My partner Jason was a fit healthy 48-year-old. In the past 10 years he raced in endurance sports, ironman and ultra-trail marathons. He was the last person that anyone would ever think would lose his life to bowel cancer.
Life for our family was amazing but in March last year it was all ripped up in an instant when an ultrasound for a rib injury revealed a 2cm mass in his colon. He was still running park runs when it was found. His only other symptom was a slightly grumbly belly that he put down to a change in diet. He worked in the mines and fatigue was normal for him.
Without private health insurance he was triaged to have a phone appointment with a specialist on the basis his condition didn’t warrant an in-person consultation. He waited several weeks for that appointment.
On that phone call the specialist, who only received his scans just beforehand, quickly picked up that his condition was in fact urgent and arranged a colonoscopy. That later confirmed the mass was an adenocarcinoma. He was then rushed into more scans and a PET scan.
Then came the devastating words from his specialist ‘I’m so sorry the scans were not good’. He had extensive metastasis throughout his liver and peritoneum. It was inoperable and incurable. Jason calmly said it was ok, that’s ok …I screamed and threw up. I asked her how could that even be possible? Are you sure that’s right – how can he have Stage 4 cancer with virtually no symptoms ?? We were also told that they would have to hustle to get him into an oncologist immediately as there was a 2 month wait for an appointment.
We were then sent away for several weeks with little contact until his first oncology appointment.
Jason had a KRAS g12c mutation for which treatment options to date are limited. Palliative chemo was his only option to try, and we were advised that peritoneal mets were notoriously unreceptive to chemo. He was fighting for time and time only.
He commenced on Folfoxiri but by that time, and with his health rapidly declining, he didn’t tolerate it well. The first round put him in hospital. He had several more rounds of modified chemotherapy but unfortunately it had little impact on his disease.
Jason spent many weeks in hospital fighting to overcome several bowel obstructions caused by the location of his cancer spread.
With COVID restrictions we lost weeks of precious time with him as we weren’t allowed to see him. He faced some of his most difficult times alone, whilst I was away from him at home trying to keep our life together for our baby girl who was 18 months old at the time.
Ultimately, one last major obstruction cause by his peritoneal cancer resulted in an inoperable perforation and he passed away in September, six-months after diagnosis, at the age of 49.
We have since discovered that there was a family history of bowel cancer on the side of his family he was estranged from. With that history, his mutation and the lack of current treatments the only thing that could have saved his life is if the screening age had been lower than 50.
Jason loved life and adventure. From his diagnosis he never wanted to know time frames or prognosis. He didn’t want it to take away from living every day as fully as he could still. He remained hopeful and optimistic that he could beat his diagnosis right till the very end.
In his memory, his brother, myself and a team are planning to complete the Ultra Trail 50km race in the Blue Mountains in October…in the year he would have turned 50 which is also the current screening age. We have raised $9,000 so far for Bowel Cancer Australia and aim to smash our fund-raising target of $10,000.
I also want to be a voice in fighting to change the perception that only those over 50 are diagnosed with bowel cancer. To fight for lowering the screening age. To improve the treatment options and support for younger families impacted by bowel cancer.