Liz Nettlefold had just given birth to her first child when she started experiencing problems with her bowels.
Health concerns like constipation, haemorrhoids, prolapse and bleeding are common after giving birth and 29-year-old Ms Nettlefold thought little of them initially.
As they persisted she began investigating what might be wrong.
"Since I was pregnant I was having symptoms, like constipation and haemorrhoids and all of that kind of stuff," she said.
"But being a woman and being pregnant it's automatically ruled as hormonal and part of being pregnant which, at that point, we were happy to agree with.
Then when it went on for two years we investigated Crohn's disease, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, haemorrhoids, vaginal prolapse, anaemia ... everything apart from the worst one.- Rosevears mother Liz Nettlefold who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer
When all other possibilities were exhausted, attention was turned to the possibility of bowel cancer.
One-and-a-half years after experiencing symptoms, in April this year, Ms Nettlefold had an ultrasound which detected a mass the size of a small melon.
Two days later she had a CT scan which confirmed the mass, three days later she had a colonoscopy and a surgeon was able to feel the mass within 30 seconds of starting an internal examination.
The "worst" was confirmed. Ms Nettlefold was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer and her and her family's lives were instantly changed.
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Her partner 28-year-old Jeramie Nettlefold, two-year-old daughter Hallie, and stepchildren Sophia, seven, and Luka, 5, were now having to live through the rigours of the diagnosis and the treatment plan that came with it.
Ms Nettlefold also had to undergo an operation to have part of her bowel and colon removed and a stoma inserted into her stomach where her bowel movements now occur.
Ms Nettlefold's treatment involves two bouts of chemotherapy through a tablet twice a day as well as travelling into Launceston from Rosevears, in the western Tamar Valley region of Tasmania, daily for radiation therapy.
"That's five days a week and then I get the weekend off to give my body a chance to recover and then we start it all again," Ms Nettlefold said.
Because of the intensity of the treatment, Mr Nettlefold has become his wife's primary carer and neither of the pair are able to work.
I can't drive, I can't lift anything, I can't bend, I can't do any kind of twist ... it really doesn't give you a lot of time [to make plans].- Rosevears mother Liz Nettlefold who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer
Mr Nettlefold said it was all he could do to provide support to his wife.
"I feel helpless but I know what I'm doing is as much as I can do. I know that if the kids are looked after, the house is semi-clean, the dishes are done, we've got clean bed sheets, everyone is fed ... I know that makes Liz happier," he said.
"Liz is more worried about all of us than she's worried about herself and that's why I'm staying as strong as I can.
It's gut wrenching knowing your wife is going through this and while she's not alone, I can do anything medically to help her. I'm helpless.- Jeramie Nettlefold
For the Nettlefolds, sharing their story is based purely on raising awareness about bowel cancer and reiterating the importance of being persistent in getting check ups when something does not seem right.
Mr Nettlefold said before his wife's diagnosis bowel cancer was far from the front of his mind.
"You never read about it, you might hear about it and think, 'that poor family,' or it's in another group. You never think it's going to be you. But it can happen to anyone at any age," he said.
Despite the gravity of her eventual diagnosis, Ms Nettlefold said having confirmation that she was not overreacting was a relief.
She said her pursuit for answers, despite the time it took, would likely hold her in good stead as she continued her treatment.
"If you know that something is not right, pursue it," she said.
If we had listened to the first 10 doctors we spoke to we would be in a completely different situation, [the cancer] would have just overtaken Liz's body.- Jeramie Nettlefold
Ms Nettlefold said the current age of 55 for routine bowel cancer screening had the possibility to let some people like her slip through the cracks because early detection was absolutely key.
"Although it is the second deadliest cancer, it is also the most curable if it is caught early," she said.
"You can't get screened if you're under 55 but one-in-13 people under that are the ones that get bowel cancer."
According to information from Cancer Australia, overall rates of bowel cancer have declined since the mid 1980's but bowel cancer incidence is on the rise in younger Australians.
June is bowel cancer awareness month and Ms Nettlefold hoped sharing her story at this time would lead to better outcomes for others who may find themselves in her position.
Cancer Council Tasmania had helped the Nettlefolds while they adapted to life after Ms Nettlefold's diagnosis.
Cancer Council Tasmania chief executive Penny Egan said bowel cancer had the second highest diagnoses and mortality in Tasmania for both males and females.
"The latest published statistics indicate 424 cancers diagnoses and 152 deaths," she said.
Mrs Egan said, despite the mortality rate of bowel cancer, the chance of successful treatment and long-term survival improved as much as 98 per cent with early detection.
Only 20 per cent of bowel cancer diagnoses were inherited while the remaining 80 per cent occurred in people with no known hereditary association.
Mrs Egan said that meant everyone was at risk of developing bowel cancer.
University of Tasmania rural health Dr Kehinde Obamiro said there needed to be better communication and education about bowel cancer.
Dr Obamiro said while the incidence and prevalence of bowel cancer is high, early intervention, primarily health education, health promotion activities and early detection from screening and subsequent treatment are necessary to overcome the disease.
Dr Obamiro said while the rate of Tasmanians having bowel cancer screening was slightly higher than the national average more needed to be done to improve the figure.
Bowel Cancer Australia director and colorectal cancer surgeon Dr Graham Newstead AM said bowel cancer was one of the fastest growing cancers in Australia for younger people.
One in ten new cases now occur in Australians under the age of 50, and it has become the deadliest cancer among Aussies aged 25 - 34.- Bowel Cancer Australia director and colorectal cancer surgeon Dr Graham Newstead AM
"Unfortunately, Bowel Cancer Australia regularly receives feedback from younger bowel cancer patients who have initially had their signs and symptoms attributed to haemorrhoids, food intolerances, a normal part of recovery after having a baby or even just a result of a living hectic lifestyle."
Information from Bowel Cancer Australia showed over the past three decades there has been a 186 per cent increase in bowel cancer cases in people aged between 15 and 24.
Every week in Australia, 30 new cases of early-age onset bowel cancer are diagnosed.
Dr Newstead said the increased risk of bowel cancer for younger people was obvious enough that he had seen it first hand.
"When I was a medical student, bowel cancer was a disease of 60-year-olds and up. Now we are seeing people in their mid-30s and they are increasing in number and presenting later," he said.
"It is a common misconception that bowel cancer is an 'old person's disease', but the reality is that you should never be told that you are too young to have bowel cancer."
Bowel screening kits, launched by Bowel Cancer Australia and the Pharmacy Guild, can be purchased from pharmacies, over the phone or online.
Information about bowel cancer, and support for those diagnosed, can be found at bowelcanceraustralia.org.
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