Your Young-Onset Bowel Cancer Stories and Photos
Never Too Young Awareness Week is a dedicated week during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month to highlight the unique challenges faced by people who are living with or beyond young-onset bowel cancer. Sharing photos and stories to raise community awareness of young-onset bowel cancer and provide support to young people diagnosed with the disease.
Never assume you’re too young for bowel cancer. Never assume you’re alone. And never assume we don’t need your support to beat bowel cancer within our lifetime.
Bowel Cancer Australia’s goal for Never Too Young Awareness Week in 2019 was to challenge assumptions and perceptions about young-onset bowel cancer by raising awareness, increasing health knowledge, and building communities through shared experiences.
Never assume you’re too young for bowel cancer. Your ass may look great, but if you’re having symptoms or at an increased risk, ask your doctor to be referred for further investigations. If you don’t feel your concerns are being taken seriously, seek a second opinion.
The needs of younger bowel cancer patients can be different, and people living with or beyond young-onset bowel cancer experience unique challenges.
Whether it is having difficulty receiving a diagnosis, finding that mainstream support services and resources are aimed at older people, the financial and emotional challenges that come with being diagnosed with the disease at a young age, or even the all too common look of disbelief, pity and words "Bowel cancer? But, you're so young".
That’s why we’re creating a powerful voice for change during Never Too Young Awareness Week each year.
When people stop assuming lives are saved.
Thank you to all of the Bowel Cancer Australia #Never2Young Champions who joined the ‘faces of young-onset bowel cancer’ as part of our 2019 campaign and continue to share your advice with other young adults around Australia.
What is the biggest challenge you (your loved one) faced as someone diagnosed with bowel cancer under 50?
Ameetha’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 32)
Having no history of cancer in both sides of my family, despite living a healthy and active lifestyle, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer with FAP on 12th Oct 2018.
I experienced frequent bowel movements and noticed blood in my stool. I thought it was haemorrhoids, but it wasn't!
Even if you don't have a history of cancer in your family, it is vital to get your full screening done as a precaution every couple of years. Cancer doesn't discriminate or care if you're 32!
Ask your GP for a colonoscopy today. Don't leave it to the last minute!
Diana’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 37)
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer last year at the age of 37.
I have no family history of bowel cancer, I am not and never have been overweight, I don't drink or smoke and eat a relatively healthy diet.
Being 37, bowel cancer was not on my radar. I am a mum to three children, my youngest was still a baby and therefore I put my extreme fatigue down to just being a mum.
I would advise anyone experiencing any symptoms to see their GP and insist on a colonoscopy. The symptoms can be very mild, mine being fatigue and abdominal discomfort.
The only thing showing up in my bloods was low iron which is common in pregnancy and therefore didn't ring any alarm bells. Despite symptoms being so mild, my cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes. Don't wait until it's too late. Bowel cancer does not discriminate.
Chris’ ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 40)
I was diagnosed with Stage IV bowel cancer a few short months after turning 40. The biggest challenge for me being diagnosed at a young age has been watching how it has affected my wife and my four children.
If I knew what I know now, I would not have ignored the symptoms for so long. After being misdiagnosed I thought they would go away, and I would get better. I would have got a second opinion sooner.
Jessica’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’
Anaemia is a fairly non-descript symptom, especially for a 34-year-old pregnant woman, but it was one I had for years. It took my tumour to grow to the size of a grapefruit before I got some 'niggly' stomach pain. Bowel cancer wasn't on the radar for the four doctors who treated me, I wish I'd pressed them further.
Diana’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (sister diagnosed at 34)
My sister Sarah was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer at age 34 and died 10.5 months later. For her the challenges were instantaneous and endless. The biggest challenge for me was trying to be strong for my sister while she fought a battle that she knew she was going to lose.
The advice I would give to young people is to know their bodies. Know the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer and don't be embarrassed to talk about the "poo cancer" or have a colonoscopy.
Nicola’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 47)
In 2016, diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer I underwent a right hemicolectomy to remove a tumour. The biggest challenge was facing my mortality.
I wrote the following letter to other cancer patients four months into my subsequent six-month chemotherapy treatment -
Laugh a lot, listen to your heart, and what rings true for you, and not to what does not.
Don’t complicate things with too many external thoughts, keep things as simple and as uncomplicated as possible.
Art and music work for me, find what works for you because at times I found conversation too tiring, and these artistic endeavours which are solitary processes were valuable and enjoyable. Fatigue is the big thing both mentally and physically. Look after yourself. Take care. Love yourself, give yourself permission to heal, to get well. Allow the sacred space for this. The pod (our little house) was our place and kept things positive and sane.
I’m writing this as if in retrospect but am sitting in an oncology ward having my 8th infusion. I’m trying to capture a moment in time that you may find useful.
God bless, stay strong.
Kathryn’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 39)
So much focus is put on the medical/physical side of being treated for bowel cancer, so at first it was difficult to navigate the emotions that come with being on the cancer roller coaster. When diagnosed as stage 3, my world spun out of control, but it’s been helpful to know that I’m not alone…
There are many others going through (or who have gone through) the same and seeking out their stories can give reassurance that it’s ok to not be ok some days (and that it’s possible to sob and laugh at the same time). My biggest ‘what if’ fears play on my mind in the middle of the night when steroids keep me awake (and so hungry!) as I wonder if life will ever go back to the ‘normal’ I once took for granted.
As someone who loves being busy, it has been hard to slow down and sit on the sidelines of life at home whilst doing chemo. When diagnosed, I thought my biggest challenge would be getting through chemotherapy and feeling unsure about how work and family life would be able to continue… but despite these fears, many things have worked out ok so far.
In this busy world we live in, YOU are the best advocate for your own health. At 39, I was younger than the typical bowel cancer patient, so I had to battle for the referral to have a colonoscopy... the GP reluctantly gave in to me and I felt like a hypochondriac (even with family history). If I didn't end up doing the test, after weeks of putting it off, I would still not have a diagnosis.
So, if you have a nagging feeling that something isn't right, demand ALL the tests! The only way we can truly kick cancer’s ass is to speak up and be an advocate for our own health – know your body and don’t be embarrassed by speaking up when you feel something isn’t right. We all know that cancer doesn’t discriminate… young or old, male or female, we are all at risk.
If you have any symptoms of bowel changes, a family history of bowel cancer, or just a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right for you, please go to your GP and ensure you get tested. And if you’re told “you’re too young to be at risk for bowel cancer” ask for the tests/referrals anyway.
Sophie’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 33)
You know your body better than anyone else, if you know something isn't right or have symptoms, act upon it straight away and fight until you get answers. Don't wait until it's too late!!
Hollie’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 24)
Being told you have bowel cancer at 24 is scary, being told it’s Stage 4 as it’s spread to your liver and you have a 5% chance of survival is scary, being told that you’ve had it for around five years is scary (which means I would have been 19), being misdiagnosed for over two years is scary.
It was scary, because it was unknown, I was walking a path I had never walked before, a path where I felt like I was the only young person to have bowel cancer. My health, my life, I trusted with surgeons and oncologists I didn’t know, surgeons who became my real-life angels and nurses who saw sides of me no one else saw.
I want my story to be heard to so that anyone else out there never feels alone, or like they are the only one going through bowel cancer like I did. I want people to not ignore their symptoms because they are scared of what it might be, or self diagnose, or get told something without further tests.
I want people to be proactive with their health and put their fears aside and put their life and health first.
Being told you are too young for bowel cancer or to have a colonoscopy is [email protected]* and I know one day soon the stigma of it being an old persons disease will no longer exist, I just hope it’s sooner rather than later, so less people get misdiagnosed and less people are taken too soon.
No matter your age, you should always take preventative measures with your health, listen to your body and know when something isn’t right, seek other opinions and never settle for a diagnosis if you don’t feel happy. Your health is your wealth and it should always be your top priority, not an inconvenience or put to the side for later.
Marisha’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 34)
The biggest challenge I faced being diagnosed under the age of 50, is the lack of relevant information and support groups for young adults experiencing bowel cancer. Commonly, support groups target older people, who at times are difficult to relate to. Often being incorrectly viewed as an 'old man’s cancer' meant there was also a sense of isolation, and being forgotten, because I just don't fit that description.
My advice remains the same - I wish I had been more persistent: if you feel the doctors have missed or are ignoring important pieces of information about your health and body, speak up. Insist they do tests or send you for a referral. If they refuse, seek a second opinion until you get answers. We know our body better than anyone else. Be your own advocate. Speak up.
Renae’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 33)
Once being diagnosed the biggest challenge I faced was dealing with fear. The emotional, physical and financial strain this disease causes is unfathomable.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is seek a colonoscopy early. It may not just be irritable bowel syndrome or similar.
Family and friends gave me the love and energy I needed to keep believing in myself. I also used Cancer Service Centres for support. I learnt as much as I could about my health. There is a whole wealth of knowledge that is not mainstream if you look for it.
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer, I had bowel surgery to remove a tumour and six-months chemotherapy.
I am now healthy. I am sharing my story as it needs to be known that this is also a young person’s disease.
Sarah’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 41)
At 41 I had no inkling that bowel cancer was a possibility when I was feeling unwell. I was fit, healthy and had no family history making the diagnosis an overwhelming shock! Within a month I had undergone life changing surgery to remove most of my bowel, followed by six-months of chemotherapy and a slow recovery.
My advice to others is to listen to your body and seek medical advice when something doesn’t feel right. Bowel cancer is a disease that affects the entire population – this was something I wasn’t expecting at all, but if it is detected early enough, it is treatable and the rate of successfully overcoming bowel cancer is good.
Nat’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 32)
My biggest challenge has been accepting that bowel cancer didn't leave my life when my treatment finished and will be a part of my future forever in one way or another. Five years later I'm still having scans and bad bowel days and the surgeries and chemo that I went through impacted on both my pregnancies. I will also have to tell my children at some point that they will be starting regular colonoscopies when they turn 21.
I would advise anyone who has heard those dreaded words that 'you've got cancer' and is facing a myriad of medical appointments to write down any questions in advance and make sure you ask them all when you get the chance. Feeling in control of my treatment and having answers to all of my questions made me feel much more comfortable with what was going on.
Anita’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (brother diagnosed at 39)
My brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer at 39. Sadly, he passed away 10 months after his diagnosis. He was 40.
My most important piece of advice is to never dismiss how you are feeling. If something doesn't feel right, get checked by a doctor right away. Often, we dismiss signs and symptoms of sickness under the assumption that it is nothing serious and will pass. This assumption could result in serious, life threatening illnesses going un-checked.
It's essential for people to realise that you're never too young to be at the helm of this aggressive disease - it doesn't discriminate. By encouraging conversation about bowel cancer, we can collectively educate others about it - from how to prevent it, through to spotting symptoms and the treatments available for those suffering.
Long term, this awareness is an essential step in preventing the disease from impacting the lives of many more people and their loved ones.
Steph’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 32)
My biggest challenge from the diagnosis of Stage 4 BC was the frustration of trying to live a normal life alongside chemo treatments. A fine balance between being here for my family now and in the future.
Leigh’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 32)
This is a wonderful initiative and one that resonates strongly with me as it took a year to be diagnosed despite regular doctors’ visits. The biggest challenge at that time was being taken seriously because the doctor felt I was too young for bowel cancer - it was the last thing I was tested for.
Lesson learnt… always listen to your inner voice.
Sarah’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 27)
My biggest challenge, as someone young with bowel cancer, was getting past my feeling that no one would believe I was actually sick, and that therefore I was not worthy of support.
Shelley’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 34)
One of the biggest challenges I faced having bowel cancer was the feeling of not being in control of what was happening. I work as a Register Nurse and took a while for me to get used to being the patient. It was hard to be taken care of and letting people help me. I lost independence and had to rely on others. Lucky for me a had the best supportive family and friends which made it easier.
The advice I would give young people regarding bowel cancer, is not to ignore or make excuses for symptoms. Go see your GP even if you have a smallest of concern. That way you can talk through what’s happening with your body and have tests carried out which could save your life. I got to Stage 3, which only has a 40% survival rate! I’m so glad I acted on symptoms when I did so it didn’t get to Stage 4. Please don’t ignore or dismiss changes in your body that aren’t normal.
Sarah’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 46)
I was diagnosed at 46 after a few years of having what I thought were food intolerances, I brushed it off for so long.
My biggest challenge has been dealing with the worry, fear and anxiety. How you cope with a diagnosis is always a choice. I had to choose every day to be positive, to not allow a cancer diagnosis to rob me of the joy that can still be found in a life effected by cancer.
My advice would be don’t ignore the symptoms. For a long time I dismissed my symptoms as allergies, food intolerances and just thought it was one of those things that I had to live with. Get it checked, do a test.
Benita’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 41)
My biggest challenge would be learning to accept that I'm no longer the same person I was before diagnosis. I have always been a strong person and believed I could do anything, and whilst I can still do most things, I now have physical limitations that I have to accept, which can be hard to do at times.
My one piece of advice would be to make every day count, cherish everything you have and live your best life, every day.
Kelly’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 37)
I would have to say the biggest challenge was the emotional roller coaster from being told at such a young “you have cancer”. It happened so fast from getting diagnosed and having the surgery, I didn’t get a chance to process it really.
My advice to others is to listen to your body and if someone doesn’t right go to the doctors, I did and was very lucky to have caught it so early and ended up having the best outcome and didn’t need chemotherapy.
Keely’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 32)
I was 32 when I was diagnosed in January 2019 with Stage 4 bowel cancer and liver metastasis. I have used a mix of western and eastern medicine to help fight this. I have been fairly lucky that my worst side effect is hair loss and to be honest I've enjoyed not having to worry about doing my hair every day! My most recent PET scan showed the tumour is shrinking and my cancer markers are lowering each day!!
My biggest challenge: Seeing how hard my diagnosis is on my loved ones.
My piece of advice: Be prepared for chemo by eating a lot beforehand and staying as hydrated as possible. It helps with the recovery from each round if you are well hydrated, especially on those days you don't want to eat or drink anything.
Melissa’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 40)
My story is a recent one. I was diagnosed at the end of March 2019. The only symptoms I had were abdominal pains and constipation in the two to three weeks prior, which I thought it was related to something I had eaten.
At first, I was diagnosed with colitis and a week later, after another visit to the emergency department, I was having surgery and being told it was Stage 3 bowel cancer.
Sofiah’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 25)
The problem with being too young for bowel cancer is that on the surface, it is the logical conclusion. When you’re under 50, there are so many other things that could be wrong and do match the symptoms you have. Take me as an example... when I first thought about my symptoms - that included constipation, rectal bleeding, haemorrhoids - I had just finished high school and was progressing through uni. There was stress, new friends and certainly unhealthy eating and drinking to match this new period of my life. Not to forget, I was a young woman so low iron wasn’t too alarming - probably just a heavy menstrual cycle.
I wrote a piece on my diagnosis a few years ago that touched on one of many GPs who dismissed my fears. Thankfully years later I did get my diagnosis of Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, a hereditary condition which left untreated will 100% become cancer (I was the first mutation of this in my family). I was one of the lucky ones who managed to have surgery whilst my polyps were still considered high-grade dysplasia and not yet cancerous, but it was a very fine line.
However, this particular GP’s parting words to me were that I wasn’t making smart lifestyle choices for a 22-year-old, and I believed him, because if someone medically trained isn’t concerned then perhaps I’m just overreacting. I left feeling annoyed at myself and determined to improve my health - until 2 years on when I was only getting worse.
Reflecting 5 years on, there were things I said at that appointment and many other appointments that weren’t listened to…underlying red flag symptoms. I repeatedly said I had been having these symptoms for a lengthy time, 5 years to be exact. I said I forgot what feeling energised felt like. I said I was worried that what I had been told was a haemorrhoid many times before, actually wasn’t. I said that over the years the rectal bleeding had been getting worse.
I’m still confused as a patient who has been through misdiagnosis as to how we find a way to get symptoms acknowledged and investigated in young people. I watched the recent television program with an incredible young woman living with terminal bowel cancer, who said something that really resonated with me. Similarly, she acknowledged that when you are young it can be so many other things, but she said that the least doctors can do is not rule bowel cancer out.
June 3-9 is Never Too Young Awareness Week as part of Bowel Cancer Australia’s Bowel Cancer Awareness Month - such a fantastic awareness week - and I hope to continue to raise awareness about my diagnosis experience. The more involved I get in online communities and social media, the more I realise there’s still such a long way to go to reduce the stigma on age and bowel cancer. I’ve seen far too many beautiful people die from bowel cancer far too young - all with very similar stories to me.
Never2Young Awareness Week 2019 Stories
James’ ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 30)
I would strongly encourage all young people to find out about their family bowel cancer history including a history of bowel polyps. You are #Never2Young for bowel cancer and you should not avoid seeking care when things are not right. We also need to change the mindset of healthcare professionals to realise that bowel cancer DOES affect young people.
The biggest challenge for me was accepting that I was diagnosed with cancer. I kept thinking, “this happens to other people, this doesn’t happen to me”. It was also hard moving aside my specialist nurse identity and becoming a patient.
Knowing what I know now, having been through bowel cancer myself, I would tell all younger people that rectal bleeding is never normal and that they should not be embarrassed to seek care. Seeking out care has saved my life and I hope that it saves the lives of other young people who may assume their bleeding is haemorrhoids or a fissure.
Rebecca’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 43)
The biggest challenge I faced as someone diagnosed with bowel cancer under 50 was getting my symptoms taken seriously by doctors, even though my father had had bowel cancer with liver metastases. I also found my recovery afterwards – mentally, emotionally and physically – to be far more of a challenge than I’d expected, and I have learnt that everyone recovers and heals differently.
There is an assumption that if you are young, you will bounce back quickly and easily, but I struggled for quite some time. Nearly two years on, I am feeling good and getting on with my life.
My advice to other young people is to please not ignore symptoms, no matter how embarrassing, and even more importantly, please trust your instincts and don’t allow your doctor/s to be complacent about your symptoms.
Cameron’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 43)
It has been a rollercoaster few months and I am still on the ride, but I am taking each day as it comes and remain confident and positive that I will be cured. I am extremely grateful for the love and support from family and friends, particularly my wife Susie who has been my rock throughout, and my daughter Charlotte who brings me so much joy every day.
Tabatha’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 39)
For anyone contemplating seeing their doctor because they see or feel something that's not right, don't contemplate, don't procrastinate, get checked out ASAP. It could honestly save your life, it certainly saved mine...
Dean’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 35)
The biggest challenge has been watching everything unfold very quickly and the emotions it brings with it all, it affects more than just me. My wife, family, friends and work have all been affected. I’m very lucky to have such a great support network around me and very grateful to have moved back to Australia when we did.
I’d like to see more people getting checked earlier, and speaking to their GP about it. My GP has been amazing, I was embarrassed but she listened to everything I had to say and sent me for a colonoscopy. My family members have since been checked and thankfully nothing was found, another friend overseas was checked upon hearing my news and they found polyps that could be removed. You’re never too young to get checked!”
Sonia’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (husband diagnosed at 44)
Baz did everything he could and more to survive. He smiled and joked with his carers and all of us to ease the pain on those around him.... despite his own pain.
He is my love and the bravest man I have had the honour to love and care for.
Anthony’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 35)
The biggest challenge after my diagnosis has been the struggle to maintain a ‘normal’ lifestyle. During the early treatment I managed to work full time and continue my Crossfit training, but I am now unable to do either. I have limitations where I didn’t before.
The one piece of advice I would give to anyone would be: Get it checked out! I was extremely fit, ate clean healthy foods and was (in my understanding) way too young! I am lucky the Dr. was wise enough to request a colonoscopy even when he wasn’t too concerned.
Holly’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 31)
What they can’t teach you in medical school is how it feels to be told that, at 31, you have metastatic bowel cancer. That the secondary tumour in your liver is so large it has prevented blood flow and parts of your liver are dying.
I don’t know how long I have to live but I am hoping for the best. I want to find a way to combine my medical training with my condition and help others who are in a similar situation.
Marisa’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 32)
While I was happy not to have to take the chemotherapy anymore I was still very worried that without the tablets the cancer may come back and that I would get sick again. I even contemplated what life would be like if I was able to take the treatment for the rest of my life to minimise the risk of the cancer returning. Of course, this is not a sensible or realistic option as while the treatment kills cancer cells it also lowers your immune system and destroys your organs so they are definitely not a long term solution.
While I only had stage 2, the whole experience gave me a new appreciation for life and death. I have always been scared of dying but this made the possibility seem a lot more real and that terrified me. I now understand why at times like this people like to have something to believe in. That if anything is to happen you will go to heaven and be at peace. It is quite an intense and spiritual thing to think about, but I had to have hope there was something else out there.
Another thought I have had is about one day having children. We still can't be sure if this was genetically linked but if it is, is there a chance I could pass this on to someone else? The thought that I could potentially pass this down to my own flesh and blood and them having to go through this does not sit well with me. I know these feelings will ease over time but right now I would much rather adopt 50 cats and never put anyone else at risk.
Jules’ ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 40)
Five years on I continue to battle niggling issues such as Gastritis and Prostatitis but I’m still smiling and soldering on.
I was very lucky to have had it detected via very low iron levels after a blood test prior to going to work in Africa. However, if I had not have had the blood test, I would have had no idea. So I tell all my friends and family to see a GP for a blood test once a year and be fully checked out.
Emma’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 26)
Bowel cancer is non-discriminatory, it doesn’t matter if you’re “too young” for the horrible “old person’s cancer.” Unfortunately, the truth is no one is ever too young. I had no symptoms. I still shudder to think that if it wasn’t for a friend of mine being diagnosed with bowel cancer at 28, there is an extremely high chance I wouldn’t be here today.
If there was ever a message I could share, it would be early detection is key. There is always hope and through the fight of my life I found strength I never wanted to muster at such a tender age, but I did, and I won.
Donna's 'piece of advice' and 'biggest challenge' (diagnosed at 43)
I am passionate about raising awareness. If I can help to save one life by spreading the messages about looking after your health and the importance of early detection, then that's a good thing.
Bowels may not be the most appealing topic of conversation, but it is a conversation we need to have. Make a vow to talk bowel! I am now a proud Bowel Cancer Australia Ambassador, and enjoy highlighting the important ongoing work required to raise community awareness about this largely preventable and treatable disease.
Brad’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 32)
My one piece of advice to other young people is watch for symptoms and seek medical advice straight away – don’t wait!
The biggest challenges I have faced since being diagnosed is being left permanently with a colostomy and urostomy and having my prostate removed.
Renee’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 39)
I feel lucky that my current GP is tenacious and listens! There are many men and women who weren't so lucky and it's for them that we, as a community, need to do whatever we can to shift the focus off of cancer discriminating against age. Never too young!!
Kathryn’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 35)
There is life after a diagnosis of cancer and more importantly, metastatic cancer.
Listen to your body - know that it does a miraculous job every minute of every day to keep you alive and living in this existence thing we call life. Love it, nurture it. Be confident and selfish in your choices and decision-making. If you think and feel there is something not right, follow your instincts until your curiosity gets the better of you and gets the answers/solutions it feels it needs and seeks.
If faced with a diagnosis of cancer or life limiting disease, find a great doctor/surgeon/specialist, who listens and explains things how you feel you need it to be heard and explained. Even if and when there are tears, ask for the facts, possibilities and realities. It’s better to have all the information you need to make a decision you feel is right for you, despite there seeming like a lot of the time the decisions are made ‘for you’. Find yourself a great psychologist/counsellor. Take care of not just the physical but the spiritual and psychological aspects of your well-being too. Go to yoga, meditation, whatever feels right for you. On the days that you really can’t be f#*!ed doing anything (people will tell you and remind you the importance of exercise, physical activity, etc.), at least try and get some sunshine, fresh air and/or be out in nature. And even then if you still can’t be f#*!ed, try not to judge yourself and/or your situation.
Also, might be worth having Netflix (or the like) account, as some days, the couch will be all you can and want to do. Enjoy the simple pleasures in life – the beach, quality company, ice cream, coffee and all-day pancakes. But know time in solitude can also be therapeutic, as can journaling. And well, just do whatever makes you smile on the inside and try not to let anyone dull your sparkle. And last but not least, find your tribe and love them hard!! But don’t forget to let them love you too.
For me this is not necessarily just about a cure or treatment for cancer. It’s about raising awareness. Encouraging people to improve their health and well-being – physically, mentally and spiritually. And to inspire others to live beyond what may seem impossible. And to feel supported, without judgment.
Stacey’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (husband diagnosed at 36)
The biggest challenge Peter faced as a young person with bowel cancer was the disruption to “normal life”. As Daddy to a large family the youngest being just four weeks old at the time it meant a massive interruption for all of us. He was unable to work for several months so there were some financial challenges and it meant putting on hold a lot of “normal” activities that we would do with the kids so there was a little bit of guilt involved with that. It was always a bit of joke, but also serious, that we needed to know where toilets were at all times, both whilst he had the ileostomy and post reversal of that. Something you don’t expect to have to do until you are old and incontinent.
One piece of advice Peter would give knowing what he knows now, having been through bowel cancer himself, would be to make sure you take all of the support offered and ask for it whenever you need. It is so important to focus on your healing and take time to relax and rest. If someone else is willing and able to take some of the everyday stuff on for you then let them.
Nick’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 31)
I was diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer at age 31. As a tradie, father, husband and mostly healthy guy, or so I thought, I never thought I would hear the words ' its cancer'.
Like a lot of people, I brushed some early signs off putting it down to diet, a busy working life and any other reason I could think of. After a bit of on and off bleeding I went to my doctor thinking I would get a nice and simple answer to my issues. Little did I know the storm I was about to become the centre of.
The following tests, oral chemo and radiation, surgeries, countless blood tests and injections, and finally a six-month course of chemo, changed me not just physically but mentally as well.
The greatest challenge I faced was not the pain, sickness or exhaustion from treatment, it was the fear and frustration that I could not be the father or husband that I had promised my kids and wife that I was going to be. It was the fear that I would not be there to see my kids grow and to grow old with my wife.
Felicity’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 44)
With a positive attitude, you’ve already won half the battle. Make sure you set yourself some goals. Be kind to yourself…it’s not an easy path ahead. And try as best you can make the most of every moment.
Sadly, the incidence of young people being diagnosed is on the rise, but lucky for us, new treatments are being developed at a rapid rate and we are surviving much longer.
Loretta’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 33)
There’s something that we all tend to do, and that is brush of things that are wrong with us, we let them become normal, like my constant bloating and sore tummies. This was just my body; I had tried to find answers before with no luck and I just gave up. I would say to others, don’t give up!
Don’t let issues you have become normality. Keep searching for answers until you get them. If I had of persisted, I may not have had to go through chemo and that would have made the world of difference.
Jackson’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 26)
I am a huge advocate for talking about relatable situations like mine with anyone in need, because I myself know how hard it is to open up and talk about these things. But bowel cancer being Australia’s second biggest cancer killer and the increasing trend of young people getting such a disease is quite alarming.
If you’re feeling pain in the stomach, noticing abnormal bowel movements, experiencing dizziness or light-headedness, do yourself a favour and do the test for your own piece of mind, education and awareness.
Seven months on and I'm healing up great, first check-up was a success and hopefully next one will be too.
Julie’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 47)
I was initially told that there was nothing wrong with me, (I looked very healthy) and that I was too young to have anything serious, in fact I was told I was most likely feeling like I was as I was probably peri-menopausal, but, this was without any testing. Just looking. We are never too young to be sick (unfortunately), don’t let yourself be dismissed. If you feel there is something wrong, follow your gut instincts, there is really something to be said for this turn of phrase.
To this day I wonder why I am so lucky to be alive.
And, I wouldn’t be, If not for the dedication and ingenuity of so many in the medical profession, the on-going improvements to diagnosis and treatment and the wonderful support from family and friends.
Kate’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (husband diagnosed at 28)
We never once thought it was cancer, we thought James was "to young". Please if you have any signs or symptoms don't ignore them get them seen to and if needed get a second and third option until you are happy. We would love people to start to talk and share their stories in order to raise some much-needed awareness and eradicate the feeling that it's a "dirty" cancer. Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in Australia, and everyone needs to be made aware of this. Please remember you are "NEVER too young".
Kristi’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (brother diagnosed at 27)
The biggest challenge we faced when our brother was diagnosed was wrapping our head around the fact that he had bowel cancer. He had been to doctors who said further tests were unnecessary, when in fact he was very unwell with an aggressive cancer. Our parents should not have had to bury one of their children.
From what we know now, the advice we would give to other young people is to listen to your body. If you have changes in your bowel habits, blood in your stools or you think something is wrong don't hesitate to get checked. If you are in your 20's, 30's or 40's you are never too young to have bowel cancer.
Renee’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 25)
My biggest challenge was, and still is, trying to wrap my head around the fact I’m going through something like this at 25. You never expect at this age to be told you have bowel cancer. You always think of it as an old person’s disease.
My piece of advice would be to not doubt your symptoms and get answers. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it isn’t. I kept being in denial that it was anything to do with cancer as I thought I was too young. Get yourself checked and others around you.
Dani’s ‘piece of advice’ and ‘biggest challenge’ (diagnosed at 36)
It’s been a tough couple of years for myself and my family and I feel very blessed to have survived it all.
This experience has taught me look after myself and my body and to really listen to my body!
My advice to everyone would be to not wait to seek medical advice, listen to your body and the symptoms you are experiencing and if your stomach just doesn’t feel right ask for a colonoscopy! You are never too young for bowel cancer!
Read more highlights from the 2019 Never Too Young Awareness Week here:
- Register to become a #Never2Young Champion
- Never Too Young Awareness Week Starts June 3rd (Jess’ Never2Young Story)
- Never Too Young Awareness Week 2019: Never assume you’re too young for bowel cancer
- The faces of young-onset bowel cancer: Never assume your story won’t be heard (Cameron’s Never2Young Story)
- 'Never Assume' Young-Onset Bowel Cancer Survey: Never assume you can’t create real change
- Never2Young: New resources for young-onset patients and their loved ones
Have your own story to share? Register to become a #Never2Young Champion here.