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Lizzy's Story

“I’m hoping to break the family trend of bowel cancer.”

With a family history of bowel cancer, 41 year old Lizzy from Rotorua is doing everything she can to lower her risk. She exercises regularly and eats fresh fruit and vegetables to keep up her fibre intake. We are very grateful to Lizzy for sharing her story to help raise awareness of bowel cancer having lost both her father and grandfather to the disease. Here’s her story:

“My Grandpa died in his 70s when I was 7. I can’t remember a time when he was not sick. My Dad was diagnosed in his early 50s. My Dad was a GP and he was well aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer. He got regular colonoscopies and his latest one, a couple of years prior, had been clear. He had had some diarrhoea and thought he had diverticulitis. It turned out to be bowel cancer.

It was a huge shock finding out about his cancer. He had always been concerned about the risks of bowel cancer and knew what to watch for so we thought if he got cancer that it would be picked up early. It was 30 years since my Grandpa had cancer and we were positive about the new cancer treatments. Every time we spoke to my Mum the news got worse and we found out about more and more metastases. The cancer had spread to his liver.

My Dad first had a bowel resection and then later a liver resection. He was told he likely had 6 months to live. As a family we were completely devastated. My Dad was really positive that he would beat the odds. He got great medical care and he did really well. 2 years later he flew from Canada, where they lived, to New Zealand. He loved New Zealand went mountain biking, kayaking, fishing and had an amazing time. He was doing really well and we thought he might just beat the cancer. Unfortunately, about 4 years after he was given a 6 months prognosis, we found out the cancer had spread to his brain.

I was now engaged and desperate for my Dad to come to my wedding and walk me down the aisle. The wedding was brought forward, a few weeks before the wedding he had brain surgery. The wedding was in New Zealand which he wanted, and it was a beautiful day. We had a family holiday for our honeymoon. Just before he left, my Dad started feeling ‘seasick’ even though we were on land. My parents flew back to Canada and went straight to the hospital for more tests. In a few short weeks, his brain metastases had returned. 4 months after our wedding, about 4 ½ years after he was given a prognosis of 6 months, I flew home to be together as a family and he died peacefully with us all together.

I’m hoping to break the family trend of bowel cancer. At 40, I had my first colonoscopy. I exercise, I try to eat my fruit and veg and have to hope that this disease doesn’t devastate my family and my children. Our oldest son is named after my Dad. I would have so loved for my Dad to meet his grandchildren, to walk my sister down the aisle, to have enjoyed his retirement with my Mum. I hope that I don’t get bowel cancer and that if I do, the cancer treatments will have improved so I can beat the disease and see my grandchildren.”