My darling sister, Maria passed away of bowel cancer on 1 March 2023. She was 39 years old.

In 2018 and 2019 Maria had experienced fatigue, digestion issues, pains in her stomach and by mid-2019 she was experiencing a tremendous pain in her back.

Maria had visited GPs, who referred her to nutritionists and dietitians. Maria was told that her fructose intolerance was the likely cause of her discomfort and that she should try a gut cleansing regime involving an array of supplements, beef bone broth and a low fibre diet. Maria's discomfort continued as did her doctor visits, however they believed that she was ‘Too Young’ to be worried about cancer.

In 2001 Maria finally insisted on a scan as she knew there was something drastically wrong. She came home one day shortly afterwards and said ‘Sarey, they have found some masses in my liver’.

A doctor's visit shortly afterwards declared that she had cancer. We left that doctor's office in shock and crying. Completely devastated.

That evening I googled cancer in the liver to horrifically discover that cancer in the liver is more likely to have originated from another organ, quickly denoting STAGE FOUR.

Sure enough Maria's PET scans showed that she had a tumour in her bowel and two massive tumours in her liver.

Maria's oncology appointment was scheduled in for a month's time. Maria, not wanting to be put off another minute headed to the emergency department. Her and I sat there and demanded to be seen by a doctor and to be given a bed. The doctor said to us after feeling her stomach ‘why didn't you come in earlier? People come in here for a bloody broken toenail.’ I will never forget the tears welling up in his eyes and the look on his face when he felt those massive tumours.

The road for Maria after that was gruelling to say the least. Surgery, chemo, restrictive diets, complimentary therapies, clinical trials, scans, emergency admissions, yet all while Maria remained positive, brave, hopeful and kind and supportive to her loved ones, despite her fear, sadness, anger, frustration and immense pain and discomfort.

Unfortunately, Maria's treatment options ran out in November 2022 and Maria's health and abilities quickly declined.

Maria was a beautiful young woman. She had a fire in her soul that was as fierce and bright as the sun. Even up until her last days Maria was still trying to joke and show us love.

I speak now on her behalf because neither of us would ever want one more person on this earth to experience what she had to endure.

My one piece of advice, please do not be turned away from a doctor when you know something is not right. Seek second, third or fourth opinions, demand for further investigation and please know that bowel cancer is now affecting more and more young people than it did 10 years ago. Believe me, you don't want to wait for a Stage 4 diagnosis!