Lisa’s Story

Lisa with her bodybuilding champions trophy


It was September 2020, I’d just finished work and was about to go to the gym. I had signed up with an amazing coach who specialised in Women’s bodybuilding that February, and things were going really well.

I went to the toilet prior to the gym, and to my surprise I had passed a big blood clot. That was on the Saturday, I saw my GP on Monday after the weekend. I didn’t feel tired, I had no stomach aches or any other symptoms. He decided we should look at a colonoscopy, and as my Dad had bowel cancer and died from it, we need to check regardless.

I am very fortunate to have a Doctor like him. Even though my blood test came back negative for anaemia, he found a way in the public health system that secured me an appointment for a colonoscopy within 3 weeks.

The surgeon found a grade 3 tumour located in the sigmoid colon, and 2 other cancerous polyps. I had surgery planned within a few weeks. I couldn’t believe how painful bowel surgery was, and looking back now, it was extremely difficult to heal from.

Unfortunately, one lymph node had come back positive, and chemotherapy was on the cards. I had my first IV, followed by chemo pills. During that week along with the horrible side effects, I had a tight chest and an odd cough. It got a lot worse, so I rang the ED at the hospital and they said to come in immediately. I drove myself there, and my chest pain had gotten so bad, I thought I would pass out. I spent the day there, blood tests were inconclusive, so I went home and advised to stop the pills.

It happened again, the next morning, but it was much worse. My son drove me to hospital (we should’ve called an ambulance, but you never think it’s THAT bad). Turns out I was having vaser spasms, which is just like having a heart attack. I was admitted to a ward, and soon was transferred to Dunedin hospital in the cardiac ward and had an angiogram. Thankfully, I didn’t have any underlying heart condition, and the Doctors there suggested to continue the chemo on betablockers.

When I had a follow up appointment at oncology, they literally said they weren’t going to offer me any more chemo, as they believed it would kill me. They don’t mince words in oncology. Initially I was shocked – as there’s only one form of chemo available in NZ, and I can’t tolerate it. Apparently, I’m in the 0.01 % of the population that can’t.

I decided to pick myself up and carry on with my training and I was enjoying being back at work. My coach suggested I compete the following year, and amazingly, I won my class and also the overalls! I had become a champion for the first time, and this year I competed in August, and I became a champion for the 2nd time!

I am so very grateful for my Doctor, Surgeon and colorectal Nurse – I have regular blood work every 3 months, and have had PET scans/CT’s/MRI’s as well for extra certainty. I am well, and feeling great.

It takes a long time to trust however, I guess there’ll always be that shadow of the past hovering. But, if having cancer has taught me anything, it’s forging through. I’ve done things in the last 2 years that I never thought I’d do. I’m now a self-employed Hairdresser and studied for a qualification in Personal training this year.

I am also grateful to have the opportunity to share my story, and I will continue to raise awareness about bowel cancer. We all need to stop feeling embarrassed about it – let’s talk more about it.