Tuesday, September 4, 2018

You're never too young to get Bowel Cancer!

Did you know that bowel cancer is the second deadliest cancer in Australia! What the actual fuck! Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world; 1 in 13 Australians will develop the disease in their lifetime. 70% of people affected have no family history of the disease and no hereditary contribution.

The risk of developing bowel cancer rises sharply and progressively from the age of 50, but the number of Australians under 50 diagnosed with bowel cancer has been increasing steadily. That's why it is so important to know the symptoms of bowel cancer and have them checked out if they persist for more than two weeks.

Almost 90% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully when detected early.

This gorgeous lady is Alison, she teaches my kids singing and piano. When I first met her I thought she was a wonderful human being; still do. Sadly, she has had bowel cancer. Thankfully, she is still here....this is her story.

Hey Alison, tell us a bit about yourself?

I always find this question tricky, but my simple answer is; Hi, I’m Alison, I’m 27 and live in Sydney. I grew up in Canberra and moved to Sydney 6 years ago to study Musical Theatre.

Now I’m completing my Masters in Primary Teaching and work as a Music Teacher and children’s entertainer. Then people normally start asking questions and it’s not long before it heads into murky territory.

A normal conversation usually goes a little like this:
“What year are you in at uni?”
“Well I’m part time, I started full time then had to switch to part time for health reasons, so still got another year to go”
“Oh, that’s good. Do you still perform much?"
“Not at the moment, still just trying to manage my health and keep up with work and uni”
“So you’re still sick, but you look great”

And this is the point when I tell the full story. The up and down health battle of life with and after cancer.

When and how were you diagnosed with bowel cancer?

I was diagnosed with a Nuero Endocrine Carcinoid tumour when I was 25.

I still remember the day pretty clearly even though I was in complete shock at the time, but I’ll get back to that.

I’ve always had issues with my health. Throughout my teens I struggled with migraines and chronic fatigue syndrome, and then developed your typical food intolerances and IBS issues that no one could work out. So I switched to a gluten free, low fodmap diet, which seemed to work for a while.

Then 2015 happened. A year of major ups and downs health wise, I was constantly sick with repeated infections and viruses, had major migraine attacks and ended up in hospital, but no one could really figure out what was going on.

Towards the end of the year two new doctors came into the picture, a gynaecologist and an integrative doctor, and if I hadn’t found these two wonderful women, I probably wouldn’t be here now.

In January 2016, I had an exploratory laparoscopy where my gynaecologist was looking for Endometriosis, which she found, but she also noticed my appendix looked a bit odd. She showed the pictures to the surgeon in the next operating theatre who said it looked as though I’d had appendicitis, and my appendix should come out.

It wasn’t urgent, so I got through semester 1 of my master degree, and then had it removed, because what else does one do in their uni break but have their appendix removed. The operation went fine, I went back to Canberra so Mum could look after me as I recovered, headed back to Sydney 2 weeks later and went to my follow up appointment.

I went to that appointment feeling pretty good expecting to hear the operation went well and everything was fine, instead I heard the words “another operation…tumor…urgent scan…” and everything went a little blank. I didn’t even register that he’d said the word carcinoid (i.e cancer) until much later.

I left the appointment in shock and rang my mum, and I haven’t been to a specialist appointment alone since.

What was the treatment like? 

Two weeks after my diagnosis, I had a major operation, where they cut out half my large intestine, part of my small intestine, and all the lymph nodes and glands in the area.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that the particular tumour I had can only be removed through surgery. It doesn’t respond to chemo or radiation therapy, so it needs to be caught early enough and before it metastasizes, so it can be cut out.

I was extremely lucky! Also what we didn’t know at the time was the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, which were thankfully all cut out, but my surgeon said I had more chance of winning the lottery than of the tumour being found in time….

How were your emotions as you went through this? 

My emotions, well it was a roller coaster, still is really. I think the best part was not realizing the severity of it all until it was over. I didn’t realise it was bowel cancer until a lovely nurse in the hospital said they’d never seen someone so young with bowel cancer before, and then the penny dropped.

After that I looked up the statistics and realised how lucky I was! But it was a very scary and emotional time. Thankfully I have an amazing support network who kept me going, but I wouldn’t have gotten through it all without my mum. She was there every day I was in hospital and comes to all the major appointments with me now, just in case.

How are you now? 

I’m still not great, and almost two years on I guess I thought I’d be feeling a lot better by now, but doctors tell me it’s all pretty normal. I still have severe gut issues which isn’t all that surprising seeing as I’ve lost half of it, I still get pretty run down and exhausted some times, my hair is still falling out, and I spend a lot of money on vitamins and medications which I’ll be on for the rest of my life.

The appointments, tests and managing medications gets pretty exhausting sometimes. I’ve had 2 operations already this year to remove polyps and cysts, and I’ll continue to have a colonoscopy every year for the next ten years and a scan every 12 months to monitor everything.

I’m on a gluten free, dairy free, low fodmap diet, and some days are good and some days are really bad. My motto has always been keep calm and carry on, but some days it’s really hard.

What would you tell people about bowel cancer? 

My main advice is to know your body and if something doesn’t feel right don’t stop searching for answers until you’re satisfied. If I’d just accepted IBS or gluten intolerance as a diagnosis I wouldn’t be here right now.

Trust your instincts, you know your body better than anyone! But also don’t forget Bowel Cancer or any cancer isn’t just an old persons disease, anyone can get it!

Anything else? 

Only that if anyone is going through something similar or wants more information go to the Bowel Cancer Australia website, they have a great team of nurses and a great peer-to-peer support network who regularly check in with me to see how I’m going.

I’m also happy to talk to people about my journey because the more everyone knows and understands, the better chance we have of detecting cancer early and saving lives.

Oh and also- If you’re over 50 and get sent the Bowel Cancer screening kit- please do it, it could save your life!

Do you talk about your bowels?

Have you known someone with bowel cancer?

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My Gut Journey....Part 1

After explaining my "why" I am well and truly on the good gut journey now and it will be a long one. My next appointment for a check-up isn't until January, so for the next two and bit months I am doing the following....

Quitting Sugar

I have switched out the gluten free snacks and cereals that I used to buy at the supermarket which are full to the brim with sugar and replaced them with sugar-free home-made snacks. My current snack favourites are Raspberry Ripe Bites.

Instead of cereal for breakfast I am having a piece of toast with avocado, egg and some smoked salmon or a Chia Pudding (seriously addicted).

Probiotics etc

Even with all the gut issues that I have had I have never taken a probiotic - I know, bad right! No wonder my guts are miserable. Dr Lee also has me taking antibiotics to get rid of the Streptococcus on a week on, week off situation with the probiotic over 4 weeks (e.g. wk 1 probiotic, wk 2 antibiotic, wk 3 probiotic, wk 4 and onwards probiotic).

The probiotic contains Lactobacillus Acidophilus Bifidobacterium Bifidum, Streptococcus Thermophilus - all such long, unpronounceable words.

She also prescribed Mutaflor, which is another probiotic that comprises a viable non-pathogenic strain of Escherichia coli (E.coli). It was first isolated in 1917 from the faeces of a soldier during the First World War who did not suffer dysentery or any other intestinal diseases (gross, yet also extremely fascinating).

In the morning I take Digestaid before I eat to aid my digestion and assist in maintaining healthy digestive function. 

At night I also drink a glass of CytoPro Repair which is a combination of herbal extracts and nutrients with high dose Glutamine to support the structural integrity and function of the gastrointestinal tract. 


I have started drinking Kombucha and really really like it! I mean I love cups of tea so why I thought I wouldn't like Kombucha I just don't know. Kombucha is known to have gut healing properties - well let's hope so.

Bone Broth

Dr Lee suggested I drink Bone Broth, I thought why the hell not! At this stage I am willing to give anything a big fat go. Apparently it is very good for gut healing - watch this space. 

Gelatin Gummies

This one has been prescribed by Sarah Wilson, she's close to a Dr, isn't she??

Anyhoo, I am going to make some gelatin gummies, which have 18 amino acids and will also assist in reducing the inflammation in my gut. 


Gotta eat more yoghurt. I recently discovered Coconut Yoghurt and I love it! I am also using Jalna BioDynamic Organic Yoghurt whenever and wherever I can. 

Do you have any gut loving foods that you eat?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

My Gut Journey....The Why?

Just in case you are interested, here is the why to my gut journey. (P.S. That is not my gut in the picture.)

I have suffered depression, anxiety, stomach issues and headaches since my late teens, mixed in with my PCOS and severe gluten intolerance  - I am about to tick over to 41 years old, suffice to say it has been a while.

I have been through many a doctors waiting room and thumbed through many an out-of-date trashy magazine - GPs, psychiatrist (I love her!), neurologist, headache specialist, gynaecologist, endocrinologist, naturopath, osteopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist, gastroenterologist, etc etc, I am sure you get the picture.

Sometimes I feel a bit better but always tip off the "feel good wagon" onto the "shit ship". The main takeaway from all this time is being sent on my merry way with band-aid solutions - take this pill for that or that pill for this. One doctor even told me that headaches were just going to be part of my life - thanks arsehat.

Now I am just exhausted and well and truly over it and as my wonderful psychiatrist said, "you need to get your shit together". She sent me for some blood tests and a Bioscreen poop test (delightful I know, but oh so fascinating!). The blood results actually weren't that bad - which left us perplexed and a little disappointed, we had hoped they would show something outstanding and give us the answers to all the questions.

The Bioscreen test on the other hand, totally different story. It was BAD, which was good. This was more than likely the answer to all the questions....well at least some of them.

What does the Bioscreen test actually test for I hear you ask....well, let me tell you. It is a Faecal Microbial Analysis, which is basically checking out the microflora in your large intestinal tract. The good thing is that it checks out what shouldn't be there as well as what should.

The organisms that this test focuses on are aerobic bacteria (E.coli, non-E.coli coliforms, Enterococcus, Staphylococcus, and. Streptococcus spp.), anaerobic bacteria (Bacteroides, Eubacterium, Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Clostridium, Prevotella and Porphyromonas, Peptostreptococcus spp.), and yeasts, (Candida spp.,).

My test looked something like this:

The Aerobic bacteria (apparently need air to survive)...
E.coli (there is actually a strain of E.coli that does good in your gut) - 0% (should be 70-90%)
Enterococcus - 10.20% (should be <5%)
Streptococcus - 89.80% (should be <5%)

The Anaerobic bacteria (apparently don't need air to survive)...
Bacteroides (Lo) 41.25% (should be 90-95%)
Eubacterium 13.45% (should be <15%)
Lactobacillus 0% (should be 0.5-1.5%)
Bifidobacterium 0% (should be 5-11%)
Clostridium 44.84% (should be 1-10%)

As you can, not the best....in fact far from it. Ever increasing research says that the gut is the real brain of your bod, so best look after it. Apparently with these dodgy guts Dr Lee and also Dr Henry Butt (owner of Bioscreen) are not surprised I am anxious, depressed, headachey and exhausted.

Therefore, it is time to get action (and stick to it).

The first integrative doctor I saw about these results sent me for more blood tests to check cooper, zinc, pyrroles, histamine and some hormonals. These showed that I was a Pyrrole (which is a biochemical imbalance involving an abnormality in haemoglobin synthesis that can be caused by "leaky gut syndrome") and also an overmethylator (basically someone who has low blood histamine, low plasma zinc, elevated copper leading to anxiety and depression).

Wasn't the biggest fan of the first doctor I saw, as I have mentioned previously, so this week I went back to the wonderful Dr Lee.....the good thing was that I had all the tests done and dusted so we could jump straight into my "get my gut better" journey.

Have you had a bioscreen done?
Are you a pyrrole? or overmethylator?


Friday, November 3, 2017

I Quit Sugar....again

According to people everywhere, sugar is bad for you. The dentist tells me, the Dr tells me, the Internet tells me and Sarah Wilson is constantly telling me.

Pack full of calories with no nutrients, it also feeds the bad bacteria in your mouth causing tooth decay. It is high in fructose which can overload your liver causing non-alcoholic fatty liver - delightful (not really).

It can cause insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes. Not to mention it's fat-promoting effects leading to obesity mixed with it's ability to be highly addictive. Throw in some high cholesterol and heart disease and maybe people everywhere have a serious point!

I'm also throwing into the "sugar is shite" bucket the fact sugar is feeding the bad stuff in my already whacked out gut biome - not something I need to be feeding right now.

So....I am quitting sugar - again. You see I have tried before and failed miserably. Not this time. I am girl crushing on Sarah Wilson, her website iquitsugar.com.au and her book, Simpilicious in the hope some of her non-sugarness will rub off on me.

This week we have enjoyed the following recipes:

I wonder what next week will bring?

Have you quit sugar? Easy, Hard? Any tips to share?


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Seems I have a pattern...

...and not the polka dot, stripe, gorgeous coloured variety.

My pattern is more the, "I don't stick to anything" and "Always set my self expectation way to high" variety.

Point in case - this very blog. I love this blog but I come and go like the wind - sometimes howling and blogging every week, other times quite still and blogging never!

But (there is always a but), I am tying to change my pattern, perhaps to the gorgeous coloured variety.

You see I am back on the "get my gut better" train (cause back in July I found out I had no good bacteria and an overgrowth of bad) and this time I need to stick to it. Things seem to always hit rock bottom before I do something about it. This time was no different.

Anxiety and depression hit me hard, I went to my physiatrist, she said to me, "You need to get your shit together". I told her how I wasn't too keen on Dr Mac and wanted to go back to Dr Lee to help me with my guts and overall wellbeing. She agreed. Next appointment with Dr Lee is next week.

This will probably be the third occasion that I have started to see Dr Lee to get my shit together - the other times "life" has gotten in the way and I have stopped seeing her. This time it has to be about "life".

I start off things so gung-ho, coming out of the gates like a race horse. Only to run out of steam and end up on the side lines panting, out of breath.

This is my "Always set my self expectation too high"patterns fault. For example, I exercise like Michelle Bridges for a week, exhaust and hurt myself, then am so hard on myself for not being Michelle Bridges that it all ends in disaster. 

But NOT this time. This time is about "life", sticking to it and not setting my self expectations too high.

Do you have any patterns?


Saturday, July 8, 2017

The week that was....TWENTY SEVEN

After arriving home on Saturday from our wonderful Hawaiian holiday I smacked into Sunday with an awful sense of foreboding and anxiety about being back to "real life" and having to face the work week.

Throw into my pot of overwhelm some emotional issues that my little miss is trying to deal with and I was quite the spectacle by Sunday evening.

But alas every day is a new day.

So, Monday I smiled and headed into the office with my little miss by my side (school holidays in NSW at the moment) and things had gone completely 180 degrees at work in the two weeks I was away and more of my friends had been made redundant and I was feeling totally disorientated with priority and process changes....but Monday also means Monday night dinner with the neighbours, so that made up for all the BS during the day.

This week also saw me catching up with my new Integrative GP, Dr Mac, to find out the results of my recent blood and urine tests - I have a pyrrole disorder, which means that I excrete large amounts of zinc and B6 in my urine, apparently not a good thing.

She gave me a list of things to take to try and get everything back on track so my body can actually keep the good stuff and only excrete the bad stuff. Next appointment is in six weeks where we talk about getting my gut back in order.

My little miss also had an appointment with a new psychologist - so far so good from what we saw in the introductory meet & greet session. The clinic also has two gorgeous little snoodles - so little miss was rapt.

The highlight of the week was seeing Wonder Woman with Mrs W - seriously if you get the chance to check it out at the movies, you should!

Gal Gadot is amazing as Wonder Woman and Chris Pine does okay in keeping up with her as Steve Trevor, the soldier who stumbles upon the Amazons existence.

I love movies - especially ones with strong, powerful characters. They give me such an injection of adrenalin and "arrhh, I can do this"...so I am aimed at the weekend with confidence and a go-get-em attitude.

Being back at work isn't all that bad though as it means Ladies Lunches with three lovely women that have formed part of my inner sanctum. They are such strong, funny, intelligent women and I love our catch ups and banters about all of life.

It seriously helps to keep some sanity at work.

My list of ten

Move - Totally slack this week, after I walked a lot in Hawaii.

Meditate - Have meditated a lot lately.

Kind - Hawaii was our way of being kind to the whole family.

Connect - Hawaii was also our way of connecting as a family.

Food - My food has been good - really don't have a choice lately.

Flow - Really, really trying to go with the flow.

Blog -  Still blogging - even though I missed several weeks....oopps.

Budget - Got to get back in to it now that we are back from holidays.

Fun - Highlights - Monday night dinner, Wonder Woman, Futsal and Friday lunch with the ladies.

How are you going?


{WW image}

Our Hawaii Trip - Week One

The view from our room

Monday, 19 June 2017

The fam bam and I boarded a Jetstar flight (picked up in the massive sales they had) to Honolulu, Hawaii. Nine and half hours of flight! Give me strength. The idea was to fly during the night and try to get some sleep - wishful thinking. I always seem to forget how hard it is to sleep on a plane.

We landed in Honolulu completely fatigued with a sick four year old boy and transferred to Kona on the Big Island for our first week in Hawaii - so yep that was another flight.

Hot Tip: Pack the Fess Nose spray and Kids Panadol in your carry on luggage NOT your checked in luggage! 

We arrived in Kona, picked up our hire car and continued to chant, "Stay right, stay right".

Hot Tip: I had booked the hire car online thinking I got a great deal - I didn't. The United States are great at adding taxes for this, that and the other and then just adding tax on for shits and giggles - so be warned when you get to pick up your car, your great deal will have you in tears.

The lava rock landscape
As we drove out of the airport I was really shocked by the landscape of the Big Island. Basically from the airport to Hapuna Beach was littered with lava rock.

That first day was basically about finding our bearings and getting some brekkie and snack supplies.

Beach time relaxing

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

We slept in on our first day in Hawaii, which pretty much turned into the theme of the holiday.

Our little man was struck down with a really bad cold (but I have discovered that he is such a trooper) and everyone else was feeling the effects of jetlag, so a quiet day by the pool and relaxing on the beach was in order.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

This was a special day as our little miss turned NINE! We jumped in the car and headed on a road trip to the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park, which was a two and a half hour drive from where we were staying on the Kona coast, through Hilo and down to the Volcanoes.

We opted to do the park ourselves, however there are tours that can take you around - but we feel we got enough out of it.

Our trip to the Volcanoes was definitely the trip highlight for everyone. We saw actual lava! To say it was amazing is an understatement. If you are heading to the Big Island you'd be totally and utterly nuts not to go and see the volcanoes.

Kīlauea volcano
On arrival we went to the visitor centre which outlined where we could go in the time we had available. We headed along the Crater Rim Drive to the Steam vents, the ground was warm beneath our feet as steam shot out of the vents dotted around the area.

Next stop was the Jaggar Museum, which also has an overlook of the Kīlauea volcano - this is where we saw the actual lava as it swished and swirled in the volcano. Apparently at sunrise and sunset you can see the glow of the lava in the crater too. The active vent is located within the Halema‘uma‘u Crater in the caldera of Kīlauea.

The museum had various lava rocks and Thomas Jaggar's suit (non too protective) on display. There was a seismometer so the kids had fun jumping and making the biggest earthquakes.

The Thurston Lava Tube
The road was closed further past the Jaggar Museum (due to dangerous conditions) so we backed tracked and headed for the Thurston Lava Tubes (there was an alert on the tubes due to low lying water the lights were out so it was recommended to bring a torch - and of course we forgot) - but we took the two steps into the tube before it go pitch black and we had to turn around. These tubes were made by a volcanic eruption - seriously amazing stuff.

Our last stop was the Devastation Trail, where we could walk along a paved path to look at the landscape that was buried by during the 1959 Kilauea Iki lava fountain eruption.

The Devastation Trail
There are more hikes you can do but with two kids under ten it was not recommended as they could be up to four hours long - which does take you to where the lava flows into the ocean so highly recommended if you are up to it.

The Fam Bam

Thursday, 22 June 2017

After all the excitement from Wednesday we decided we would have another quiet day by the pool and lazing on the beach.

Friday 23 June

Friday was to be our last full day on the Big Island, so we ventured out - our first stop was the only black sand beach on the Kona coast, 49 Black Sand Beach which is situated on a volcanic bay near Mauna Lani Resort.

This beach was formed by a 19th century lava flow that originated 50 miles away on the slopes of Mauna Loa and is now composed primarily of fine grains of lava.
Black Sand Beach

It is a small beach that is actually in a gated community type situation, so you need to gain access at a guard post (is that the right terminology?) and there are only about 20 car spots available for the public. Our first attempt at getting in, the car park was full but we were told to go to the shops for a bit and come back and try again - so that is exactly what we did. When we came back the second time we gained access.

Have to say we were not blown away by the black sand beach - it was hot, really, really hot in fact. We ran across the black sand in our thongs to the water like our lives depended on it.... I am pretty sure I received third degree burns to the soles of my feet.

The sand that headed into the water was extremely rocky so was destined to cut someones feet to pieces....and then it turned very quickly to coral. When my little man told me he needed to toilet, which meant a trip back over the sand, I declared it game over so we ran like Usain Bolt back to the car (via the toilet).

Black Sand Beach
Hot Tip: If you are going to the Black Sand Beach - wear aqua shoes, take googles and a snorkel and pack a beach umbrella.

Next stop was the Visitor Information Station on Mauana Kea, which is 2.1km above sea level. We had big hopes of taking part in the Stargazing program (which only runs on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6pm to 10pm, weather permitting).

We arrived at about 5.30pm, because as per usual parking is limited and we wanted to make sure we didn't miss out. The weather upon arrival was poor - it was raining and completely fogged over. We waited and waited for it to improve. One of the girls that worked there told us that they don't take out the telescopes of there is any moisture, when asked if she thought it would fine up, she replied with "I don't like to make predictions like that".....so we waited and waited a little more. The weather did not fine up so we headed back to the hotel having seen no stars.

Hot Tip: Take warm clothes as the higher up you go, the colder it gets. By the time we reached the Visitor Information Station it was down to about 11 degrees from 35 degrees when we were at Black Sand Beach.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Saturday morning was a lazy saunter to the beach for our last swim on the Big Island, then we packed up and headed back to the airport for our next adventure at Waikiki.

Have you been to Hawaii?