I’m a PE teacher and have always played footy, cricket and baseball at high levels, and to this day continue to coach on the Gold Coast. I have no family history of bowel cancer and have always led an active lifestyle, so the last thing I expected to hear at the age of 31 was that I had bowel cancer.
It started with a few months of unusual bowel habits such as frequent visits to the toilet and not a lot happening, along with other symptoms such as sweating, fatigue, bloating and generally feeling less than 100 percent.
The GP prescribed me antibiotics for a stomach infection. I went to another GP who sent me for a scan, which came back inconclusive. Luckily he was thorough and sent me for a colonoscopy to eliminate the possibility of Crohn’s Disease and IBS.
Around the same time our second child was born I had surgery to remove the tumour, leading to lifestyle changes that I didn’t think possible. I stepped down from my job as Head of Sport and moved to teaching so I could continue working full time, and I had to completely change my diet.
The loss of competitive sport in my life and managing the pain, challenged my mental strength and the strain on my family was immense – my amazing wife had to do everything at home.
The following year a routine scan showed the cancer had spread to my lungs, which meant I had Stage IV bowel cancer. I had surgery, which hurt like hell, but the chemotherapy was even tougher.
I was determined to stay mentally strong for my family and ensure they had what they need. I worked full time, continued to coach footy at school and for the state league, and refused to let cancer change my life more than it already had. I had fantastic students at school who checked up on me, and still do to this day.
I’m happy to say that I feel like I’m getting on top of what cancer did to me, physically and mentally. I played 1st grade cricket for the first time exactly 12 months after my lung surgery, and it was then that I realised that I can and will win this fight.
The day after I received all clear results from a scan, a friend and fellow PE teacher at my school lost her battle with bowel cancer after less than 12 months. She was my age.
My only advice is that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust your body and your instincts.