A month after her 50th birthday in 2010, Heather received her bowel cancer screening kit in the mail. After a year, Heather decided to take the test and soon received the test results which were positive. After a colonoscopy and a CT scan, the diagnosis was clear: stage three bowel cancer.
Everything moved fast from there, a week after results came back in the mail, Heather was in hospital for surgery. "I really had no time to think and process” she says. “I’m a very 'positive person and I just wanted to get on with it. And felt really lucky that I had caught it so early.” After surgery, Heather went through five months of chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial. After some issues with her pacemaker, she stopped the trial and received oral chemotherapy for one month.
During treatment, Heather contacted Cancer Council's 13 11 20 Information and Support service for the first time, for some advice on her relationships with others and anxiety, “I realised that I'd just powered through my cancer experience without thinking about it too much, I hadn't had time to digest what had actually happened to me, so talking about that really helped.”
Heather find it important to remind people that 13 11 20 is for carers as well as patients, “Of course, we are always focused on the patient, but we can’t forget about the carers. I would try and shelter people around me from it and wouldn’t realise the effect it had.”
Today, Heather is a volunteer with Cancer Council's Cancer Connect program, a peer support program that matches survivors with patients with a similar diagnosis, "Having had cancer has changed how I view little things – I don't sweat the small stuff anymore, but the fact that the cancer could return is always in the back of my mind.” Cancer Connect can be contacted via 13 11 20.
“It is important people know that 13 11 20 isn’t the only service offered by Cancer Council, it can lead to all of their other services like Transport to Treatment, Financial Assistance, Counselling and more.