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Rural Northwest Health trade cook Janine Edwards has an important message for the 40-plus community – take advantage of your bowel cancer screen kits.

After recently discovering she had bowel cancer, the long serving worker said she had been stunned by the amount of people who had told her they discarded their free test kit.

“I understand we all get busy with life but it’s just crazy not to test yourself,” Janine said.

“I know using the kit has been a saviour for me and really it’s five minutes out of your day to complete the test.”

A keen four-wheel-drive and camping enthusiast with husband David, Janine loves the outdoors and gardening when she is not at work. She has never been sick and her only previous medical contact was for an eye operation on her retina.

For the past decade, she has received the free bowel cancer screening kit in the mail just like every other Australian. She completed the test each time.

“There was never an issue with it before but this time was different,” she said.

“We had gone on holidays when they sent me the kit so I actually forgot to do it but fortunately they sent me a reminder and I got onto it when we returned.

“Soon after I got a letter to say the test was positive.”

Janine, whose father died of cancer at 49, said the positive result hadn’t been a concern at the time.

“My doctor said I was fit and about three people in every 100 are usually diagnosed with bowel cancer,” she said.

“I didn’t have any symptoms either so I wasn’t concerned at all.

“I booked in for a colonoscopy in Horsham and had that done a few weeks later.

“Before the colonoscopy, the doctor told me that of those who have the procedure, only one in 20 are found to have bowel cancer.”

Janine liked the odds but when she was wheeled back from the procedure and woken, she was told she had bowel cancer and would need further treatment.

“It was a huge shock for me and I just burst into tears,” she said.

“Then David walked in and saw me crying so it was a real jolt for him too.”

For the next phase, Janine was referred to another Horsham doctor who was ‘very nice and he explained things well’.

“He made sure I understood so I could face the surgery with confidence.”

A week later Janine had a bowel resection where they removed a portion of her bowel.

“They told me the surgery was successful but the cancer had gone through the bowel wall and into my lymph nodes so I would require 12 rounds of chemotherapy.”

She is currently undergoing the chemotherapy which involves a trip to Ballarat every fortnight for three days of treatment. Janine said she still had a while to go before she was in the clear.

“If that kit hadn’t been available I would not have been checked until I got sick and showed symptoms – and by then who knows where the cancer would have spread?” she said.

“It’s been a life saver really.”

Janine said she couldn’t stress enough that if you receive the kit, just get the test done.

“If you have any symptoms that could be bowel cancer, see your doctor,” she said.

“Since people started learning of my condition, I’ve been stopped in the street and told ‘Oh I just throw that kit in the bin’.

“I’ve even had a few nurses tell me they don’t worry about it and my aunt told me that her friend was astonished that the test kit actually worked.

“It’s just mind-boggling to hear that people don’t take advantage of a free service that is delivered to their door, takes a few minutes to do and could save their life.”

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