“Be aware, educate yourself, be mindful about what you put in your body and how you live. And move every day.”

Jane Lowe nearly lost her mother to bowel cancer. Her mum survived, but the experience has left her determined to help more Kiwis prevent and beat bowel cancer – which is why she is taking on the Move your Butt challenge in June.

Jane’s mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2007, and it came as a shock to everyone, especially her mum. “Mum was a registered nurse and never got sick. In fact, she had no obvious symptoms. One night she felt slightly nauseated, then the next morning she rang me doubled over in great pain. She isn’t the sort of person who would call for no reason, so I leapt into my car, raced over there and called an ambulance.

She had emergency surgery on her colon – major surgery. She went in at 11am and was there until around 4am the next morning.” Jane’s mum ended up with a colostomy bag and had another seven stays in hospital in the following year, culminating in a colostomy reversal in 2008. “It was a really close call: we thought we were going to lose her,” says Jane.

Unfortunately, bowel cancer runs in the family. Jane’s paternal grandfather died of it, so she had a colonoscopy once she turned 50. However, Jane believes that lack of funding is a major barrier to people getting tested sooner: she had to wait for the public system, as her health insurance didn’t cover an elective colonoscopy.

Jane says bowel cancer has impacted on her whole family and how they live. “Prevention is the big thing – knowing more about bowel cancer symptoms is really important. I’m pretty healthy anyway – before Mum was diagnosed, I was vegetarian, but now I’m vegan. I’ve read a lot about how to avoid bowel cancer and I follow advice about improving gut health.”

Jane is a yoga practitioner who runs the influential yoga and wellness website. By joining the Move your Butt challenge, she’s hoping to spread the word about bowel cancer – and most importantly, raise funds to ensure other New Zealanders know the symptoms of bowel cancer and get checked earlier.

“Despite being New Zealand’s second biggest cancer killer, bowel cancer really gets the short end of the stick.”

“Move your Butt is a great challenge because anyone can do it just by moving a bit more. There’s so much support and fundraising for other types of cancers, bowel cancer really gets the short end of the stick, despite being New Zealand’s second biggest cancer killer. That’s why I really want to bring attention to it.”

Jane moves a lot already as she practices yoga every day, so she’s aiming to do something outdoors for her Move your Butt challenge, “Like getting outside for a walk every day, no matter what.”

“If you’re stressed, taking time to breathe every day can make a world of difference.”

We asked Jane what advice she would share with others about keeping well and preventing bowel cancer.  “It’s so important to be aware and educate yourself, particularly if there is any history of bowel cancer in your family,” she says. “Be mindful about what you put in your body and how you live. And move every day – it doesn’t have to be too intense, even just doing some stretches first thing in the morning.

Your diet and lifestyle all comes around at some point, so look after yourself. And if you’re stressed, taking time to breathe every day can make a world of difference.”