Jan Robinson admits she didn’t want to be known as the woman who had cancer.
But the nurse and medical product specialist from Auckland’s North Shore was speaking up about gastrointestinal cancers in the hope of helping others.
“It’s so important to get it diagnosed early … If I had my time again, I would have acted a lot quicker.”
Robinson is supporting the Gastro-Intestinal Cancer Institute’s #LoveYerGuts Challenge 2017, which raises awareness and money for research. The challenge involves doing 50 gut crunches in five minutes, before 5pm on May 5.
* Late diagnosis means more young Kiwis getting bowel cancer
* Devil in the details for bowel cancer screening
* Bowel cancer kills more Kiwis than breast and prostate cancer combined
Gastrointestinal cancers are cancers of the digestive system, including the oesophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas and bowel.
Each year, more than 5000 people are diagnosed with a gastrointestinal cancer and half of those will die within five years – twice as many as the combined deaths from prostate and breast cancer.
For Robinson, it was rectal cancer, something she said was difficult to talk about.
“The interesting thing about gastrointestinal cancer is how do you make it sexy and attractive when it’s actually not … There’s no sexy way to talk about it.”
Robinson encouraged everyone to watch out for symptoms – with rectal cancer these can include a change in bowel movement and blood in your stools.
She also encouraged her whole family to take part in the bowel screening programme, which helps detect cancers before they are symptomatic.
While Robinson was the first in her family to have rectal cancer, her father and then aunty were later diagnosed.
Now, about 10 years after her diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy, she was officially cured from her cancer.
Robinson credits all her friends and family around her for remaining so positive during her treatment.
“When I was in hospital I was given this big canvas and everyone who visited had to write something on the canvas. When I was having chemotherapy, I used to go and look at this canvas and thought ‘it’s not just me who I have to get better for, it’s all those people’. It was quite inspirational.”
Go to loveyerguts.co.nz to take part in the #LoveYerGuts Challenge.