15 Jun Geoff’s road to remission | Bowel Cancer Awareness Month
Cancer has turned Geoff Townsend’s life upside down more than once, so when he was diagnosed in 2017 he knew all too well what his body was about to endure.
Geoff’s wife of 51 years Maria had battled breast cancer for 25 years. She passed away in February last year after supporting Geoff to beat his bowel cancer.
“She was there for me, and she was well, when I was sick. It (cancer) just seems to have followed us around. We lost a grandson to a rare cancer as well – he was 11,” Geoff said.
Geoff agreed to share his story in our Winter Quarterly to help mark Bowel Cancer Awareness Month (June).
Bowel cancer kills over 80 Australians every week and is the nation’s second deadliest cancer.
“It was 2017 when I started having unusual bowel habits. I’d been doing the self-testing with the bowel kits and they had always come back negative,” he said.
“So, I made an appointment in Timboon and my GP recommended blood tests, another scan and a colonoscopy.
“The blood tests and scan were clear again, but the colonoscopy found a 10cm tumour in the bowel.”
Geoff immediately started five weeks of radiation and chemotherapy at the cancer centre in Warrnambool. Towards the end of the treatment he became so dehydrated that he was admitted to hospital for a few nights.
“The treatment shrunk the tumour to the point that in January 2018 I was able to have the operation to remove it, along with 10 inches of bowel. They also took out 15 lymph nodes and found one of those was also cancerous,” he said.
“I had a colostomy bag for a few months to let everything heal and then had another seven courses of chemotherapy to make sure it was gone. I never felt great, but I wasn’t really unwell like some people are with chemo, so I was a bit lucky there.
“Later that year I was declared cancer free and in remission. I’m actually part of the Aspirin trial to see if Aspirin can prevent cancer coming back but I don’t know if I’m on Aspirin or the placebo.”
Geoff said he had become an advocate for men’s health and urged everyone to act quickly if they noticed anything different with their bowel movements or general health.
“Do the bowel kits after you turn 50 for sure – it’s free every two years. But if you’re worried about anything go to your GP, get a blood test, scan or some advice and look after yourself,” he said.
“Life is pretty normal for me now. I have a pretty strict diet because my bowel can’t handle much variety. Red meat affects me a bit, so I stay away from that, but if that’s all I have to worry about I’m doing pretty well.
“Home care workers from Timboon and District Healthcare Service come once a fortnight to help with a bit of house cleaning and to check up on me, so that’s nice and a great help. I’m still living in our farmhouse in Heytesbury Lower.”
TDHS provides procedural surgery (colonoscopy and gastroscopy) every fortnight.
To organise a referral please contact the Timboon Medical Clinic on 5558 6088.
For more information please visit www.bowelcanceraustralia.org/bowel-cancer-awareness-month