Raising awareness of Australia’s second deadliest cancer

Icon Writers / 22 Dec, 2022

When 90-year-old Toowoomba resident Ken Imison started experiencing irregular bowel movements in July 2021, he didn’t hesitate to see his GP.

“I was experiencing constipation. The GP arranged for me to have a colonoscopy. The doctor who performed the colonoscopy was the same doctor I’d been to years earlier for a colonoscopy. He came in to see me while I was in recovery and told me I have cancer in the rectum. I was booked in to see (a colorectal) surgeon a few days later. We went through my options and I decided to have surgery and radiation therapy,” Ken said.

Ken underwent surgery last year followed by radiation therapy at Icon Cancer Centre Toowoomba.

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“I was one of the lucky ones and I didn’t experience any side effects. Everyone kept telling me that I was looking well during my treatment. The radiation was a precautionary measure. I know cancer is unpredictable. You can have surgery and the cancer can flare up again in no time, so I decided I would rather be safe than sorry and have the radiation therapy. My experience at Icon was wonderful. It is a professional organisation but with a human touch. The staff were very supportive, and I had great trust in their ability,” Ken said.

Ken, who has devoted much of his life to the field of education, continues to offer his time at the Toowoomba Flexi School, mentoring disengaged and vulnerable students and has no plans of slowing down. With his two daughters and grandson residing in America, Ken is planning to embark on a European holiday.

“My wife was Hungarian and a fellow teacher. We were married for 50 years. She passed away in 2014. I want to take my family to the places that were important in her life. She lived as a refugee in Salzburg. I have to be realistic, this might be my last hurrah, so if I’m still fit enough, I will celebrate my 90th birthday with my nearest and dearest on this trip. I don’t think my outlook on life has changed since my cancer diagnosis. I’ve always tried to be a positive person and I’ve always known that life is meant to be treasured and you must make the most of each day,” Ken said.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in Australia and is more common in people over the age of 50. Bowel cancer refers to both colon cancer and rectal cancer.

As signs and symptoms for bowel cancer can be similar to other common conditions such as haemorrhoids, it’s important to see your GP or healthcare professional if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Sudden changes in bowel movements, like diarrhoea, constipation, narrower stools, or stools that contain mucus
  • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Bright red or dark blood in your stool or toilet paper
  • Pain in your stomach with or without swelling
  • Constant gas or bloating in the bowel or rectum
  • A lump or pain around the anus
  • Unexplained anaemia (low iron), which can cause tiredness and breathlessness.

For more information about bowel cancer.

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