Adrienne’s Story


Adrienne – known as Ady by friends and family – said her stage 4 bowel cancer diagnosis “came out of nowhere”. She had no known family history of bowel cancer and no symptoms. She had none of the risk factors and was exercising regularly, drinking little alcohol and maintaining a healthy diet.

“It was just absolutely devastating. Even at the stage that I got the diagnosis, I still felt really good, I was still working and living a healthy lifestyle. It was just, ‘How can this be possible?’ I felt like the world had tipped upside down.”

Despite being only 44, she was on the lookout for bowel cancer symptoms because a close friend was diagnosed at just 28 years old.

Adrienne said she first felt a “twinge” in her abdomen in July while on holiday on the Sunshine Coast. When it didn’t subside, a series of checks in New Zealand eventually revealed cancer in her ovaries, lungs and liver – all traced back to her bowel.

“You get people like me where it is silently and insidiously doing its thing, and you find out one day you’ve got stage 4 cancer. And suddenly, you need things to move really, really quickly.”

The hardest part has been telling her two daughters, Dominique, 13, and Casey, 10. She and husband James have agonised over how much information to give them.

“My children have actually been coping really well because we have tried so hard to keep the normal routines. But I’m just not able to do things that I normally would, and they are starting to find that really hard – they said to me the other day, ‘Mum, you’re always in bed’.”

Adrienne’s oncologist told her she is among the 40 per cent of bowel cancer patients who could benefit from a cancer drug called Cetuximab, which is not funded in New Zealand but is in 52 other countries.

As the two drugs she needs are not funded, Adrienne has to have them administered by a private oncologist. She was quoted $75,000 for the Cetuximab treatment and $45,000 for Avastin.

Thanks to an incredibly supportive community who rallied around to help fund the treatment, Adrienne raised the funds she needed in just a few days of her Givealittle page going live.

“I just wanted to say we have been blown away by all the support we have received from everyone. I simply have no words to explain how uplifted and loved we all feel right now. To say thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it.”

This story hits close to home for us as Adrienne is close friends with Mary on our team and Annika, a member of our Board.

“We are three friends from high school, and all of us have been rocked by bowel cancer. Mary was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer at only 28 years old with a young baby. Annika lost a close family member to bowel cancer and bravely battled breast cancer herself earlier this year. I wish we didn’t have a shared experience of cancer but I feel very privileged to walk alongside these awesome wāhine toa.”

Adrienne is doing well and, with a few rounds under her belt, is feeling better and grateful for all the support she and her family have received.