Former GCF chair Grant tells us about his battle with bowel cancer:
I was feeling very comfortable in my position as Executive Chairman of 42 Below Ltd, a vodka and gin producer that had just been recognised by Deloitte as New Zealand’s fastest growing business.
Family life was good and I had regularly been fuelling my passion for motor racing. My only problem was that I had started to experience some pretty bad stomach cramps which were usually accompanied by bouts of nausea.
Being a guy, I chose to ignore them for as long as possible, but the cramps kept getting stronger and came more regularly. It finally got to the stage where I had to visit my GP to find out what was wrong and stop the pain. He gave me a physical examination which didn’t show any problems, and organised a blood test as a further precautionary check. At my follow up appointment, he told me that my CEA markers (indicators of cancer) were normal but my red blood count was slightly low. He then said he would get me to go for a colonoscopy to check further as to what was causing my problems. I wasn’t too keen on that idea and resisted, but he insisted.
I had the colonoscopy a few days later and had the instant diagnosis of bowel cancer. That same day, I was introduced to a surgeon who said I would have to have surgery immediately, as a cancerous tumour was almost totally blocking my colon.
At this stage I was in shock and pretty much incapable of doing anything to help myself. Fortunately I have a great wife who stepped into the breach and booked me into hospital and arranged for surgery through our health insurance.
The surgery went smoothly but I had to wait a few days for the histology to come back. It turned out that the surgeon had removed about a third of my colon and 45 lymph nodes. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread to three lymph nodes which meant a six month course of chemotherapy was needed. The chemo was administered through pills taken daily and a once every three weeks intravenous drip.
“As has been well documented, chemo makes one feel pretty bad, but seven years later I’m still here with a clean bill of health.The only long term side effect with the chemo is that it has some impact on the nerves in a patient’s fingertips and feet. So in my case and many others, a lot of feeling and sensation in those areas is missing.”