Tom’s story

I was 22 years old when I experienced my first bleed. And over the following years I’d have many more occasional bleeds, once every few months or so. I saw numerous doctors over this time, but they didn’t seem to worry about my symptoms. I felt pretty healthy apart from the bleeding and subtle change in my bowel movements. They told me I was too young for bowel cancer. Even though I was told not to worry, something made me feel uneasy, and luckily after persisting, my fourth or fifth GP referred me to a gastroenterologist, six years after I first experienced my symptoms. The specialist too wasn’t concerned about my history of bleeds, but a quick sigmoidscope in his rooms revealed blood that warranted a colonoscopy.

After the colonoscopy the doctor sat me down and told me the news. It was cancer. He couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. I was 28 years old. You never think it will be you. Minutes later I was telling the news to my fiancée, six weeks before our wedding day.

Having cancer gives you a serious reality check. It makes you think about what you could have done differently to perhaps have prevented it in the first place. A large percentage of bowel cancers are preventable. It’s a tough place to be, when you know you have cancer, and you don’t know what your chances of survival might be.

The first two days after my diagnosis were a blur. I was on a different planet. But after the initial shock, my wife and I decided to do everything we could to beat it. And so we turned towards a whole foods diet, largely built on plenty of vegetables and other fresh foods. We still eat some meats and eggs, but less often. I decided to cut out processed foods from my diet completely. And to deal with the stress I came across meditation, which I NEVER would have even considered prior to having cancer. It turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Five weeks before our wedding, I had 30cm of my bowel surgically removed. Thankfully the wedding went ahead and I was in pretty good nick by then, managing to party until 3am… minus the alcohol!

Our honeymoon turned out to be six months of chemo, but I managed to emerge from that and have since been free from cancer for the past three years (touch wood). I had stage III bowel cancer, and feel incredibly fortunate to have been given a good chance of being cured.