Let’s not die from embarrassment
Kelly Banks is the Co-founder of Support Crew, along with her good buddy Janine Williams.
Kelly reflects on the time leading up to her partner Randal’s diagnosis with stage 4 bowel cancer and how talking about the embarrassing things and not settling until you find an answer could have helped Randal be diagnosed earlier.
Kelly and Randal’s journey has been one of the inspirations for Kelly and Janine to start Support Crew.
Us Kiwi’s are pretty good at cracking a joke, having a laugh, talking shit, but we’re not so good about talking about shit.
Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer deaths in New Zealand and Bowel cancer is curable in more than 75% of cases if caught early. So it’s important that we talk about it, whether it’s to our doctors, our close friends or our families, because not talking about it could have a significant impact on our health.
What can happen when we don’t talk about the embarrassing things
My partner Randal was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer, which had spread to his liver, nearly three years ago. He’d been experiencing one of the main symptoms of Bowel Cancer – bleeding from his bottom – for some considerable time before he got a diagnosis. He’d been to a couple of different doctors who had indicated to him that it was ‘probably’ and ‘most likely’ Haemorrhoids. But we didn’t push to get a more definitive answer and neither did those couple of doctors.
Five surgeries, chemo, radiation and three years later, we’re finally got Randal clear of cancer for six months. A massive win that we’ve been celebrating!
When I reflect back I wish we had spoken to more close friends and family about what Randal was experiencing as they might have helped us to understand more quickly that the symptoms that he was experiencing were not normal and give us the extra nudge that we needed to get another opinion.
If anything, we’ve learnt to not settle for ‘probably’ or ‘most likely’. It’s really important that we empower ourselves to take control of our own health and to push for more tests until we have definitive answers.
So what do we look out for?
The first step you can take to protect against bowel cancer is to be aware of the symptoms – something I wish we’d done all those years ago. And most importantly, don’t forget that bowel cancer can strike at any age and see your GP if you are at all concerned.
Symptoms of bowel cancer may include:
- Bleeding from the bottom (rectal bleeding) without any obvious reason. Or if you have other symptoms such as straining, soreness, lumps and achiness.
- A persistent change in bowel habit going to the toilet more often or experiencing looser stools for several weeks
- Abdominal pain especially if severe
- Any lumps or mass in your tummy
- Weight loss and tiredness (a symptom of anaemia)
Don’t forget that bowel cancer can strike at any age. Bowel cancer isn’t just for those over 60 years old.
Here’s what to do next?
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or are concerned, make an appointment to see your GP today or find out how to order a bowel screening kit from Life Pharmacy here. There’s also lots of great resources and information on Bowel Cancer New Zealand’s website or their Never Too Young Campaign.
Supporting someone with bowel cancer?
Support Crew is a FREE online support platform that easily co-ordinates meals, transport, cleaning and any other help that’s needed from friends and family. Essentially, it’s an online help roster. Create a Support Page for yourself or someone else at www.supportcrew.co and turn that freezer full of lasagnes into the transport to appointments that’s really needed.