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When I was first diagnosed with bowel cancer I did not have enough time to feel ‘sad’ or ‘worry’ too much.

I am naturally an optimistic person and an ‘action man’. “I can get through this!” I thought to myself.

Prior to my diagnosis at age 26, I had been experiencing dull pains in my pelvic area for 3 to 4 years, extending up through to my belly button and around to the right side of my body.

I had visited my GP and other specialists (including natural therapists) for what I now know to be mostly unrelated issues (e.g. stress, fatigue, general soreness) which were distracting me from the real issue, bowel cancer.

After a minor crash on the ski slopes at Mt Buller, the pain intensified. My GP then did blood tests, sent me for CT scans, an ultrasound, colonoscopy and gastroscopy. I even had to provide a stool sample!

At the time of the colonoscopy, a malignant tumour the size of an orange was discovered in my bowel. The time frame between the diagnosis and the surgery was all very sudden. My family showed me much love and support during this time which made the decision to remove the tumour easier – I did consider alternative treatments (e.g. mega doses of nutritional supplements).

I had surgery (“left hemicolectomy” – meaning they took out a chunk of my large intestine the size of a small crayfish!) and did not require a stoma (or a colostomy bag). Choosing to have my operation at “home” in regional Victoria (Shepparton) was comforting, and easier than travelling down to “the big smoke” (even though Melbourne is where I was born). We do have a history of bowel cancer in our family but I never thought it would affect me, especially at age 26! I was young and healthy! “This doesn’t happen to 26yr olds!” I thought.

My lifestyle before being diagnosed (age 18 – 26) was somewhat healthy. Probably before the age of 18 it was appalling (e.g. lots of junk food – I was overweight!), but I had certainly improved. Since being diagnosed with bowel cancer I avoid wheat and gluten, and swim regularly to stay fit and well, in mind and body.

Being diagnosed with bowel cancer has made me question things and then be very grateful for the times I’d proactively taken responsibility for my health (e.g. taking vitamins and eating well, choosing to use ‘safe’ personal care/household products, etc). For the first few years following my diagnosis I still worried the cancer would come back but I have now been clear for five years. “Yay!” My attitude remains the same; ‘I am a winner – I can achieve anything’.

Me, My Beard and Why - Damien

https://decembeard2017.everydayhero.com/au/damien-s-decembeard