital again where we were told (by a very junior doctor) that the cancer had spread to my liver and there was no hope for survival.

Once again, we were thrown into a world of darkness and disbelief. . .

My case was reviewed by the Multi-Disciplinary Team, and I was put under the care of an Oncologist and a great Cancer Coordinator.

I was told I had 3 small cancer spots on my liver, not operable at the time, and I would need to go onto Chemo.

I had biomarker testing done for KRAS, NRAS, and BRAF and none were present, so apparently, I’m on the best course of treatment for me.

So, PICC line in, and away I went to get my first dose of Folfoxiri along with a “Babies” bottle that would be my friend for 48 hours……

Two weeks later, I would do the same thing again!

I would walk into the cancer clinic a man - the lovely nurses would fill me up with “magic” poison, and 6 hours later I would walk out a “shell” of a man.

During the six rounds, a few mistakes were made due to the misreading of my scans and bad communications between the people looking after my treatment.

I remember saying to the head of the Oncology Department in a serious meeting, “I’m not a cat. I don’t have 9 lives. Please can we get this right?!”

“I will do everything I can to be the perfect patient if you do everything you can. My life is in your hands and my life matters to me, my wife-to-be, and my family!”

They did get it right. The chemo did a good job and put us in a situation where we could go and get half my liver chopped out.

My liver surgeon and the surgical team were fantastic and made me feel at ease with what would be a very large operation, but boy I felt it for the next 10 days or so…. as if Mohamed Ali did 12 rounds on me!

I felt every bump on the road during our 5-hour drive back home, with Karen, my wife-to-be, at the helm.

Following my liver surgery, I started chemotherapy again. This time I pushed to have a Porta-Cath put in so I could continue swimming, running, bike riding and just try and lead a little bit more of a normal life!

Recently however, my oncologist decided it was too much of a risk to finish the last two cycles of chemo.

So, I’ll have scans in the next two weeks followed by an MDT meeting.

Hopefully, no more surprise's and I go for surgery in the next 6 to 8 weeks.

Cancer takes up so much time and it is hard work!

But it hasn’t broken my fighting spirit - my will to live.

Metastatic bowel (colorectal) cancer doesn’t need to be a death sentence.

I have too much stuff to do. I want to marry my soulmate. I don’t have time for cancer!

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I am slowly learning that I need to show some attitude if I’m going to beat this bloody thing!

My advice to other people that find themselves facing this sneaky disease is:

  • Stop looking at statistics, there is NO statistic for “You” - You are a unique individual with your own outcome!
  • Always keep your foot on the accelerator with your healthcare team – nobody is as invested in your treatment and health concerns as you are.
  • Ask lots of questions and demand the best treatment that is available to you.
  • Eat well and exercise both your body and your brain
  • Start something new in your life - it could be anything from knitting to flying a kite!
  • Focus on the positive things, write them down in a book or on your phone. Remind yourself what you have and that it’s worth fighting for.
  • Let friends, family and co-workers help – That’s what they want to do.
  • Oh…. And my favourite! Swear a lot! But in private and make sure the neighbours can’t hear you (ha-ha)

It’s unacceptable that so many people are getting sick with this disease, and I feel the government needs to help with the push to educate people and put more funding into research and support.

This World mCRC Day, let’s come together, spread the word on awareness, take up the fight as one world, and kick bowel cancer in the arse!

PS Check out my Facebook page – Arm Pump Crew. My fiancée Karen came up with the name. Our romance started at a boxing class. Whenever we would run past each other we would do an arm pump as a sign of encouragement for each other.