Evie was 53 when she was first diagnosed. She says that her symptoms slowly ticked off all the usual suspects. It started with bleeding in her stool and she thought ‘’Uh oh, that’s not good.” Two weeks later, the bleeding stopped but was replaced by irregular bowel movements for a couple of weeks, which were then joined by excruciating abdominal cramps every morning.
“I thought I’d better get to the doctor but I was really busy. I’d just joined a new company in the medical field. Ironically, I knew everything there was to know about conditions related to the abdominal area and because of that training, I was familiar with the symptoms.” She felt around and noticed a lump in her lower left abdomen, so she finally went straight to her GP. “I said to her, either I am constipated or I have a tumour in my colon. I was kind of kidding … I didn’t really think it would be bowel cancer.”
Evie’s doctor sent her straight to a specialist, who in turn sent her for tests. She was due to fly out on business, but the surgeon told her to cancel everything – he was going to operate that afternoon. Evie’s colon was 99% blocked and if they hadn’t operated that day, it could potentially have ruptured. “The surgeon saved my life,” says Evie.
At the same time, she learned that her bowel cancer had metastasized to her liver and lung, meaning she had to go straight into chemotherapy.
“Not everyone has a smooth journey with cancer, but I’m one of the lucky ones. I have had the most amazing medical team – my oncologist is a godsend. I woke up from my surgery with ‘all the accessories’ and that took a bit of an adjustment. You think you’re brave and can handle it, but when summer hits, it calls for every bit of courage you have … which is where friends and family come in handy.”
Since being diagnosed, Evie has done a lot of research on bowel cancer. “If it’s in your family, it’s imperative to go for early detection. It’s just a no brainer.”
Evie has come on-board as an ambassador as she feels very passionately about raising awareness of bowel cancer and she says it’s vital to listen to your body and to put yourself first. “There’s a phrase that ‘people are dying from embarrassment’, but it’s not necessary. It’s really important, if you think you have symptoms, to reach out to others and not suffer in silence.”