It was a busy time in my life when my father was diagnosed with Stage IV bowel cancer. I had just returned from deployment in the Middle East and was planning my wedding to Lucy. Fifteen months after his diagnosis he lost his battle.
A few months later I celebrated my 29th birthday. Around this time, I started to feel tired and run down and I was regularly experiencing extreme abdominal pain. Lucy insisted I visit my GP. After explaining my symptoms, my GP asked if I had a history of bowel cancer in my family and immediately referred me for a colonoscopy.
The colonoscopy revealed a large tumour in my bowel with results confirming I had Stage IV bowel cancer. I broke down knowing I was about to face the biggest challenge of my life after losing my father to the same cancer, which brought back a flood of memories and emotion. Four days later, I had surgery to remove the tumour along with twenty-one lymph nodes, of which seven were cancerous.
I was determined that I wasn’t going to let this beat me. I started researching to find out more about bowel cancer, and the different organisations that help patients through cancer treatment.
Following my research and discussions with my GP, I decided to improve my diet and lifestyle, getting into cycling and healthy eating. Mentally I had to prepare myself for treatment so I organised an appointment with a physiologist which continued during treatment.
My initial treatment included six rounds of chemotherapy, which was a lot to take in with the processes, the drugs and all of the medical terminology that came with it.
In January 2015, I had major liver surgery which followed with positive news that no cancer was found in the part of liver that was removed. After recovering from surgery I had a final three rounds of chemotherapy, which were difficult. My body was still recovering and the accumulative effect of chemotherapy was starting to take its toll on me and my family.
I have been in remission since September with no evidence of any cancer on scans and all of my blood tests have been normal. I continue to live a healthy lifestyle and was selected to represent Australia at the 2016 Invictus Games organized by HRH Prince Harry for injured war veterans.
I thank my wife, Lucy for her support, love and compassion throughout my treatment. She was with me from the time I was diagnosed, by my bedside through all of my surgeries and during my chemotherapy treatments. I am also very lucky to have a beautiful family that supported both Lucy and I through this difficult time. I also thank my friends, particularly my unit from the commanding officer through to my work colleagues who supported me through treatment. Finally, to all of my doctors, surgeons and nursing staff, from all of the different hospitals and treatment centres, thank you for your support during my treatment.
In 2017, I returned to my role as an Aircraft Technician and continued training for selection for the 2017 Invictus Games. Even though bowel cancer hasn’t been a great experience, it has given me the opportunity to be involved in generating awareness as I have been both a carer for a loved one with this disease and diagnosed myself.
The last eight years of my life has involved bowel cancer, as a patient and support for my father whilst he went through treatment. I have had a lot of different emotions and challenges but more important the goals that I set myself to accomplish.
At the start of 2018, my wife Lucy and I made the decision to move to Newcastle so that I could continue my career within the Air Force as an Aircraft Technician to maintain F/A-18 Classic Hornet. Lucy and I have settled in Newcastle through the year, made new friendships and in December we announced that we were going to start a family.
In August 2019, we introduced our son Thomas into the world. There was a flood of emotion, which made all of the treatment and surgeries that I endured worth it as I saw and held him for the first time. I knew that this was the start of an amazing journey that we were going be on together where he would grow and achieve his own goals.
March 2020, I passed the five-year remission milestone since I completed my last round of chemotherapy and still to this day no evidence of disease. This was a substantial goal and with the current statistics of stage IV bowel cancer and shows the importance of early screening especially when you have family history. Even though I had family history, I didn’t show symptoms until a few weeks prior to my diagnosis.
I would like to thank all of my family and friends that have supported me through my journey. Also to The Jodi Lee Foundation that have allowed me to share my story and further the awareness of bowel cancer.