Like most men, I’ve spent a lifetime avoiding doctors and all forms of preventative medical screening tests. Little did I know, that attitude would almost kill me.
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer three months before my 55th birthday. It changed the world for me, my wife and 12 year old son.
My diagnosis didn’t come about through awareness of bowel cancer. At the time, I didn’t know it was Australia’s second biggest cancer killer or that there’s a government screening program.
Bowel cancer can be symptomless, so it was lucky that I had minor pain in my abdomen for several months. I relented and visited my GP. He referred me to a urologist for a prostate examination. The examination was fine, but afterwards he said, “Lets talk about men’s health.”
His first question set in motion a chain of events that would save my life. “What other symptoms have you had?” he asked. I’d had diarrhea sporadically for a few months. He advised me to see a specialist.
Being a typical male, I shrugged my shoulders. I thought that once I was out of there, it would be over. No prostate issues to worry about. Everything seemed good. After all, men are only informed about prostate cancer.
However, my wife insisted that I see the surgeon. I did, and he organised a colonoscopy. A few days later, I was told that I had a diseased section of colon approximately 8cm in length that had to be surgically removed. Another appointment was made.
At the time of surgery, that 8cm section became a 30cm section of the colon that was removed along with lymph nodes and everything else associated with it.
Three days after the operation my surgeon gave me the bad news: I had stage 3A bowel cancer. It meant that as soon as I was sufficiently recovered, I would need chemotherapy.
He left my bedside saying, “Today is going to be a pretty rotten day, but don’t drop your bundle because we can beat this.”
I started chemotherapy four days into the New Year and it lasted for six months. Lethargy, nausea, loss of taste, nerve damage in my hands and feet, and a pulmonary embolism that could have killed me. These were just some of the side effects that still linger today.