I have suffered from constipation periodically, ever since I was young, so I did not regard it as unusual. My father died of cancer in 1995 in the UK. He told me a few years earlier he had had some polyps removed but he had played down the seriousness of his condition when I spoke to him on the phone. I now know he eventually had open abdominal surgery but still not much more information than that. I had assumed his cancer started in his lungs because he was a pipe smoker.
No one ever told me he had bowel cancer – in the mid nineties I had never even heard of bowel cancer. I knew that my mother had Crohn's disease. When I had constipation, I thought I might have Crohn's too and believed there was no treatment to cure this apart from surgery so didn’t want a diagnosis.
Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, and its impact is felt not just by those diagnosed with the disease, but also by their loved ones.
Most people who develop bowel cancer have no family history of the disease.
1 in 11 Australian men will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.
Medical guidelines recommend screening for bowel cancer every 1 to 2 years using a bowel cancer screening test (known as a Faecal Immunochemical Test or FIT) from age 50 - when bowel cancer risk begins to rise sharply and progressively.
Alexandra considered herself to be a healthy person.
She continued to play team sports well into her 20s and when she reached her 30s she became a regular walker, enjoyed jogging occasionally and after each child attended a boot camp to get back into shape.
As someone who loved fruit and vegetables, Alexandra also found it easy to eat well.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer a year and a half ago at the age of 26.
I was numb, scared and feared the worse.
I think for me the hardest part was the unknown.