The most important post I will ever write.

Here is a sobering thought.  Someone who is reading this post (and please share, as I want a LOT of people to read this post), by the law of averages, has bowel cancer, and doesn’t know it.

This is a photo of me taken on Christmas Day 2013 – two weeks after I had been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer.

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I don’t look sick, do I?  And yet, ,I was very, very sick, my bowel nearly completely obstructed by a large tumour, it’s “branches” invading my bowel wall,  my liver peppered with the leaves that had fallen off the tree, and taken root in one of the body’s most important organs for sustaining life.  Three weeks before this was taken I was still cooking dinner for my family and dreaming about my future, and yet, in the two weeks just gone I had endured singular horrors that are nearly beyond description.  Laying in a CT scanner, as it takes a picture of your whole body.  Knowing that it is a regular day for the technicians that are watching from the control room, yet you will never have another regular day.  Sitting in a cafe, watching your children play, and watching other people have chats and laughs with their friends and loved ones, and knowing that life is still for them, but not for you anymore, you’re just on the fringes now, in the shadows, a sum of your disease.  Going into another radiology centre a few days later and having a balloon of KY jelly shoved up your arse, to allow them to get a better look at the tumour with an MRI.  Meeting your oncologist, and having him tell you that if you weren’t diagnosed when you were, your days on this earth will only number a handful of months.

So, this is the first message I have for you on this day – Red Apple Day, the third Wednesday of June every year, a day devoted to bowel cancer awareness – When the above photo was taken I ONLY HAD MONTHS TO LIVE.  Very deceiving, isn’t it?

I posted this picture on Facebook on that Christmas Day, after I came home from Christmas lunch with my family, and I added to it a bowel cancer awareness message, which read as follows:

“I’ve thought long and hard about this, but I have a Christmas message for you all. This photo was taken today as I celebrated Christmas with my family. This is what stage 4 bowel cancer looks like. It doesn’t look sick, and in many cases, as in mine, it doesn’t feel it. It has trifling symptoms like occasional wind pain, and feeling a bit bloated from time to time, and in my case, intolerances to certain foods, like lactose. I became very intolerant to milk, and the symptoms list won’t tell you that. If you THINK you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, because your symptoms fit that perfectly, for the love of all things holy, make sure that IS what you have. If you have a pesky ‘roid, make sure that is the ONLY reason you see a bit of blood here and there. All these symptoms are so easy to think nothing of.

I studied full time this year, and I cared for a family, and four small children, and I did it all pretty well, if I do say so myself. Don’t think you have to be sick to have cancer. I am saying this because I have had MORE than 10 friends contact me since my diagnosis, asking what brought me to investigations that led to my diagnosis. These people have to be asking for a reason, so there are a lot of worried people out there. It’s not pretty to talk about your bowel, or anyone else’s. Nothing glamourous about it. But if you have any doubts, then get your backside (pardon the pun) to the doctor and be sure it isn’t something a whole lot bigger than a minor stomach irritation. I say this because I love you, and I don’t want anyone else to go through this!”

In the 18 months that had elapsed since this day I have been contacted many, many times by people worried that they have bowel cancer, as they have had some symptoms, which they have let slide for a long time.  There are a lot of worried people out there!  There is a stigma, STILL around discussing issues to do with our digestive systems, and people are still constantly avoiding seeking testing and treatment due to embarrassment.

Here’s the thing.  We all take a dump.  Everyone’s shit stinks, no matter what station you occupy in life.  We are literally dying of embarrassment about something that is common to all of us, paying the ultimate price with our lives because we don’t want to talk about our poo, and the idea of having a camera inserted into our backsides turns the cheeks red (pardon the pun), and sends a shiver down the spine.

Let me let you in on something that will really send a shiver down your spine.  Let me give you a glimpse into my last 18 months.  3 major surgeries, 13 sessions in the chemotherapy chair, 25 sessions of radiation, 7 CT scans, 3 MRI’s, 2 PET scans, being forced to swallow a naso-gastric tube as big as a garden hose so that it can drain your shit from your stomach before you start vomiting it up.  I’ll let you absorb that for a minute – vomiting up your OWN SHIT.  Two bowel obstructions, 21 vomits in one day (yes I counted).  Having a hole inserted in your stomach you will forever take a crap out of.  Nausea, neutropenia, low platelets, a decimated immune system. Looking at four beautiful daughters, still children, and knowing you will never know the adults that they will become.  Knowing you won’t grow old with the love of your life.  Terrifyingly, I COULD go on, but I’ll stop there.With early detection, you could save yourself all of that.  A simple camera up your bum, or smearing a bit of poo on a few slides and sending it off all of a sudden doesn’t seem so hard, does it?  Just take the fucking test, honestly.  Get over yourselves.

We have a very good bowel cancer screening program in Australia, which provides free tests which can detect bowel cancer in it’s very early stages – it looks for microscopic amounts of blood in your poo.  There is a problem with this screening program though – it sends you your first test at 50 years old.  As a beautiful friend of mine said recently in her own bowel cancer awareness article, she will be dead from bowel cancer 10 years before she is eligible to take this free test.  I would never have collected the test from my mailbox at 50 either – I would be long gone.  In the last few months I have lost two friends to bowel cancer, one in her very early 30’s, one in her mid 40’s.  One of them never got the chance to know a great love, or to have a baby – two things I know she wanted very much.  The other one fought every day until she could fight no more, to make sure she was up and at ’em to welcome her teenage son home from school, no matter how sick she was.  Bowel cancer can be swift and cruel – both these wonderful women died a mere 12 months after being diagnosed.

If you have symptoms of bowel cancer, and even if you don’t, get yourself to the Jodi Lee foundation website and familiarise yourself with what to look out for.  You can order the bowel cancer screening kits through this website for a small cost, and you can also buy them from chemists.  They are cheap as chips, especially this month, as June is Bowel Cancer Awareness month.  Cheaper than a funeral, that’s for sure.

If my only legacy is that ONE PERSON who is reading this goes out there and takes this test and has their bowel cancer detected early, or someone recognises the sheer idiocy of literally allowing themselves to die of embarrassment, and goes and books that colonoscopy, then that will be the single most important thing that I have ever done.

Don’t go through what I have, and continue to go through.  I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

40 Comments on “The most important post I will ever write.

  1. Having had ‘irritable bowel’ for a long time (at least 20 years) my doctor sent me for a colonoscopy two years ago. I was so sleep deprived from my 6 month old’s sleep shenanigans that I just looked upon it as an opportunity for a day off and a nice sleep. When the doctor came back and told me they had removed polyps and I needed to come back in two years, it was the scare I needed to be tuned in to this. Since that time I know of three people around my age (42) who have been diagnosed with bowel cancer. I’ll share this post because reading your story and seeing these other people – it is a horrendous reality and being aware just might save someone.

    • Thank you for sharing this Collette – I was 42 when diagnosed. It’s hardly what you expect, but since being diagnosed, I know all too well how many young people are being lost to this cancer. It is often more aggressive in the young too, which makes a double tragedy xx

      • hi, my husband recently passed of bowel cancer leaving myself (42) and our only son (12). Its the GP’s that need re-educating as it was the his GP who initially said he was too young for anything sinister like “bowel Cancer”!!!!! had he had detected it earlier I wouldn’t be comforting our son!!!!!!

    • Wow. Thank you for sharing your story and raising awareness of this

      My Dad died of bowel cancer in 2003 when I was 16. He was stubborn and didn’t get tested until it was too late. He was given 3 months and 3 months later, he was gone. It spread to his liver and stomach in the end. This post is truly eye-opening and I hope it brings awareness so that more people can be tested. I’m so sorry for the pain you are going through.

      Sharing xx

    • Hi Julia. I have read your story with horror. I can’t imagine what you are going thru. I hope i never do. I have had pre cancer polyps for 30yrs. Due to regular colonoscopys i can still read horror stories like yours.
      My heart goes out to you n yours. Forever in my thoughts. Your courage is incredible 😢💖

  2. Thank you for that post – you gave me a much needed push and I just ordered the tests online. My father died from bowel cancer three years ago and I have been avoiding it for all of the reasons you mentioned. Thank you x

    • That is what I want to hear. Thank you Kirrily! I am sure it will give you nothing but peace of mind, but you can’t put a price on that. As you lost your father to this often genetic cancer, please continue to get yourself checked regularly xx

  3. Thank you Julie
    I’ve had guts ache problems all my life and as soon as the other half started having the bowel screening, I jumped on board. He’s four years older than me, so I joined the party at age 46. It’s just nice knowing that it is taken care of.
    Yes, it’s a little discomforting to be poking around ones own poo and putting it in an envelope to send to the lab, but it’s no where near as revolting of a barium meal xray I had when I was 17, or the rectal exam a doctor gave me because he thought I shouldn’t have IBS! (I wish I didn’t, but that’s what a lifetime of being fed dairy had done to me – when I shouldn’t have had it. Another story.)
    I shall be sharing your faceache post and spreading the word.
    Hang in there! I love your work.

  4. Such a needed post, and to know how hard this must be for you to write makes it even more meaningful and important xx
    Thank you for being so real, and for allowing your own story to become the light that is so needed on bowel cancer xx

    • Thank you so much Lisa. I don’t want this to happen to ANYONE else. Not someones mother, daughter, son, father, sister, brother…the broken lives that are left in its wake is something that I have seen all too often on this horrible trip xx

  5. Thank you. I will go to the chemist this week. And then I will harass my hubby until he does what’s needed (and I will too). There’s no excuse because it’s a simple test. Might not be fun, but it beats the pants off the alternative!! Much strength and kudos to you, Julie – you are an amazing voice for action.

  6. What a powerful, brave, honest and eye opening read. Thank you for being such a wonderful lady and letting us in on your personal journey. I am so sorry that you are having to go through this horrible journey, but so thankful that you are able to share your experiences and spread the word about this terrible disease. I hope that everyone single person who reads this, now goes and gets checked. I am in my mid thirties and have been tested twice, but I think I am overdue, so thanks for my personal reminder too. Much love and appreciation to you.

  7. After sitting here and reading this, I thank my lucky stars, only a week out of hospital and 3 weeks after being diagnosed with having bowel cancer, they had caught mine early, after years of not going to Doctors of having changed bowel movements and hemoroids( thinking it was just those), to have a colonoscopy to remove these, only to be told they had found the big C and it hasn’t spread to other parts of my body so far, was like nothing u can explain to anyone, I wasn’t sick or felt different how could this be, everything in this article I related to within a matter of weeks of being diagnosed, I was a lucky one and caught early and today after my results I am free of bowel cancer and had not spread, I am 41yrs old and never thought this would happen to me, I never smoked or drank and excercised but it did, thank you for sharing this and being our voice☺️

  8. Thank you for making me aware and for making me do something about it. You have really made a difference to me. Reading you blog I get the impression that you are really special person. Good luck and I wish you all the very best

  9. Always vigilant, but with no drastic symptoms, I had surgery for secondary bowel cancer last year. My previous history saw me sent for an immediate CT scan and I was on an operating table a couple of days later! I had it the first time at 39. However, my darling son had it at 13. It can strike at any age!

  10. Thank you for an amazing article. My referral is on the fridge. Tomorrow I will now make the booking thanks to you. x

  11. I’m in hospital with stomach pain (I have a weakened immune system due to a genetic condition) but I didn’t mention the rectal bleeding or farting as it was too embarrassing. Tomorrow I will be sure to tell me doctor. Until then I’m sharing the you post on in all my support groups. Your legacy of your beautiful family and your blog will live on…

  12. Not giving up today until my husband reads this. He received his screening package on his 65th birthday in March, and has done nothing about it, much to my frustration. As someone who has dealt with Ulcerative Colitis for 30 years, I know the secret to avoiding letting my higher risk become an issue is regular Colonoscopies. Oh, the joy, but it sure beats the alternative.

    Thankyou for the post. You have no doubt saved lives with your work. I hope that is of some comfort to you.

  13. I am that *caught early* person.

    I am that person who had very occasional spots of blood after going to the loo. I am that person who had a Dr that said I was too young & not to worry. I am a person whose mother had been diagnosed three weeks earlier, who had private health insurance & who replied .. “you know what? I don’t care if I’m too young, I want to be checked out. Please sort it” & I am that person who accepted my Dr’s apology when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

    I had not lost weight. I had always erred on the side of constipation & had no changes in bowel habits. I ONLY had SPOTS of blood occasionally – but enough to make me ask why.

    I had 17″ bowel removed. Next month will be four years since diagnosis. I have no evidence of disease.

    Please. Listen to Julia & to your body. Push your Dr for further checks if he / she are reluctant to follow things up.

    Save your life before you have to fight for it.

  14. I have two children with Eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease (EGID) which is severe autoimmune allergic GI inflammation that can be correlated with later cancer. I have a similar history of GI symptoms plus family history of bowel problems, including cancer. I myself have had a recent worsening of symptoms to the point I need pain medications to get by, and overdue a checkup so thank you for this reminder to get myself checked out despite the lack of time with all the children appointments. Bless all of you x

  15. Thank you for your post. My dear friend died from bowel cancer. His name was Kristian Anderson. You may have heard of him. You can read his blog here http://howthelightgetsin.net/
    I wish you good health and loads of time on this earth to spend with your beautiful family.
    God Bless.
    K

    • I know it well, I read the whole blog cover to cover, and then I bought the book when it came out. Haunting for me in a way, as when I was diagnosed, due to Kristan’s experience, I knew pretty much exactly what I was in for.

  16. My Mom was the fourth generation with colon cancer. She eventually died of breast cancer, but went through colon cancer ten years earlier. Two days after her funeral, my brother and i were having colonoscopes at the same time in different cities. I had 6 polyps removed. I had a DNA research study with a university done, and I found out I have double recessive genes for colon cancer. I’m hoping one of those six polyps was my cancer that was taken out . I have scopes every other year now. Please, everyone, don’t take it lightly. Sure its no fun to drink all that crappy drink. But its much much easier than a surgery for cancer. Thank you for writing this story out. We need to tell everybody and scream it from the rooftops.

  17. Thank you
    Your story is very similar to mine! I was diagnosed on 15th of December 2013 when my bowel completely blocked. I thought I had been constipated and when I visited my local GP, he said I had probably eaten too many carrots! What a joke! I was rushed to hospital when I started vomiting and after a CT scan, was told I had a mass blocking my colon, and I would need an operation, I woke up in excruciating pain, I had a bag attached to my stomach, staples and a massive gash extending from above my tummy button right down to my very sensitive area, a nasogastric tube hurting my throat and I was in an old manual bed that was impossible to get out of. I thought a lot in the first few days about how much better it would be to not be hear. I regretted so much, the fact that I had not done the poo test when it had been sent to me a couple of years before! I had 3 large spots in my liver and some smaller spots on my lungs. The cancer had spread outside my bowel and was evident in that whole area and the surgeon had also scraped cancer off my bladder.
    What a Christmas! I could hear nurses happily chatting and Partying outside my room, but I was miserable! I had been given a death sentence with no warning at all. No pain, no ill feeling, just thought I was constipated!
    I asked my oncologist not to tell me how long I have, but I’m going for 10 years! I’m doing well on the chemo treatment I’m on, and I’ve lost count of the number of rounds I’ve had. People keep saying how well I look and how many more rounds ill have to have, and that question really upsets me because it will only stop when I give up, or pass away! I’ve survived 18 months, I’ve had a beautiful Christmas, I’ve sung in a 1000 strong choir in the Sydney Opera House, I’ve made peace with a step daughter, but there are so many more things I’d love to experience. When I asked my oncologist if my 10 year goal was realistic, he said he didn’t want to answer that question….what do you think you’ll be doing in 10 years from now? It’s actually only 81/2 years since I’ve already had 18 months. Time goes so fast! I’m 54 now!
    I have also developed a problem with milk products, especially cheese and yoghurt! It just goes straight through me now. I was thinking it might have been because of the chemo treatment. Have you found any answers to this problem, other than, avoiding them?
    Thanks again, it was great to read your story, and it certainly does encourage anyone to get checked before its too late! I hope that by adding my story, people will get the message and don’t wait to get checked, do the poo test!
    I wish you all the best on your journey
    Sincerely
    Liz

  18. I had seven polyps removed at 35 and was asked to go back a year later. 18 months later I returned and had 40 polyps throughout my bowel and was diagnosed with serrated polyposis syndrome. I now have colonoscopies every 3-4 months trying to remove all the polyps and if they keep growing I have to have my bowel removed. I’m 38. I’m constantly telling everyone I know to go get a colonoscopy. I’ve sent a link to this blog to all of them now and shared on facebook. Its so critical and thank you so much for writing so eloquently. I also had no symptoms at all.

  19. Ok. I’ll do it.
    Thankyou for your honest blog, and everyone else for their comments. How ignorant we all are.

  20. Hi Julia, l have been trying to keep up with your blogs..my heart goes out to you and your family, l have had a bowel kit sitting there for a few mths,,time to get it done hopefully for piece of mind thankyou for you inspection. .l will continue to follow and pray for a miracle thinking of you and your family

  21. Julie, you are amazing. I found this post through Trish and I have now gone out and bought 2 kits for my husband and I. You are in my thoughts and am asking the universe to take care of you, I hate that you’ve had so much pain and suffering. Big love to you. Emily x

  22. Pingback: On deciding to drop my bundle. - Have A Laugh On Me

  23. Hubster and I have both done the kits through the Rotary Bowelscan promotion, even though we are only in our mid-late 40’s. So far so good. It’s yukky having to poke at your poo but better than dying, that’s for sure. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I found you via Trish at My Little Drummer Boys too, another brave lady with cancer.

  24. Hi
    Just letting you know l was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer two years ago. It has been an interesting journey to say the least. However it is important to note that l am now heavy involved in medition sessions and am currently undertaking a course put together by a guy named Dr Joe Dispenza.
    He has written several books and has a website. His most recent book is entitled “You are the Placebo” worth reading. The principal behind his teaching is that people who take sre placebo are often cured so the mind has the ability to cure the body.
    Have a look it is all scientifically based and gives you some hope.
    Nothing to lose have a look and most importantly don’t give up. Also please note that l was a heavy drinking corporate executive. This is a big but beautiful change for me.
    Love and kindness
    Peter

  25. Such an important post. Having lost family and friends to bowel cancer – and also knowing those who have survived because of their vigilance and because of getting checked – I also have regular checks. Yes they are quite literally a pain in the arse, but much better than the alternative! Thank you for sharing because bowel cancer doesn’t get talked about enough.

  26. Bowel cancer is a ninja. I had none of the red flag symptoms
    and my general malaise, recurring anaemia, back pain, was
    fobbed off by my GP as peri-menopausal and/or anxiety related.

    Emergency right hemicolectomy for a life-threatning ileo-caecal intussusception revealed, what I call, my ‘unauthorised item in the bagging area’.

    Watch the idiot GPs in Australia who can’t see past entrenched
    stigmatizing worldviews.

  27. I am so grateful to DR Osas for providing me with Herbal medicine here in the United State of America. I was diagnose with brain cancer 3 years ago, and ever since i have done a lot of Chemo and Radiation that have not help me, but only damaged my immune system and render it weak and helpless. I came across the herbal antidote and i have read about the Herbal medication a lot and saw that dr. Osas could provide me with Herbal Medication here in the U.S, i contacted him on: doctorosasherbalhome@gmail.com for the procurement of this medication, to my surprise the medication was procured and delivered within 48 hours and i have been on treatment for the past 3 WEEKS. Am now here to testify that am no more a cancer patient, I have experience a total transformation in my health sector with dr. Osas herbal medication service. for all cancer patient that live in any part of the world, contact dr osas on doctorosasherbalhome@gmail.com or contact his number via +2348112252378 or you can as well add him on whatsapp with same number.

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  28. I am unable to post this in the Success Stories for whatever reason, so I posted here. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer on October 18, 2013. I was advised by my doctor that my only options were to get a prostatectomy or have radiation seeds implanted in my prostate or receive regular external beam radiation. I declined. I knew there had to be other options.I scoured the Internet and discovered a wealth of information about clone oil curing cancer. I was able to obtain some medical clone oil from it and consumed the recommended dosage by mid August. On September 7th I had a cancer reassessment which consisted of an MRI with a state of the art Tesla 3 MRI machine. Results – No Sign of Cancer! Cancer Free!

    One of the things that helped me while going through all this was reading the testimonials and the success stories of those who have used the oil and were cured and with good food diet. Now that this wonderful oil has cured me, I feel I need to let others know as well. Please feel free to contact me on wadejane103@yahoo.com to ask anything should you like more information or directly contact to Clone Medicals at: clonemedicals@fastservice.com were i purchased the clone oil. Thank you

  29. Knowing Julia before her life turned upside down, supporting her through her upside down times and reading all she writes, I faced my demons, so I didn’t have to face the up to the mother demons Julia is facing.
    I had symptoms, as Julia discribed. In 3 days I was on that operating table . I went to my GP.. Explained my symptoms, and BAM.. Booked straight in.
    I have a HUGE phobia of needles . But a few needles for this procedure , sounded better then what Julia was and still is enduring .
    I can tell you, as I am the worst person when it comes to
    Pain and needles .. This procedure was a walk in the park . I was totally shocked .. I walked out of the surgery, not even knowing I’d had a ” camera, shoved where the sun don’t shine “.
    So don’t put it off, .. I’m in my mid 40s.. Not 50 for many years.
    Thank you Julia for sharing all you do with every one.. Your 1 in a million .

  30. Ahh Jules.

    I have had a long history of gastro problems but of course since your dx I have become even more aware. I hadn’t seen my gastro for five years, but when I started getting recent unfamiliar abdominal symptoms I thought I should go in for the old spit roast (yoiu know – gastroscopy/colonoscopy. One up the arse, one down the throat) Luckily my Crohn’s is stable (even improved since I had my appendix removed three years ago) but he did find an unexpected and unwelcome stomach ulcer. It’s not a big deal of course, but it could have become a big deal. So yeah, don’t ignore those symptoms people!. love you Jules xoxo

  31. Both of my grandmothers and one of my cousins (in his early 30s) lost their lives to this horrid disease. Three and a half years ago my dad had polyps removed. I’m on my GP’s watch list – my gene pool doesn’t look to positive. Thank you for sharing your story in such an honest way, it really is a subject that needs so much more awareness. I still find it odd that they can put an age limit on this cancer – with my family history I still don’t hit the risk list until I’m 40, an age my cousin didn’t get to see and he left behind two very young children.
    Rest assured no stomach or bum trouble will go ignored in our family!

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