Runners to beat bowel cancer

19:16, Feb 23 2014
Michael Thomas
Family : Michael Thomas, Kim Andrews, Hamish Thomas, and Tim Thomas celebrate 100 years in the family business

This year, the Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon aims to raise $20,000 for Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa, a non-profit organisation committed to reducing the impact of bowel cancer in New Zealand.

The team at Thomas's - Marlborough's premier department store - is one of 100 official Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa Vineyard Half entrants.  

They have a $500 Kate Sylvester dress to give to the person who donates the most money to their team for this important cause.

Michael Thomas
Generations: Celebrating the generations Louis Thomas, Michael Thomas and Austin Thomas

Michael Thomas describes himself as a typical male.

As a former shareholder of the family business Thomas's Marlborough, he's worked in fashion retail his entire life. 

He got married, raised children, loves spending time with his grandchildren, and like many New Zealanders has experienced the tragic affects of cancer.


Bowel cancer logo

His father died of cancer, and one of his sisters died of bowel cancer in 1996, only three months after she was diagnosed. 

At his sister's funeral, a physician stopped by and recommended Michael and his two remaining sisters go for a colonoscopy.

"All three of us went, and we were all in the clear," Michael says.

Michael Thomas
Fit and healthy: Michael Thomas is glad to be enjoying time with friends and family

"We were told to go back for a checkup every three years because it runs in our family.

I know my sisters probably did, but like a typical male, I didn't bother going back."

It wasn't until June 2011, when he read an article in Time magazine, followed by a chance conversation with a doctor that his conscience was piqued enough to return for a checkup.

During the colonoscopy, his fears were confirmed when the specialist discovered polyps in the lower bowel, which can become cancerous in many cases. 

More scary, was a suspicious-looking tumour in his upper bowel.

Samples were sent away and the test results showed that while the tumour was not malignant, it needed to be removed quickly.

"I was bloody lucky.  It was only a matter of time before it turned cancerous, in which case I could have been in the same situation as my sister."

The tumour was successfully removed, and the experience proved to be a wake-up call for Michael.

"The message is that it's preventable - it's silly not to get investigated, especially if it runs in your family or you have any of the five key symptoms," he says.  "Sure a colonoscopy is not pleasant, but there are a hell of a lot of worse things that can happen."

Bowel cancer is the number two cancer killer in New Zealand, but it doesn't have to be that way.  In 75 per cent of cases bowel cancer is completely preventable if it's caught early enough.

This year, the Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon aims to raise $20,000 for Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa.

While all 100 Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa entries have been snapped up, you are welcome to sponsor any of these runners by making a donation.

Thomas's Marlborough, which is now co-owned and operated by Michael's sons Tim and Hamish and first cousin Kim Andrews, has donated a beautiful Kate Sylvester dress, worth $500 to the person who donates the most money through the Thomas's team.

Tim says his father's close brush with bowel cancer had been a big wake up call for the brothers and their sister Sarah. 

"Supporting Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa is an important cause for our family, who have been impacted by the disease," says Tim.

"It is also a very important cause for all New Zealanders, as we have one of the highest rates of bowel cancer within OECD countries."

"Early detection is key, so raising awareness is crucial and something we hope to achieve with our involvement in sponsoring this event."

The Marlborough Express