At 43 years of age, I was a busy mother of four boys and an elected Member in the Victorian Parliament when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Like many people, I thought bowel cancer was an older person's disease and despite a family history of the disease, didn't think I needed to worry about it just yet.
I had been experiencing some discomfort since walking the Kokoda track nine months earlier, but I was busy with parliamentary commitments and looking after my family, and just couldn't seem to find the time to have the required medical tests to determine the cause. I made the big mistake of putting my health last, instead of it being a top priority.
If I had not found the time when I did, the prognosis could have been very different.
I required surgery of over seven hours to remove an aggressive, localised cancer followed by a six-month course of chemotherapy. I am now privileged to have made a full recovery.
I am passionate about raising awareness. If I can help to save one life by spreading the messages about looking after your health and the importance of early detection, then that's a good thing.
Bowels may not be the most appealing topic of conversation, but it is a conversation we need to have. Make a vow to talk bowel!
I am now a proud Bowel Cancer Australia Ambassador, and enjoy highlighting the important ongoing work required to raise community awareness about this largely preventable and treatable disease.