Today is the start of 'Young Survivors Week'.
This is a drive from Bowel Cancer Australia to raise awareness of the rise in young people being diagnosed with Bowel Cancer.
You won't be surprised to hear I intend to get as involved as I can.
I'd also like to extend this drive to acknowledge all Young Survivors, not just those with Bowel Cancer.
After being diagnosed, I joined a young adult support group, and have connected to many related organisations online, and yes, bowel cancer in young people is on the rise at a scary rate, but there are so many other young people suffering other cancers or chronic diseases. Young Bowel Cancer Survivors are not the only Young Survivors out there. I'm sure Bowel Cancer Australia worked hard to come up with the catchy title of 'Young Survivors Week' but seeing as they did not go for 'Young Survivors of Bowel Cancer Week' I would hate to marginalise other Young Survivors. This is partially inspired by the frequency of times in which I've clicked on links that seem to be speaking up for people with cancer, only to find it is just breast cancer specific. It happens all the time. It's a big subject that I really should dedicate a proper post to. I've digressed enough - this is about Young Survivors Week.
So today the idea is to share a photo and a piece of advice.
Here is the photo. We took 11 photos and this was the only one where I'm not pulling a really funny face (just a slightly funny face). Wow I think I look so much older than I did a year ago.
And here is my 'one piece of advice':
Check yourself! And not just for bowel cancer.
Even before I was diagnosed, I would often tell myself that ones body is the most precious thing we own. Its the only thing that we truly own. And it needs to last a lifetime. It deserves care and respect and maintenance of the highest priority.
Despite that, short of my future self visiting me from a time machine, showing me test results and telling me to get a colonoscopy now, I don't think anything would have convinced me to get screened for cancers. I just didn't think I was at risk.
Many cancers have screening processes now. Get them all. I think we all know how and where to check for lumps these days, and the stigma behind that has been very well broken down now and that is great.
My diagnosis was a massive shock, especially given my healthy lifestyle and complete lack of genetic risk. But I thought I'd be given a reason why I got cancer. They'd be able to pinpoint something that caused it. Well the reason I got it is because I have a living working human body, and sometimes human body's get cancer.
So if you have a living working body, and if you'd like to keep it for a lifetime, go to your GP, and tell them you'd like to be screened for all cancers.
They might tell you that you're too young, that you are too low risk. I suggest you insist anyway. If they still refuse, get a better GP.
And the good news is, you don't have to go as far as having a colonoscopy to be checked for bowel cancer. It is the most reliable way - other tests can produce false negative and false positives, but they are still a good place to start. Bowel cancer can be tested with a stool test.
And the other thing you can do, right away, is get in tune with yourself. I was not in tune with my body. I took it for granted. I assumed it was fine.
For all I know there could have been blood in my poop for months or even years. I will never know though. Because I never ever looked at it. I always put the lid down and flushed without a second glance.
So even if you don't do anything else, start looking at your poop.
Here is a link if you'd like to read a bit more about the signs of symptoms of bowel cancer.
If you do decide to act on any of my advice that is wonderful, it's totally your own private business but if you feel like sharing your actions that would also be wonderful. I don't need to know what your poop looks like, but knowing that you know what it looks like would be great.