James holding a sign that says "Time to get serious about bowel cancer".

Bowel cancer screening tests may sound unpleasant, but finding bowel cancer too late is worse, says James. 

He didn't complete the home screening test, but believes if he had, his cancer may have been detected sooner. He could have avoided aggressive treatment, chemotherapy and major surgery.

James noticed some changes in the lead up to his diagnosis. "I visited my GP for a general health check-up when I turned 50," James said.

I'd noticed small changes in my bowel movements but didn't think it was anything serious."

The doctor recommended that James undergo a colonoscopy to see if there was any sign of bowel cancer. James delayed this, and his symptoms became worse.   

"I wasn't feeling 100 per cent, but I put it down to other factors, like working hard, the festive season and stress," he said.  

James returned to his GP in March 2016, then finally underwent a colonoscopy. In this time, his cancer had progressed to stage 3.  

"The initial diagnosis was horrendous. You think, ‘I've got cancer, I'm going to die'," he said.  

Telling his daughters - who were aged 15 and 17 at the time – was one of the hardest things.  

James needed treatment to fight the cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes. This included one round of radiotherapy, two rounds of chemotherapy, three major surgeries, as well as minor surgeries.

During his treatment, James spent 16 days in hospital after contracting an infection. But despite this, and what he describes as ‘a couple of dark times', James remained positive.  

He continued to exercise and work throughout his treatment. "I wasn't sitting at home thinking ‘woe is me'," he said.  

"Of course, I did experience some dark times, but I tried to stay positive for my family. It was a case of ‘fake it until you make it.’ I got into the habit of saying positive things, and it permeated my own outlook.” 

James was supported by his wife, who he describes as an ‘amazing support'. He also had support from a good group of long-time friends who banded together.  

Before his diagnosis, James did not realise how many Australians end up with bowel cancer. Nor did he realise that he could be at risk.   

"I considered myself to be pretty healthy. I eat a healthy diet and exercise. I didn't think I'd be a candidate for bowel cancer," he said.  

James says his story shows why it is vital that people do not put off screening for bowel cancer.  

"The longer you put it off, the more the cancer can grow, and the more surgery and treatment you will need to fight it," he said.   

If you find bowel cancer early, you can increase your chance of successful treatment and even avoid major surgery and chemotherapy"

"If you're aged 50-74 and receive the home test in the mail, do it. Or, if like me, you have any symptoms, speak to your doctor immediately. Don't put it off like I did.  

"The test is free and sent to your home. You'd be stupid not to do it."