Lauren urges younger Australians to be vigilant about bowel cancer

Icon Writer / 13 Jun, 2024

Each year, over 1,700 young Australians are diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Despite the misconception that bowel cancer is an older person’s disease, the reality is one in nine Australians diagnosed with bowel cancer are under the age of 50.

Townsville resident, Lauren is one of those young Australians diagnosed with the disease.

Just four months after celebrating her 30th birthday, the social worker was diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer in June 2023.

In late 2022, Lauren visited her GP after she noticed blood in stool.

“The bleeding wasn’t consistent, so I wasn’t too worried about it. I initially thought it was hemorrhoids. I was told if there was still bleeding in a few weeks to come back but everything cleared up for a while,” says Lauren.

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“As time went on, I experienced bleeding every couple of weeks, so I knew something wasn’t right. When I started experiencing some pain passing stools, I went back to a GP to get on top of it. I went to see a different GP and she was amazing. She sent me for a colonoscopy. The surgeon sent the biopsy away to be tested but he informed me that he believed he had found a tumour. That led to my formal diagnosis.

“When I received the official diagnosis, it felt like everything around me paused. It is such a weird feeling to sit with; being told you have cancer at a young age,” adds Lauren.

With a strong support network of family, friends and her partner rallying her on, Lauren was determined to tackle her cancer treatment head-on and with a positive mindset.

“I am a calm person and I tried to focus on “what does this mean and what do I do next” to beat the cancer. I think it was the social worker coming out in me. I tried not to get too far ahead of myself and although I could feel myself getting sucked into negative thoughts sometimes, I tried to be positive and always look on the bright side,” says Lauren.

Lauren underwent radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Lauren says she is grateful for the guidance of Icon Cancer Centre Townsville medical oncologist, Dr Nathan Bain who led her chemotherapy treatment.

“I feel very lucky to have Dr Bain as my medical oncologist. He didn’t just focus on treating my cancer, he looked at me as a 30-year-old female with lifestyle considerations. He took into account the big picture of my life after cancer treatment and referred me to a fertility specialist, for which I am very grateful,” says Lauren.

Lauren documented her cancer treatment through her TikTok account, showing what treatment looks like and the side effects that come with it, including fatigue, nausea, neuropathy and even early onset menopause.

More of Lauren’s documented cancer treatment can be seen on her TikTok account @laurenmareeg.

“Each treatment presented different challenges but overall, I think I coped reasonably well,” says Lauren.

One constant throughout Lauren’s cancer treatments was the company of her younger sister, Lisa, who relocated from Sydney to Townsville to support her beloved sister during the most challenging time of her life.

“I had such a great experience at Icon. I liked the idea of forming relationships with my care team and having the same people around me throughout my treatment. Every time I went to Icon, Lisa was with me. Having a space where we could sit together, talk, laugh and get excited about the morning tea coming around was fantastic,” says Lauren with a laugh.

Following the end of active treatment in early 2024, Lauren received the wonderful news that she is now cancer-free.

“I remember getting the call and my arms went numb. When I was told I was cancer-free, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was such a relief,” says Lauren.

“My cancer journey has shifted what I value in life and what I prioritise. It has reminded me of how precious time is. Before my diagnosis, I would try to fit so much into my day and would do things because I thought I had to. Now I do things that bring me joy and I focus more on those things.”

Lauren is back playing touch footy and is working with a personal trainer to regain her fitness.

Through posting her cancer journey on TikTok to her 4500 followers, Lauren has had some important conversations about bowel cancer. This Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, Lauren has an important message to share with young people.

“You’re never too young to get bowel cancer. If you have symptoms, see your GP,” says Lauren.

“I’ve had people from all over the world messaging me to ask what symptoms I experienced and this has led to many of them getting checked. I just hope my story can serve as a reminder for people to get checked and hopefully save lives.”

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