“I’ll start by saying that I’m one of the very lucky ones! 

I was referred for a colonoscopy at the age of 35, following years of relentless IBS symptoms. My gastroenterologist assured me that it was precautionary and that he wasn’t expecting to find anything unusual. 

I remember waking up in excruciating pain and thinking ‘this can’t be normal’. Instead of being moved straight to a recliner like everyone else, I was kept in a hospital bed for a couple of hours until my doctor had finished his procedures. I knew something was wrong immediately. He was very compassionate when he told me that my ascending and transverse colon were ‘riddled with giant polyps’, including one growing in my appendix. He’d removed half a dozen polyps that were each 5cm in diameter, but I was facing a very high likelihood of requiring a hemi-colectomy. I was diagnosed with serrated polyposis syndrome (SPS).

Over the next 9 months, I had an additional 4 colonoscopies to remove countless large polyps. I also had an appendicectomy, with a small amount of my caecum removed. Thankfully, my dozens of polyps have all been pre-cancerous. 

That year was an incredibly scary time in my life and the frequent procedures were tough on my body. I constantly asked, ‘why me?’, as I have no family history of cancer, including bowel cancer. 

Since then, I’ve come to see my diagnosis as a huge blessing. Very few people with SPS are diagnosed when it’s too late and polyps have turned cancerous. While the colonoscopies were unpleasant, there was no need for chemo or radiation. I will have annual colonoscopies for the rest of my life, but this should effectively manage my risk of developing cancer. 

Bowel cancer awareness and research are very important to me. When I was first diagnosed with SPS, I looked at ways that I could be involved in researching the condition and better understanding causal factors. With a PhD in chemistry, I’m always seeking to understand ‘why’ and what can I do to help. As such, I joined a Colorectal Oncogenomics research group as a consumer advocate.

My role is to represent the needs and interests of patients in research programs. It’s fascinating research and it helps me feel that I’m making a difference to the lives of future generations. I’m optimistic that research outcomes will aid in easier detection and treatment options for bowel cancer. 

For my birthday this year, I asked my family and friends to donate to Bowel Cancer Australia to help raise money and awareness for the great work they do. Thank you so much to those of you who donated. ❤️” ~ Amanda.

0396 BCA Nov 2023 Supporters in Action Amanda Whelan 1520x320

If you were inspired by Amanda's fundraising activities and would like to support Bowel Cancer Australia through an In Celebration Facebook Fundraiser, details are available here.