Trust your own body, bowel cancer survivor says

Colleen Fox is a bowel cancer survivor. She promotes awareness of the disease through her Facebook page and encourages ...
Sarah Roberts

Colleen Fox is a bowel cancer survivor. She promotes awareness of the disease through her Facebook page and encourages her friends and family to get tested.

If Colleen Fox hadn't trusted her gut she swears she wouldn't be here to tell her story.

While on holiday the New Lynn resident mentioned to her husband Tom she really needed "to get her bum checked".

The then 44-year-old had no symptoms of bowel cancer, but had felt tired for months.

"I put it down to being in my mid-40s and running around after my young son," Fox says.

Just a few days after her holiday back in 2012 the mother of two found herself in agony with gripping stomach pains.

Fox thought she had a tummy bug until her symptoms became worse.

She was taken to hospital by ambulance.

Doctors didn't know what was causing the pain, but thought she could have passed a gall stone.

"I insisted I wasn't going home because I just didn't feel right. I knew something was wrong," Fox says.

The now 47-year-old was right.

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Tests confirmed she had stage-3 bowel cancer. The stomach pain was found to be unrelated.

"It was pretty shocking to go into hospital with stomach pain and come out with bowel cancer," she says.

Fox has been cancer-free since August 2013.

She had five months of chemotherapy treatment. Fox still has regular checks and her family is having genetic screening.

"I've learnt what is important in life and I've made more time to spend it with my family," she says.

The month of June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.

Fox wants other people to know the importance of getting checked for the disease.

"Don't be embarrassed to get checked. It's nothing to be ashamed of. Just trust your gut," she says.

The Waitemata District Health Board pilot screening programme started in November 2011.

Since it started 249 people have been diagnosed with bowel cancer and many more with pre-cancerous polyps as a result of getting tested. Many of these people had no symptoms.

A further allocation of $12.4 million to extend the Waitemata pilot programme was made in the Government's Budget 2015.

Bowel Cancer New Zealand chairwoman Mary Bradley says this is simply a stalling tactic.

"This country is crying out for a national screening program and is already far behind Australia and other OECD countries," she says.

Bradley says the pilot results show that 350 more people will die in New Zealand than if they lived in Australia where there is a national programme.

If you don't live in the Waitemata DHB area and want to do a regular check talk to your GP or go to for more information.


- New Zealand has the one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world.

- More than 3000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer nationwide every year and as a result more than 1200 die each year.

- By 2016 the number of new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year is projected to increase by 15 per cent for men and 19 per cent for women to 3302.

- Bowel cancer is the most commonly registered cancer in New Zealand.


 - Stuff

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