'I went to Europe six days after being diagnosed with cancer. Here's how it changed my trip.'

For many young Aussies, the arrival of the cooler months sparks the beginning of a rite of passage: heading off on a Euro trip.

The anticipation before you get to the airport is all part of the excitement. Suitcase? Check. A new travel wardrobe? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Passport? Check. Cancer diagnosis? Check.

Wait, what?

Getting a cancer diagnosis the week before you go on a holiday of a lifetime isn't usually part of preparation plans but that’s exactly what happened to Lauren Gribble.

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Video via Mamamia.

The social worker from Townsville first noticed something wasn't right when she saw spots of blood in her stools. 

At first her GP chalked it up to haemorrhoids, but when her symptoms began to return on and off she decided to seek a second opinion. Another GP assessed Lauren's symptoms and encouraged her to have more testing done to investigate. At this point Lauren had been experiencing fatigue, bloating, stomach pains and cramps - all symptoms she had originally thought were associated with her menstrual cycle


Then after a colonoscopy, her worst fears were realised. An ulcer had turned cancerous. At just 30 years old she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

"I was in shock, really, because even though we had toyed with the idea that it could be [cancer], I remember just hearing it and because I was still quite groggy from the anaesthetic, I was just taken aback by it," she tells Mamamia.

"I called my sister straight away, she was the first person I thought of. You feel like your world is just closed. Then suddenly, you go from planning a holiday to planning treatment."

Six days out from heading to Europe for a friend's wedding, Lauren was faced with a decision. Cancel her holiday, lose money and miss out on experiencing a European summer with her partner and best friends. Or get on that plane and live life to the fullest even if that meant carrying a cancer diagnosis in tow.

Initially Lauren and her partner Rowan came to the conclusion that they should cancel their trip in light of the diagnosis.

But after speaking to her surgeon he encouraged her to go and enjoy herself before beginning treatment. So, with those doctor's orders, six days after being told she had bowel cancer, Lauren embarked on a journey she will never forget.

With her positive mindset and ability to be present in the moment, Lauren was able to head to Europe with the particular privilege of knowing just how precious time is.

"I just kept reminding myself that we're so lucky to be able to be overseas at the moment, given everything so that was a nice way to just remind ourselves just to enjoy what we're doing as well," she says. "All of that stuff will fall into place."


Despite saying she had an incredible time in Europe, Lauren admits it wasn't exactly the wild European getaway she and her partner had planned. There were no late nights, there were no taking shots in quaint hole-in-the-wall bars and there were no wild anecdotes to share in the group chat. Instead, Lauren and her partner swapped the revelling for a much more low-key experience. In between activities, they would spend their time resting, contemplating the future and organising her treatment.

"There were multiple times throughout the trip where your mind just drifts to what's going to happen next. But there was a lot of taking time in between activities just to rest really and take time to rejuvenate, not push ourselves too much. 

"Because of the time zone difference, we would often wake up to a missed call or a voice message from someone arranging an appointment or an MRI or a CT scan. So there was still lots of behind-the-scenes stuff that we were having to navigate while we were there."

Then she returned home to begin the biggest challenge of her life. 

Before beginning treatment Lauren underwent a round of IVF to retrieve eggs for any potential future family plans she may have. Once she finished her egg retrieval cycle, she began a five-week treatment to try to eradicate her colorectal cancer. For five weeks she took daily oral chemo doses and underwent radiation therapy.

Now having finished her first round of treatment, Lauren waits.

"The next scans will essentially show you how much I did or didn't respond to this round of treatment," she says. "And that will really impact what the next stage looks like. So it's a combination of relief, excitement and anxiety."


Since Lauren started sharing her journey on TikTok (her answer to modern-day journaling) thousands of viewers have been shocked over how a young, healthy woman could receive such a devastating diagnosis. 

Over the past 20 years colorectal (commonly known as bowel cancer) has become one of the fastest-rising cancers among young people. According to reports from BMJ, incidents of bowel cancer in people aged 21-39 have almost doubled between 2001 and 2021. 

Looking back on her own diagnosis Lauren has a very clear message for other young people out there who may be experiencing some unusual symptoms.

"If you think that there's anything that's not feeling right, or that you know, seems a bit unusual, just book that 15 minute consult and that 15 minutes with the doctor as inconvenient as it might feel at the time it could really be what eventually saved your life," she says.

It has been a whirlwind year for Lauren but she doesn't regret for a minute deciding to go on her Euro trip just six days after receiving the devastating news that she had colorectal cancer. 

"Getting a diagnosis like this really does put time into perspective," she says. 

"I felt really lucky that I was able to have that experience, and I was still able to go away. It is such a privilege to be able to grow old and have time so just enjoy all the moments that there are."

Feature Image: TikTok @laurenmareeg.

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