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Carl's Story

At 49, Carl Sunderland was healthy, a regular gym goer, ex-lifeguard and swimmer and led an active lifestyle.

The severe fatigue he was feeling was ringing alarm bells, but without any other symptoms he thought perhaps he was “just getting old” and feeling the effects of a busy job as well as the added stress of a partner in hospital.

It wasn’t until his 50th birthday when he took his son diving at the Poor Knights Islands that he realised that this wasn’t just normal tiredness. He was on holiday doing something he loved and couldn’t even swim 20 meters -he had to call the dive off. Carl described it as not being able to get enough oxygen in.

They found that he was severely anaemic which explained the fatigue and being unable to breathe but the reason for the anaemia was still unclear.

Carl ended up taking himself to hospital where he had a suspected ulcer, however as there was no pain, it wasn’t adding up. Then a gastroscopy showed tumours. The doctors were puzzled as he had no symptoms and when he was quizzed on changes to his bowel habits, and he recalled that there was 2 to 3 weeks where he had green bowel movements. Carl has since found out that was a result of the tumours bleeding slowly and was the cause of his severe anaemia.

Carl did a bit of online research, saw statistics, and knew the outcomes for stomach cancer weren’t great and the treatment would be grueling. 25 rounds of radiation, 5 weeks of chemotherapy and a gastrectomy and two years on, Carl is looking at life a whole different way. He has shared his story to show that sometimes symptoms are not blindingly obvious but anything that is prolonged or not normal for you needs to be checked out. Don’t ignore that voice that says “that’s strange.”