James Freeman is a man who is constantly seeking the unique, extraordinary, and exceptional in life. There is no doubt he was always destined to create something special. Sadly, it was a heartbreaking experience with bowel cancer that drove his creation of Shitbox Rally, the event that has raised $40 million for cancer research over the last 13 years.
At just 31 years old, James lost both of his parents to cancer within one year and it is a pain that he says never truly fades.
When James’ mum was initially diagnosed with bowel cancer and underwent surgery, the family hoped for a full recovery. However, the cancer returned, more aggressive than before. James’ mum was the first person in the world to be diagnosed with a rare cancer-producing gene.
Witnessing the toll that her battle with bowel cancer had on his loving and generous mother -who he describes as the type of woman that made every room better for simply being in it - changed James forever. It’s also the reason he is personally passionate about spreading awareness of bowel cancer and the importance of regular screening.
I urge my friends and family to take the at-home bowel screening test that comes in the mail every two years because I know that if bowel cancer is caught early, survival rates are really good,"
Borne out of James’ desire to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others, Shitbox Rally is a blend of adventure, camaraderie, and purpose. It unites people from diverse backgrounds in a common cause of raising money for cancer control.
Growing up, James remembers always having different strangers joining the family for Christmas, a result of his mother’s unwavering generosity. Now, the Rally he created breaks down social barriers in a similar way; welcoming people from all walks of life and offering them the chance to explore the Australian outback, visit extraordinary places, and foster lifelong friendships.
James with Shitbox Rally participants
In the Rally, James has created a unique environment where people openly discuss their cancer stories. It encourages participants to overcome their discomfort of “taboo” topics and participate in regular screenings that can save their life.
It has also given him the opportunity to enjoy spectacular sights of Australia’s outback and discover regional and rural communities throughout Australia. James says Australians from the country “are straightforward, no-nonsense people who, when something needs to be done, just get it done. I think it’s particularly important to raise awareness of bowel screening amongst regional and remote communities, where early detection can be a lifeline,” he said.
James’ journey with Shitbox Rally has reaffirmed his belief in the extraordinary capabilities of people to effect change when united under a common cause. His vision is a beacon of hope in the fight against all cancers, and his commitment to creating a brighter future for those affected by the disease is an inspiration to us all.