‘SOMETHING WASN’T QUITE RIGHT’: Never too young for disease
ALMOST five years ago, South Grafton woman Dannielle Bower knew something wasn't quite right.
At 28, she never expected to have bowel cancer.
After pushing for diagnosis, doctors found a stage four growth that began a 13-month fight for her life.
"I was not aware of how cancer can change your life till I experienced it myself," Ms Bower said.
"I didn't know it was going to be the toughest battle of my life, filled with what seemed to be endless hospital visits, surgeries, tests, needles, chemotherapy, and sleepless nights."
With the support of her doctors and nurses and a will to win over the disease, Ms Bower pulled through.
"I was just taking each day as it comes, trying to get through it," she said.
"I was guided by the doctors and nurses on what they thought was the best decision for the longevity of my life."
Ms Bower is now in remission, with doctors telling her there is no evidence of the disease.
She has used her renewed health to help spread awareness of the disease among younger people, and has participated in a campaign called #NeverTooYoung which is run by Bowel Cancer Australia and aims to dispel the myth that bowel cancer is only something older people can get.
"I want to spread the awareness that younger people can get cancer. You're never too young. Any cancer can strike anyone at any time," she said.
"I believe it is happening more and more that people under the age of 50 are being diagnosed."
With a five-year survival rate of 13 per cent, Ms Bower said she hoped telling her story would encourage others to get checked.
"I think people get embarrassed it's about their bowels, and I think that stigma stops people having the confidence to speak up," she said.
"Educate yourself about the signs and symptoms. But most importantly, please speak up if you feel something is not right."
Ms Bower has also created fundraisers for the campaign and introduced the 'Poppy The Travelling Bowel Cancer Awareness Poo Emoji' to the Clarence Valley. Poppy travelled around local businesses and events during 2019.
The fundraiser, which culminated at the Jacaranda Float Procession last year raised more than $2000, and more importantly, had the community talking about the disease.
"It was an ice breaker and it got people talking about bowel cancer, and it gave them the courage to speak up and ask questions."
She received a nomination for Clarence Valley Council's Citizen of the Year for her work.
Despite her remission, Ms Bower suffers ongoing complications as a result of her fight.
"I suffer neuropathy in my hands and feet - a loss of sensation from the chemo, and pain and burning sensations," she said.
"I also suffer from chronic fatigue and I've got to be mindful of foods.
"I'm blessed beyond words to still be in remission, but my heart constantly aches for those around me that are battling cancer and those that have lost their battle.
"Life can get busy, and we often don't listen to our bodies … but if you notice anything out of the ordinary happening, get it checked out."