10 January 2021

I first heard of the Jodi Lee Bowel Cancer Foundation in early 2016, when a friend of mine asked me to join her and her friends on the JLF charity trek in Victoria.

Just a few short months before, I had received the devastating stage 3 bowel cancer diagnosis of my husband and father to our two beautiful children, at 47 years of age. His sister was also diagnosed shortly before him, at just 45 years of age.

However, bowel cancel wasn’t new to me, my father had been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer a few years earlier. At the time, it looked like Dad had beaten it.

My family has endured countless hours in specialist waiting rooms, surgeries, hospitals and chemotherapy wards, for a disease that can be so easily treated and prevented if detected early.

Dad had received his many government supplied test kits in the mail over many years and stubbornly refused to take one of them. Sadly my brave dad passed away in March at 84 years old, resulting from the metastases of his original bowel cancer which made it’s way through his liver and lungs to his brain.

Thankfully my husband and his sister have just reached their five year anniversary in remission and their future looks bright.

I don’t know if it was luck or it was meant to be that my friend invited me on that JLF trek, but this was where I first met Nick Lee. Nick always walks with his trekkers and we quickly struck up a friendship over a few kilometres, sharing our experiences.

At the time, I was starting a new business venture, a socially responsible IT recruitment agency, Natural Selection Group. Having also just set up my own family foundation, it was time to give back.

At Natural Selection Group, we donate a percentage of our fee to the charity of our client’s choice. I was delighted when Nick agreed to be one of our 3 founding charity partners. I was likewise honoured and humbled when Nick asked me to be a member of the National Advisory Board some months after.

Over the past four years, Natural Selection Group and my family foundation have donated over $75,000 to support the fantastic initiatives of the Jodi Lee Bowel Cancer Foundation. As a business, we are nearing $500,000 in donations across 23 different charities. Our team has participated in many JLF fundraising events and I am looking forward to a long association with Nick and his team.

I do not want anyone needlessly to suffer the way my family has, so I am very passionate about my role with the Jodi Lee Bowel CancerFoundation, to encourage those with symptoms or family history to #takethetest


Leanne O’Connor