Be the face of Decembeard® Australia 2017!
Decembeard® isn’t just hair-raising, it’s about fundraising to help save lives and beat bowel cancer.
Your support of Decembeard® Australia directly contributes to Bowel Cancer Australia’s work, providing practical and emotional support for the growing number of Australians affected by the disease, from prevention and early diagnosis to research, quality treatment and care.
Would you like to share your bowel cancer story to help raise awareness?
To help challenge misconceptions associated with bowel cancer we need your help to spread the word!
Whether you are living with bowel cancer, beyond bowel cancer or know someone who is, we want to hear from you!
Thankful every day for early bowel cancer detection
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer after I began to experience early symptoms in 2009.
Healthy and fit, I was beginning life as an empty nester with my wife Loretta when the cancer struck.
That one health check narrowed our field of vision from years to weeks and days.
In just over three weeks, I had surgery.
The tumour and a section of bowel were removed and fortunately the cancer had not spread beyond the bowel wall.
The constant checks and follow ups were always a cause for anxiety, and the worry of recurrence was constantly with us.
Early detection and surgery meant my wife and I were able to share our 40th wedding anniversary.
I’ve been able to watch my children grow into wonderful adults and I can play with my grandchildren.
I was lucky and I know others who were lucky, but I also knew some who weren’t.
I have always believed there were lessons to be learned and shared from this experience and since this opportunity came at a significant cost, I didn’t want to squander it.
Bowel cancer is a life changer in so many ways.
I decided to team up with Bowel Cancer Australia in 2015 to raise awareness and funds during Decembeard® in order to stop it from being a life-ender for so many.
Please support Bowel Cancer Australia this Decembeard® to help save lives and to improve the health and wellbeing of people living with bowel cancer.
Your tax deductible donation will help make real change happen from prevention and early diagnosis to research, quality treatment and care for everyone affected by bowel cancer.
Photo: Stuart Scott, Maitland Mercury
When the phone line becomes a lifeline
At 37 years old, I had a great job, a beautiful wife and two healthy young children.
You could say I was living the Australian dream.
I was healthy and fit, and honestly thought bowel cancer was something that only affected people in their later years.
So you can imagine my shock when I was diagnosed with Stage III bowel cancer.
A few days after I was diagnosed and went into surgery, I received the first of many calls from a Bowel Cancer Australia Bowel Care Nurse who has since become a great friend.
The help that I was given over the phone was instrumental in my healing process.
Sometimes our conversations lasted just a few minutes, but there were times when she stayed on the line with me for up to an hour, offering support and answers to questions no one else seemed to know.
I battled through surgery and six months of chemotherapy, and nearly two years later I am very happy to say that I am alive and healthy and trying to enjoy every single day of life, although the journey hasn’t always been easy.
Following recovery, I felt depressed and found it difficult to carry on initially.
The Bowel Cancer Australia Nurse put me in touch with another male survivor via the charity’s Peer-to-Peer Support Network who was experiencing similar challenges to mine as a result of our young age.
Chris and I have both tackled bowel cancer in our own ways and dealt with it individually, but it was great having him to talk through my challenges with, as most of the other patients I encountered were at least 20 years older than me.
Until I met Chris, it was quite a lonely journey. My family was always there for me, and I had the support of the nurse at Bowel Cancer Australia, but having someone to talk to who was living the same experience, battling this horrific disease, made a huge difference for me.
I gave up my secure job and decided to pursue a long standing ambition. I now have my own food truck, out of which I serve pirate-themed meals at functions, markets, and special events, sharing my bounty with Bowel Cancer Australia.
I volunteer to speak with other patients my age, and we share our journeys, discuss the similar challenges we have faced medically, physically and psychologically. It’s frightening the amount of young people I have met on my journey who are challenged with the same fate as mine.
I also have my own website and blog which I use to raise money for Bowel Cancer Australia in various ways to give thanks to all the medical staff, especially the Bowel Cancer Australia nurse I spoke with regularly during my personal battle towards recovery.
It remains a day-to-day approach, but as time goes on and with my attention focused on my new venture I am coping more easily than before.
Life today is about trying to balance work and children, along with my diagnosis and treatments.
Giving back, supporting others who might be going through what I have and raising funds for Bowel Cancer Australia helps me to stay positive when I start to get down about things.
Bowel cancer is certainly a cause that doesn’t get too much awareness.
Sign up and share your “Me, My Beard and Why” story at Decembeard.org.au today.
A living example of how research can benefit bowel cancer patients
Unfortunately, I ignored early warning signs and put off a colonoscopy that could have changed my life. By the time I got around to having it done, I was diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).
With the cancer having spread to my liver and then later to both of my lungs, I was given just two years to live.
I signed up to participate in a clinical trial, which I have been participating in for the past two years.
Inspired by the work of Bowel Cancer Australia and determined to raise awareness about bowel cancer, I have been an active advocate and fundraiser.
The only reason I’m alive today is because of the treatment I received from wonderful doctors, nurses and health care professionals supporting me, and the medical advances achieved thanks to research by organisations such as Bowel Cancer Australia.
Efforts by the 100% community-funded charity have led to new funding and greater patient access to life-changing cancer treatments in Australia with over $9.8 million committed to bowel cancer research in collaboration with funding partners.
Looking at the advances that are happening in the cancer space every day, I truly believe that we will see the end of many cancers within a generation.
Every dollar donated will help to achieve this goal!
Sign up and share your “Me, My Beard and Why” story at Decembeard.org.au today.
The girl with colitis
I recently completed my Master of Professional Accounting and am currently working in Finance. (I think a lot of people are under the impression that Finance is really boring, so I'd like to show that that's not the case!)
I first heard about Decembeard® from my friend Antonio, who was participating last year with a group of his mates.
I've always had a thing for facial hair, so I freely admit that that was the initial attraction!
However, once I read Antonio's story about his friend Deano who had passed away at the age of 26, and how that had inspired him and his mates to get involved in this campaign, I knew I wanted to get involved as well.
I never had the opportunity to meet Deano, but he's still been a huge inspiration to me.
Since becoming involved in Decembeard®, I've heard many stories from friends and family who have been affected by bowel cancer.
I learned that Elizabeth, who I'd met back when I lived in Canberra, had passed away in July from bowel cancer.
I heard that my Uncle Mick is currently battling bowel cancer.
I've had numerous people tell me of their own connections to this disease.
I've even had a good friend of mine, who works as a nurse, tell me that as a result of my Decembeard® efforts she has been inspired to research further into bowel diseases, and that this knowledge has helped her provide better care to her patients.
I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2014, shortly after my younger sister was (hence my personal Decembeard® team name, "The Girl with Colitis").
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that basically means my large intestine doesn't function the way that it should.
Aside from creating day-to-day challenges, this disease also puts me at high risk of bowel cancer.
When my symptoms (constant, bloody diarrhoea and cramping) first appeared, I was scared.
However, I was lucky that my sister had told me about her own symptoms, and so I knew that I needed to see a doctor right away.
I know that not everybody is so lucky to have a close friend or family member who can guide and support them when they begin to experience symptoms, and encourage them to undergo further investigation.
I think that's really concerning, because bowel cancer can be successfully treated in 90 per cent of cases if detected early.
So my goal is to spread awareness about bowel cancer.
I hope that people who see me or hear my story will be encouraged to talk to their doctor early about their bowel activity.
As a female, I feel I'm in a really fortunate position to be able to spread awareness of bowel cancer in a fun way, through wearing brightly-coloured knitted beards.
I certainly drew a lot of attention last year, and I'm sure this year will be even bigger!
This Decembeard®, join me in raising awareness and raising funds for Bowel Cancer Australia and help us to beat bowel cancer by signing up today.
About the beards: I knit each one by hand, using a pattern I found online which I've heavily modified to suit the look I'm going for. I've come up with a couple of new & improved designs this year, which I look forward to modelling!
Decembeard® - the perfect platform to help others
I was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 22, so I know from my own personal experience that bowel cancer affects men of all ages.
You can be young, eat well, exercise regularly and still be told, “You have bowel cancer.”
Decembeard® is a great way to raise awareness about the early detection of bowel cancer, when 90% of cases can be successfully treated..
Growing a beard offers a visual reminder to others about this silent cancer killer.
So this year I’m supporting Decembeard.
Not just as a way of raising awareness, but also as a way to raise funds to support vital bowel cancer research.
Without funding research there will be no progress in finding ways to reduce adverse reactions to current medical interventions.
I’d also like to see research funded for the development of medical interventions that impact less on quality of life and body function for those diagnosed with bowel cancer, like me.
Following surgery to remove the cancer from my bowel, I took 3 years off of work in order to adapt to the changes that had happened within my body.
I felt it was important to give my body time to heal and to take time to adapt mentally to the adverse reactions from surgery.
Since being diagnosed with bowel cancer, I have prioritised my life to ensure that I can live up to my own moral values, which includes helping other people. Decembeard® provides me with a great way to do that.
Join me and Bowel Cancer Australia this Decembeard® and help us beat bowel cancer.
Sign up at www.decembeard.org.au.
Wearing his beard with fatherly pride this Decembeard®
I lost my 26 year old son Dean to bowel cancer in 2013.
There was no history of bowel cancer on either side of our family.
Losing a child is something you don’t recover from.
The whole experience was horrible – to see a healthy young man deteriorate like that, and there is nothing you can do.
It’s something no parent, no one, should go through.
As his Mum said, ‘We have to wake up each morning to the horror of him not being with us anymore.’
I have not participated in Decembeard® before, except to donate to one of my son’s friend’s funds, but this year I wanted to get involved directly.
I’m hoping my participation will help to spread the message that you’re never too young to be told you have bowel cancer, and to encourage Australians to seek help when something seems wrong.
As soon as something doesn’t feel right make an appointment to talk to your GP, because if detected early 90% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated.
One of Dean’s closest friends, Anthony organised a team of Dean’s mates called “Deano’s Bearded Stallions,” in honour of Dean and to raise awareness about bowel cancer, particularly in young people.
I’m planning to use my beard to encourage conversations about bowel cancer in men and hopefully get more people to support Bowel Cancer Australia as a result.
More than 8,000 men will be diagnosed with bowel cancer this year, and around 560 (7%) of them are under the age of 50, like my son Dean.
Giving back, raising funds for Bowel Cancer Australia and supporting others who might be going through what my son and our family did, helps me to stay positive when I start to get down about things.
I hope you’ll join me this Decembeard® and help Bowel Cancer Australia to help save lives.
To sign up to Decembeard® visit http://bowelcancerfundraising.org/event/decembeard2017
I am a nurse and a midwife, a daughter and a sister.
As a health professional and as a sister, I’ve learned that everybody’s journey is different and that everyone needs love and support.
My big brother Dean lost his life to bowel cancer at the young age of 26.
It was fast, aggressive and the worst thing I’ve ever had to witness.
He was taken away from us just 8 months after diagnosis.
I have treated many wonderful people in my profession, but my greatest honour was nursing my brother during his final weeks of life as he received palliative care at home.
He was and forever will be my favourite patient.
As Dean's cancer progressed, his physical-self deteriorated.
It was so heartbreaking, watching someone I loved so much look so ill and not himself.
People often think that bowel cancer is an “old person’s disease,” but bowel cancer affects people of all ages.
The thing I am so truly thankful for was that Dean’s mental-self didn’t deteriorate – he stayed cheeky until the moment he passed.
This was a big blessing amidst the pain.
As brother and sister you are supposed to continue growing up as adults together – to watch each other become parents and become ‘Auntie’ and ‘Uncle’ to each other’s children.
We were supposed to continue to be part of each other’s lives.
It breaks my heart that Deano will not be here to share those moments with me.
My heart also breaks for my Mum and Dad who have lost their beautiful baby boy.
But we are very lucky to have the support of Dean’s friends, who were so great to grow up with, and who have been such a wonderful support through everything.
After Dean passed away, they joined together and created ‘Deano’s Bearded Stallions’ as a way to honour Dean’s legacy and raise awareness about bowel cancer.
Since that time, I have supported their team.
In place of something so tragic, they have created a meaningful way to celebrate and honour Dean’s life and his untimely passing.
Our family feels so blessed that Dean’s mates have continued this tradition, showing their love and support while raising awareness and funds to help beat this disease.
I really enjoy watching the boys as they post their beard progress updates and seeing people supporting and donating to their efforts, in recognition or bowel cancer in all ages.
Reading the comments, memories, and thoughts people share about Dean, along with the positive comments they write about the boys’ participation and their progress in Decembeard, fills the spaces of my heart that became empty after Dean's untimely passing.
This Decembeard® I’ll be supporting my brother’s ‘Stallions’ again, as they continue to honour their mate, my brother while raising awareness to save lives.
Sometimes I feel like people prolong visits to health professionals due to their feelings of embarrassment and to avoid an awkward conversation.
But that awkward conversation might be the thing that saves your life.
If you know of anyone going through a hard time medically, it’s very helpful and refreshing if people talk to you about it, ask how things are going, maybe cook a meal and deliver it to help lighten the load.
Support, talking it out and love are mainly what people need.
I know that these are what helped us get through.
For more information about Decembeard or to sign up www.decembeard.org.au
I'm Daniel, I’m 33 years old and I’m growing a beard this December.
I decided to participate in Decembeard this year because I have seen firsthand the difference early and late detection can make.
My sister, Leanne was diagnosed with Stage IV Bowel Cancer at the age of 30.
For nearly a year she was experiencing a range of symptoms, but not one seemed to know what was wrong.
Finally, in July 2011 she had an ultrasound which revealed numerous masses that would later be diagnosed as bowel cancer.
Leanne fought hard for 18 months, but due to the cancer being found at such a late stage there were no surgical options available.
Chemo & radiation managed to shrink some of the tumours, but they kept coming back.
Leanne passed away in December 2012.
Due to Leanne's diagnosis, my wife Jess was more aware of the symptoms.
After experiencing a large bleed, she spoke with a doctor who dismissed it as Traveller’s Diarrhoea.
The bleeding was recurrent for the following twelve months and so Jess decided to bring it up with her regular doctor who immediately arranged for Jess to have a colonoscopy.
A small tumour was found and she was diagnosed with Stage 1 bowel cancer.
She was 29 years old.
Jess underwent surgery, and has since been declared ‘cancer free’.
Bowel Cancer is not just an old person’s disease.
It can affect anyone of any age.
That is why I am supporting Bowel Cancer Australia this Decembeard, to raise awareness and remind people that you are never too young to be told you have bowel cancer and that you need to be an advocate for your own health.
I was so appreciative of Bowel Cancer Australia for the support they offered to my wife and me during her initial diagnosis.
She now participates in the Peer-to-Peer support program to try and help others in a similar situation.
I hope that by sharing my story, I will help stop another family from losing a loved one to this disease.
90% of bowel cancer cases can be successfully treated if detected early.
For more information about Decembeard or to sign up visit decembeard.org.au
So if you think something isn’t right, talk to your doctor.
Daniel was a much-loved son, brother-in-law, husband, father and friend.
At the age of 29, he was diagnosed with Stage IV bowel cancer and endured years of chemo, surgery and medical procedures.
Daniel valued the work that Bowel Cancer Australia did in offering support for patients, promoting community awareness and supporting research for bowel cancer treatment, so he decided to participate in Decembeard and raise funds to beat bowel cancer.
Over 2 successive years, he raised over $24,000.
Three years after his diagnosis, chemotherapy and surgery that removed 70 per cent of his liver, Daniel’s cancer returned.
He sadly passed away in October 2016 at the age of 33, leaving behind a wife and a 3-month-old baby girl.
Daniel hoped that one day a cure would be found.
To continue Daniel’s work in raising awareness and funds to help beat bowel cancer, Daniel’s family and friends have created ‘Beards for Daniel’ and hope to match his fundraising efforts by growing beards and raising $24,000.
It's a big goal, but Daniel’s brother-in-law Adam and the rest of the team are hoping that with the support of others, they can do it.
For more information about Decembeard® or to sign up click here
I first heard about Decembeard® during December 2013, around 6 months after an event that was one of the hardest I’ve experienced in my life.
I work as an anatomical scientist, which means I spend my days facilitating cancer diagnosis for a living.
I see all kinds of things in my lab.
We deal with hundreds of thousands of cases every year – not all cancer diagnoses, but it does make up a fair chunk of our work.
Deano was one of my best mates.
In November 2012 he felt unwell and was complaining of a sore back, so he went to see his GP.
Deano was young and fit.
He played rep hockey, was recently married, dreamed of becoming a firefighter and was as healthy as any of us.
When they sent him for an MRI scan to see what was wrong with his back, it didn’t seem alarming.
What they found however was.
In his large bowel there was a tumour the size of his fist.
He was booked immediately for surgery, which was followed by chemotherapy.
When I was told about Dean’s diagnosis, I feared the situation was serious and I was overcome by a cold sick feeling.
But Dean, his new wife Abby, and his entire family remained optimistic.
A 26 year old doesn’t even get bowel cancer, right?
Dean and I had been so close – we were like brothers in many ways.
We had a tight group of mates who were there for each other.
As teens we were with each other all the time, but work and family and other things started to crowd our time, and eventually we all saw less and less of each other.
The guilt of not having made more time when we had it overwhelmed me.
The list of things I ‘should’ have done began to grow in my head.
As I watched Dean become weaker during his chemotherapy, I promised myself that I would be a better friend once this was all over with.
When he 'pulled through' I would visit him and his wife Abby more often.
But he didn’t get better.
Dean’s 3 month PET scan revealed that his cancer had spread beyond his bowel.
When I heard, I went straight to his place to see him and to try and encourage him.
But when I arrived, I didn’t know what to say.
Even though I spent my days in a lab where talking about cancer was business-as-usual, I didn’t know what to say.
“You’ll beat this Buddy!”
“If there’s anyone who can, it’s you!”
I didn’t believe what I was saying, but I hoped he would.
For the next month, I drove to the hospital every other night and talked with Dean about a big trip I was planning to Europe.
We reminisced about the good old days, talking about serious fun we’d had on the Sunshine Coast, surfing, going to parties, cruising in his old red Falcon.
On the night before I left for my long planned adventure, I hugged Dean and told him I’d see him when I returned.
As I walked to my car I cried.
The chemo stopped working and there was nothing more the doctors could do.
Dean’s wife called me in Europe to let me know.
I was so far away.
He felt so close.
In response, I decided to take risks I wouldn't normally take.
I ran with the famous bulls of Pamplona in defiance of death and in defiance of what was happening to Dean.
He was the first person I texted when I completed the run.
From that point, I began texting Dean every day, sharing my antics with him as a way to stay close.
But he soon became so weak he could no longer read my words and his wife had to read them to him.
Dean and I spoke over the phone one last time before he died.
The pain medication caused him to slur his words so much I could hardly understand him over the phone, yet it was one of the most meaningful conversations of my life.
Dean passed away before I got back to Australia.
I received the news in a text.
I broke down and sobbed for what felt like hours.
My sister and I were able to attend Dean’s funeral via a Skype call and I broke down as I watched the boys carry his coffin out of the chapel, past the webcam.
When I returned, Dean’s closest family and friends gathered at Point Cartwright beach to scatter Dean’s ashes.
I still go there to remember Dean, our friendship and everything he meant to me.
And when people ask me why I got involved with Bowel Cancer Australia and Decembeard, I tell them I got involved because I remember Dean.
I’m passionate because I remember Dean and I want to make a difference because I remember Dean.
I hope you’ll join us this Decembeard® and help Bowel Cancer Australia to help save lives.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
With each donation, Decembeard supporter Sam offers a note of thanks and inspiration.
No wonder one of his supporters referred to him as the ‘Good Sam-aritan’.
Like the many other wonderful supporters of this year’s Decembeard Australia campaign, Sam is hoping to spread the word about the impact bowel cancer has on men of all ages - claiming the lives of over 2,300 husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, nephews and boyfriends in Australia every year.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit Sam’s Decembeard page, here are a few of the quotes he’s shared.
“No Act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
"People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel."
“We make a LIVING by WHAT WE GET, But We make a LIFE by WHAT WE GIVE."
My husband Michael was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2014, after returning home from an overseas business trip.
He had no energy and was very pale.
The doctor scheduled for him to undergo surgery in early June 2014, so we decided to go on a holiday to Thredbo beforehand, to spend some quality time together.
Michael and I enjoyed travelling, and skiing and we often didn’t do one without the other.
We enjoyed spending time with friends and family and we really liked to just do things together.
Our daughter Elke wasn’t even two when he was diagnosed, so we didn’t really speak to her about what was happening.
Michael’s first surgery was performed in Canberra.
They were unable to resect the tumour and so he was started on chemotherapy.
After the chemotherapy, Michael became very sick and was sent to hospital in Sydney to undergo another operation, where they were able to remove the tumour.
Michael was in Sydney for about five weeks and so our daughter was looked after by her grandmother.
We told her that Daddy was sick and that Mummy had to look after him.
She was able to come and see us a couple of times and I flew home one weekend to see her.
The whole situation was very difficult.
We just took one day at a time.
Elke was looked after by family or in childcare when she was unable to be with us.
After the surgery we decided to have another holiday together and we went to Port Douglas for a week.
Once we returned, Michael started chemo again.
About a month later, they discovered that the cancer had returned.
I bought a couple of canvases and we painted our 3 hand and foot prints onto them the day before Michael passed away.
I didn’t know it would be the last day we would spend together.
These canvases now hang in Elke’s bedroom.
Michael passed away from bowel cancer just over two years ago.
He was 32 years old.
Our beautiful daughter is now four years old.
She has to grow up without a father and it is heartbreaking, however I hope that by fundraising and raising awareness we will be able to find a cure and reduce the impact of this terrible disease in her lifetime.
I'm trying now to live life to the full as Michael's life was cut short and I think he would want Elke and me to enjoy life and experience as much as possible.
I continue to play soccer, which was something Michael also used to do.
I spend time with my friends and family and I travel for leisure.
Elke has also been learning to snow ski during winter for the last two years.
We also spend time with friends, going to activities in and around Canberra, and visiting family.
2016 is my second year participating in Decembeard.
Last year I crocheted a beard and exceeded my fundraising goal.
This year my main aim is to raise awareness about bowel cancer in honour of Michael.
I want people to understand that bowel cancer is not just an older person’s disease and that 90 percent of cases can be successfully treated if detected early.
I also want people to know what the symptoms can be.
Michael’s workplace, Callaghans Accounting and Financial Services have been fantastic at raising funds and awareness for Bowel Cancer Australia since Michael passed.
This year is the first year they are participating in Decembeard and I am a part of their team.
We’d love your support in helping to raise awareness and funds to beat bowel cancer.
To sign up or donate, visit http://bowelcancerfundraising.org/event/decembeard2017
I want to start by saying that bowel cancer is a truly horrible disease which affects both men and women almost equally.
It is the second leading cancer killer behind lung cancer - but one of the most treatable IF DETECTED EARLY ENOUGH!
A few years ago my father had a close call with bowel cancer.
Luckily he was proactive about going to the doctor with his symptoms and it was caught early.
Initially treatment worked, but the cancer came back again twice - each time in his liver.
Thankfully, each time they caught it early enough and treatments have been successful.
However, my mate Dean was not so fortunate.
He lost his battle with bowel cancer on the 21st of July 2013.
Dean was only 26 years old.
In honour of him, our team "Deano's Bearded Stallions" was formed.
So my aim with this page is not only to raise much needed money, but also to raise much needed awareness in the hope that maybe another family, another friend - EVEN YOU, might be spared the havoc and heartbreak of this disease.
If something does not feel right - please do not dismiss it.
Do not put it off, because you are busy or embarrassed.
See your doctor immediately!
And please remember to donate if you can, big or small it all makes a difference.
Thank you for your support in helping to raise awareness and funds to beat bowel cancer.
If you’d like to sign up or donate, visit http://bowelcancerfundraising.org/event/decembeard2017
In April 2015, 5 weeks after my son was born, I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer.
My doctor misdiagnosed me saying I was too healthy and young to have cancer.
But because my son had just been born I thought it was best to go for a colonoscopy where they found a 4cm tumour in my rectum.
18 months later after 19 weeks of chemotherapy, 7 weeks of radiotherapy, 22 weeks with a colostomy bag and 2 surgeries, I feel better than ever.
After so many dark days I would never have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would ever be able to feel this good.
So no matter how hard things may get, try and stay positive and focused, and hold on to hope.
You are all a reminder of how much good there is still left in the world.
I’m participating in Decembeard again this year to help Bowel Cancer Australia, who wonderfully helps others affected by this horrible disease.
Keep up the fantastic work everybody!
There’s still time to show your support in helping to raise awareness and funds to beat bowel cancer.
To sign up or donate, please visit http://bowelcancerfundraising.org/event/decembeard2017
I was originally diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2011 after not feeling well for a couple of months.
Before the end of that year, I had experienced chemo, radiotherapy, numerous tests, the removal operation, had a temporary stoma fitted and was on post-operative chemo – quite a few months.
All went well over the next two years or so, the stoma was reversed and progress was being made, then a secondary cancer was found.
A lung resection followed and I have just passed the two year mark, successfully this time.
I teamed up with Bowel Cancer Australia quite early, they are very supportive and all funds are very wisely used, which is why I am happy to support Decembeard this year.
Although I do not have a beard and will need to grow one, I do have a moustache, which has been there for a very long time. I have had my Mo for over 40 years - but it has to go! So on January 1st 2018 all facial hair will be removed to support this campaign.
Please support Bowel Cancer Australia with this initiative to help them to raise awareness of bowel cancer.
In September this year, my Mum passed away after a long battle with bowel cancer. She was diagnosed after completing the home test kit, sent out to her at age 65.
Mum toiled away for 5 years and was still a fighter all the way to the end. Her stoic attitude and strength through the whole process was an inspiration to her large family and social group. Her classic reply after each setback or return of the disease after a seemingly successful surgery was to just get on with living.
My wife, who is an experienced hospital social worker and has worked for years in that field, was able to provide great support and insight into the impact that someone dying from cancer can have on their loved ones and on the need that some of the lesser known strains of the illness have for greater awareness.
Even though its Australia’s 2ng biggest cancer killer, people generally aren’t aware of how important and easy it is to get checked early and take action to prevent it from spreading. That’s why when we came across the Decembeard campaign I decided to get on board.
People that know me will agree that I’m not known for having any facial hair growing prowess, so I suspect I may have a few surprised faces by the end of December, including my own – I’m not sure what will sprout!
But what I do know is that by doing this, I will raise some important funds and awareness around my family and friends to get checked, not just for bowel cancer, but to also just go for that check up with you GP – particularly when you think it might be one of those embarrassing scenarios.
My aunt had the biggest heart, the most generous and genuine person you could ever come across.
My world was flipped upside down when she lost her battle to Bowel Cancer, less than three weeks after turning 44. She spent her birthday and last days in the hospital in palliative care with her nearest and dearest around her.
No words could articulate how this progressive disease had adversely affected our lives. I looked around and realised the obvious – that time doesn't stop for anybody and thought of all the things that I could, would and should have done to save my aunt, or at least prolong her life until she could see her two girls grow up to become young adults and her teenage boy mature into a man.
I quickly learned of how treatable and preventable bowel cancer was, if detected early. And how easily abdominal pain could be overlooked or misdiagnosed. My aunt was turned away by her General Practitioner after giving birth to her second daughter. If only she had undertaken a colonoscopy to surgically remove the polyps before they developed into cancerous tumours, things would have taken a different turn.
When I came across Decembeard, I thought it would be a great opportunity to raise awareness of this curable disease through early detection and in turn, save precious lives. I encourage families to talk about stool movements, abnormalities and tests. I hope that no other families would have to go through the heartache that my family and I did, and through much needed research, one day Bowel Cancer will be a thing of the past.
It all began last year with all the tell-tale signs. Sore stomach, bloating, IBS symptoms, then progressed to bleeding and mucus in my stools.
I went to three different GP’s and it was dismissed by all of them as “haemorrhoids” or a “fissure” or “piles etc.”
Can’t be cancer, your too young I heard a lot. Don’t google your symptoms they said it all lead to cancer! Ha what a joke.
I knew inside I wasn’t well, so off I went for the 4th visit to the doctors. I demanded a colonoscopy and a stool sample screening test. The stool sample came back negative.
I took a few weeks to finally get in to see the gastroenterologist and after a brief chat he knew too something wasn’t right, so he squeezed me in for a colonoscopy as soon as he could the following week.
When I woke from my slumber after the colonoscopy, in very direct terms I was told I had rectal cancer. Wow doesn’t it hit you right in the face. So scary. I have a young family and a wonderful wife. Not knowing if I was going live or die, all these horrible thoughts go through your mind. My kids Harry (6) and Pearl (3) and wife Kim were so great helping me deal with this.
Two weeks later, on Valentine’s Day I’m in hospital for an ultra-low anterior resection. Big 10hr operation and lost a fair wack of bowel and my rectum. Lying in bed on my birthday a few days later, on the 17th February waiting to hear if it was terminal or had spread was agonising. I thought I was pretty tough, until I found myself sitting and crying in hospital alone waiting for whatever news was coming. Possible unknown risks included all functions in the manhood area, urinating and prostate issues. Thankfully all that settled down and worked after a long time!
Having a stoma was horrible for those few long months and I never liked it so when the day came to get it reversed it was awesome! I have not been right ever since, both physically and mentally, and some days are harder than others. 12-15 Gastro stop tablets a day just to not soil myself is both humiliating and demeaning, and not good at all for one’s self esteem.
Because of this and no fault of my own, I had to stop work. It has cost us our business, and everything associated with it. I had close my electrical company which I had built from the ground up, lay off all my staff and sell the house, my warehouse/office and cars. This has also been so very difficult because believe it or not, there a few clients (that I thought were mates) took advantage of the situation and decided not to pay their outstanding invoices. These things compound the stress and anxiety and anger I have already!
I couldn’t have done this without the wonderful support of my wife Kim who has gone above and beyond to support, help, nurture and love me through this and I love her and can’t thank her enough. Coming home from hospital and painful check-ups/pelvic floor physio’s OR as I call them my “digital violations appointments” was made so much easier knowing my wife and kids were there ready for me with big smiles and a cuddle. This event has crushed my hopes and dreams. However, most importantly, it has taught me how much I love and appreciate my beautiful wife and family and how important the things are that you take for granted AND what is actually important versus what you think is important. The wonderful help and support I got from family and friends as well was amazing. Be kind to people because you just don't know what they are going through.
A big shout out to the living legend and most of all to the best surgeon Dr Chris Gillespie from Brisbane Colorectal at the Mater Private. Thank you for your professional approach and wonderful surgery skills to remove the tumour! The nurses on Ward 10 North at the Mater Private were so wonderful and caring and I thank them so much as well. Having been there for three surgeries this year you get to know them, and I really like them!
With all of this going on, it is why I have been active in anything I can to raise awareness for bowel cancer. Selling ribbons, fundraising and cake sales with my wonderful Stoma Nurses Louise and Eric at the Mater Private, and now getting involved in Decembeard.
Go and get a check-up please ASAP! Here's to new dreams and beginnings and opportunities!
When my wife was diagnosed with Stage 3 bowel cancer in 2015 it was shocking.
Sarah was an active person who’d just entered her 40’s, she led a healthy lifestyle, she ate well, wasn’t overweight and had no family history of bowel cancer.
What she did have were persistent ‘gastro-like’ symptoms consistent with some sort of stomach bug that had lasted several weeks, an aching back and cramping pain in her side which didn’t seem to abate, inexplicable tiredness and, luckily, a GP who ordered some blood tests. Leading to a trip to hospital emergency (her iron levels were critically low) and ultimately a meeting with a gastroenterologist who organised and performed a colonoscopy.
Within a month of the cancer being discovered, she had surgery to completely remove her colon (ileo-rectal anastomosis) and then after six weeks of recovery from this major surgery she was put on an intensive 6-month chemotherapy regime.
A few weeks before her symptoms emerged, Sarah had left her job of 20 years and decided to spend the next 12 months looking after our 3-year-old daughter and watching her grow. Instead, the next 12 months involved life-saving surgery, intensive chemo and a long recovery period after.
This all sounds quite horrific and terrible I know, but when I look back at that time the one thing I think, is how lucky we are and how thankful I am.
Sarah is now in remission and on her way back to leading a normal life. She is back working and spending time with me and our daughter. I am so happy to have my wife back to being herself and for my daughter to have her mum … enough said.
We are lucky, because this may not have been the case. It wouldn’t have been the case if Sarah ignored her symptoms and had not gone to the GP. It wouldn’t have been the case if she hadn’t quickly been diagnosed and had an amazing medical team through both her surgery and her chemotherapy journey.
I am happy to get involved in Decembeard on Sarah’s behalf and spread the message that if bowel cancer is detected early enough, there is a fantastic chance of successful treatment. Hopefully by raising awareness, we can also raise funds for Bowel Cancer Australia and help support vital research. As one of the lucky ones, it’s the least I can do.
As a triathlete competing in Ironman events consisting 2.8k swim 180k bike and 42k run, I was physically fit.
In June 2013 I competed in an event in Cairns and felt more than normally fatigued, but still managed to finish. During the next few months I was passing blood and living in denial. I entered a shorter race in Yarrawonga and completed it, but was in all sorts of trouble. So, I made an appointment with my GP. This being the start of my loss of self-esteem, I was referred for a sigmoidoscopy three days later. I returned to the GP a few days later for the results. He informed my wife and I that the tumor was cancer. We left in shock, unable to comprehend what was to unfold. It felt like a death sentence.
My GP had recommended a surgeon, and he was my next port of call two days later. Both our heads were spinning as we talked to him and he went through the process step by step. At this consultation he took us through all the pros and cons. He said I was at the top of a roller coaster and in for a ride into the unknown. Three weeks later I was admitted to hospital where I met the stoma nurse. It was then, when she marked my abdomen for the bag, the reality hit. That night before surgery my wife and I were both in a place of fear and closeness, not knowing if this was the end.
When I awoke from surgery with tubes, bags and all sorts of things attached I wasn’t sure what to think. That was the day my life changed forever.
My surgeon came to see me to tell me the good news, that the cancer hadn’t spread and there was no need for Chemo. That part didn’t mean a lot to me at the time. I was an Ironman, now with bags, tubes and everything else. How was I to go forward.
Recovery was slow, and I had to return to hospital again as my bowel wasn’t working and I had an infection. I don’t think I have ever been as sick as that ever. There were so many things that happened through those few months, and I lost my dignity in the process.
After leaving hospital I was having trouble with the psychological side of things. My wife contacted cancer support nurses and the buddy up service, which helped talking with people who had been through it all. I also went to a cancer talk group where everyone was going through cancer of some form.
I learned to live with my stoma and bag for the next three months. Not letting it stop me, I got to a stage where I was back training with the support of friends. I even started swimming with my bag at a public swimming pool, using a full triathlon suit to conceal the bag. I started back to work on a part time basis, until fit enough to go full time. My transition back to work was made easier with the support of my company and the people I worked with. Things weren’t too bad.
I learnt to manage and we’re now seeing things in a better light.
Then came next part of the journey. After three months I was back in hospital to be joined up again and say goodbye to my bag. I spent another ten days in hospital recovering from the surgery. This is when I found out that although the tumor had been removed, a part of my body had also gone. My body would never function the same again, after a week of constant visits to the toilet my frustration took over. I rang my surgeon and asked for my bag back, I had learnt to manage to a point I had some quality of life. He assured me it would improve over time and my body would learn to overcome the change to its structure.
I again returned to work full time only wanting to get my life back to where I left off. But I was given another role with greater expectations; this combined with constant need to visit the toilet took its toll. I ended up having a breakdown and had to take more time off. When I returned I was given another role where I felt like a nomad. I had no real spot to fill and was just a floater. I was still dealing with the way my body was now functioning. There were nights where I soiled the bed and other accident, all taking its toll.
I had never thought of retiring from work. I enjoyed being part of it through the good and bad times, but an opportunity came to look at retirement as an alternative.
Earlier this year I retired, I miss work but I don’t miss coping with my bowel functions while trying to hold down a job.
I hear the word ‘cured’ used a lot in describing my successful treatment to date, but I can’t see it that way. I have had a cancer removed but in doing so part of my functioning body has been removed. I will never be the same. I still live every day with a constant reminder and in the back of my mind is the constant thought of another cancer.
I’m still alive and try to make the most of every day. Some are better than others, and they are days to savor.
I, like many folk, have worn many hats in many varied endeavours, working in industries from petroleum and energy, insurance and education and farming.
Working as a professional and as a laborer, in rural and city Australia, with organisation for profit and not-for-profit, and federal, local and state government engagements. Now I continue another endeavor, to help us better understand a disease of many forms: To rid us all of bowel cancer.
My fight and my engagement in this arena to eradicate this insidious disease is not alone, as I walk with many others who also have sought to overcome a path not clear of disease and infections brought on by reasons not well understood. I will do my best to overcome bowel cancer by supporting research and social engagement on this indiscriminate imposter.
People, like you and like me, and those we love and many we may not know are inflicted and impacted directly by this imposter encroaching upon us; from the Esophagus through the colon, the passage is not always clear.
You can help clear this path for better health and wellbeing.
Australia, we all need to support research to eradicate bowel cancer. All people from the North West Shelf and Timor Sea, to Gabo, and Bruni islands, and Flinders, and Kangaroo islands, and to Busselton to Arnhem Land and Cape York, bowel cancer is indiscriminant; let’s all help and give our support.
Go to decembeard.org.au and support Bowel Cancer Australia fight to eradicate bowel cancer for all Australians no matter where you live.
Help your loved ones; and help you and your friends: Grow a beard and donate to Bowel Cancer Australia at decembeard.org.au. From little ones to older folk bowel cancer is indiscriminate.Me, My Beard and Why - Colin
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
Early in 2004, in a small and smoky live music bar in Collingwood called ‘The Yak’, Mark met Vanessa.
Brought together by a shared love of live music, they quickly developed a belief that life was mostly about sharing experiences and so they lived their lives ‘doing things’ together with family and friends.
“Even the simplest of activities was all that was needed,” said Mark. “Ness always made a big effort to turn it into something special.”
Mark and Ness were married for 9 years, during which time Mark had the privilege of becoming a father to Jess and Liam, Ness’s two children from a previous marriage.
In 2014, during the end of a trip to Japan, Ness indicated her digestion was ‘not quite right’ and that her tummy was feeling uncomfortable.
“Ness was always one to soldier on, but she ended up in the Emergency Department where a Gastroenterologist performed a Gastroscopy,” Mark said.
She was diagnosed with Acute Gastritis and was prescribed Nexium.
Approximately two weeks later, Ness had what was to be a ‘routine’ colonoscopy.
That was when a large tumour was discovered.
Within three days, Ness had two-thirds of her colon removed.
Following the surgery, Mark and Ness met with her oncologist.
“He outlined the chemo regime that Ness would go on in order to ‘mop up’ the spread,” said Mark.
“We were told the biopsy results after surgery were not good.
Ness was diagnosed with Stage III bowel cancer.
“The cancer had invaded the entire bowel wall structure and early signs of spread were already present – it was in a large number of lymph nodes already,” Mark said.
“But the confidence from all her medical staff was high and that was reassuring.”
Nonetheless, Mark felt what he described as “unbelievable fear and uncertainty”.
“My fear went from the thought that Ness would become very sick and frail to thinking this could be potentially terminal,” said Mark.
Prior to his wife’s diagnosis, Mark knew very little about bowel cancer.
“I thought it was not something we would need to worry about – being so young and healthy,” Mark said.
The learning curve during her treatment was steep, not just for Mark, but also for Ness.
“We thought Ness would lose her hair very quickly on chemo.
“It thinned, but she never did lose all of her hair,” said Mark.
“We had heard of some people being able to continue normal work and all sorts of things, but Ness was really out of action for the entire first week of her treatment and only really came good at the end of her second week, just before the treatment cycle would start again,” Mark said.
“The incredible lack of energy and just how much chemo affected Ness was tough,” said Mark.
“And then there was ‘chemo brain’. . . never knew about that!”
Mark and Vanessa’s daughter, Jess is studying communication design.
As a way of utilising her skills and her mother’s personal experience, she created a video for a university assignment, which she has kindly shared with Bowel Cancer Australia.
Following six months of chemotherapy treatment, Ness was declared NED, with clear scans.
“We thought. . . imagined. . . hoped we would have a good number of years before having to worry about cancer again, but in November 2015, her blood numbers spiked a tumour was discovered in her liver during a PET scan,” Mark said.
“Surgery again and more chemo. . . this time for four or five months.”
“Once again, Ness’ disease responded to the treatment and the scans were clear – NED,” said Mark.
But in September 2016, following another blood test and a visit to the liver surgeon, Ness was told they had found cancer in her lymphatic glands at the rear of her abdomen.
“We were told this was non-operable, and being that is was discovered by a surgeon – this sounded bad,” Mark said.
“However, when we met with our oncologist, he was confident that radiation treatment could potentially eliminate the cancer.”
“We met a radiation oncologist, who was great, and he mapped out a course – 6-weeks of daily radiation hits, and at the same time Ness was put onto oral chemo tablets,” said Mark.
Ness became extremely unwell during the radiation and pain started to become a major factor and the cancer in her lymph nodes did not respond to the radiation.
“It was at this time that we started to come to the realisation that this was potentially not a battle we were destined to win,” Mark said.
“Her oncologist was comforting us, saying that with a measure of chemotherapy Ness’ disease could be ‘managed’ and that some patients live for many relatively normal years in this scenario,” said Mark.
But within a few months, there was evidence of spread into Ness’ lungs and the cancer had returned in her liver.
“It slowly became apparent that Ness’ cancer was too resilient, too aggressive, and wasn’t really being controlled,” Mark said, “and Ness was feeling worse and worse on constant chemo, and the pain was increasing.”
Toward mid-2017, Ness was beginning to suggest stopping treatment.
“We were all still hopeful that we would have her with us for Christmas and beyond, but that hope was sadly extinguished,” Mark said.
Ness passed away this October.
When asked what Mark would say to others whose loved ones had been diagnosed with bowel cancer, Mark’s advice was simple: “Seek, and accept the support and strength in the friends and loved ones around you,” said Mark.
“We had loads of people offering us help, and we eventually did need it, but actually accepting help early was surprisingly difficult."
“Don’t let your pride and ego hold you back and remember, bowel cancer is NOT an ‘old person’s disease,’” Mark said.
Bowel Cancer is Australia's 2nd biggest cancer killer, and it does not discriminate. Young, old, male, female - this is a cancer that hits many of any group.
I only really started growing a full beard when I taking care of Ness became more ‘full time’… and it wasn’t so much ‘growing a beard’, as more like I just stopped shaving. I almost always had some form of facial hair, but it was usually finely groomed and short, so the ‘bushman’ Decembeard is a little different for me.
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Please consider helping this much needed cause. Every little bit helps.
I have always been an avid historian and had taken a keen interest in genealogy.
I was tracing my family tree and endeavouring to find out where I came from and details about my ancestors (occupations, where they lived, how they died etc).
I found that bowel cancer popped up frequently. My grandfather had passed away from it in 1978. Two cousins had been diagnosed in their 50's.
I noticed that my own bowel habits had changed slightly. I had only just turned 40 so I wasn't overly concerned, but the words 'bowel cancer' were stuck in my head.
I spoke to my GP and he said that given my age it was unlikely I would have bowel cancer, but given my family history it was possible. He supported my decision when I asked for a colonoscopy.
After the colonoscopy I was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer. I had a total colectomy and then 12 cycles of chemotherapy. I now have regular colonoscopies and will continue to do so.
I feel as though this journey has changed me in ways that I could never have imagined. I have always been active in my community but this has motivated me to speak publicly about my own situation.
I encourage others to be tested and hold an annual fundraiser to support research through Bowel Cancer Australia.
I don't ever want anyone to ever have to go through what I did unnecessarily.
I have received volunteer acknowledgement awards and also Citizen of the Year for my work in the community.
I am extremely proud to be able to stand up and tell people to check their bums :)