"As a 33-year-old bloke, healthy, married with small kids, I never thought that I would be faced with a bowel cancer diagnosis at this point in my life.
For about 12 months or so, I was aware of some minor changes to my bowel movements, but I just put this down to food sensitivities or my body being messed around from shift work. In hindsight, I now know that was the first signs something was wrong.
Around the end of January 2023, I noticed a small bit of blood in my bowel movement. As a once off, I didn’t give it too much thought, however, after experiencing it again for the second time, I told my wife. She insisted that I get into any GP in our local area and to not leave their office until I had a referral to a colorectal surgeon.
Due to a close family member having had colorectal cancer, we knew the importance of getting checked, which is why my wife was so insistent. At no point did we think that bowel cancer was what was causing this, however, thought it best to get a referral so a specialist could confirm. I honestly thought shift work had gotten the better of me as I had been working shift work for about 17 years.
I went to a local GP, who I hadn’t been to before, and he advised me that I was too young for it to be anything serious, that this would likely pass and to come back if symptoms persisted. While I politely acknowledged that what he was saying may be correct, I was persistent in my request for a referral to a specialist and he reluctantly agreed.
The first available appointment with my colorectal surgeon was approximately four weeks after my consult with the GP and in that time, my symptoms worsened significantly. I was losing weight, passing large amounts of blood, was significantly fatigued and experienced cramping in my abdomen. When I met with my surgeon and spoke through my symptoms, he scheduled my colonoscopy immediately and I was undergoing the procedure within 5 days.
I woke expecting that I was going to be told I had haemorrhoids or something blokes my age commonly face; however, this was not the case.
I was told by the specialist that he found a number of polyps throughout my bowel but most significantly, he found a tumour that was about the size of a tennis ball. As I was groggy from the anaesthetic, this conversation is still a little hazy but I was aware I would need further surgery and that I was needing to undertake CT scans and blood work. I now know this was to see whether there was cancer in my lymph nodes or anywhere else in my body. The tumour was biopsied and I would be contacted with these results, as well as the result of my scans and bloods, as soon as possible.

Undertaking these tests and waiting for these results was daunting. I was eventually advised that I had bowel cancer, however, the positive news was that there was no indication it had spread to my lymph nodes or any other parts of my body. I subsequently underwent a colectomy on the 12th of April, which included a 20cm incision to remove a large portion of my bowel. They removed about 25cm of my colon. I spent a week in hospital and was off work for 2 months so that my body could recover. The portion of bowel and the tumour that was removed was tested which confirmed that the cancer cells were confined to the tumour and there was no indication of spread to the lymph nodes. I will now undergo frequent monitoring but feel incredibly lucky with my results and where I am now.
I am acutely aware of what waiting a further few months to go and get checked would have meant for me and my family and absolutely know that because of early detection, I have had a great outcome.
If it wasn’t for my wife, it probably would’ve been another thing I would’ve put off for a few months.

I cannot stress the importance of looking at, and talking about your bowel movements. It could be so many things other than cancer but in case it is, it is far better to know as early as possible.
You are never too young to have bowel cancer. And this is why I’m doing Dry July." ~ Renaldo.

If you were inspired by Renaldo's fundraising activities and would like to support Bowel Cancer Australia through Dry July further details are available here.