Stay positive and start living
IN JANUARY this year, I sat in the oncologist's office with my two daughters by my side and received the devastating news that I had stage 4 terminal bowel cancer.
Nothing can prepare you for this moment.
The tears begin to flow as the doctor gives us the statistics for people with this stage of cancer.
If I was to do nothing, I was expected to live six months.
With chemotherapy treatment, I had a 10% chance of making it to five years.
I decided to go with the chemo treatment.
I am 54 and I love life. I'm not ready to go yet. I have young grandchildren I want to watch grow up.
After the initial shock of the prognosis, I decided I had two choices: I could be sad and miserable and except the statistics; or I can be my normal happy, joking self and enjoy life as much as I can.
I chose the second one.
The fear and anxiety I felt the night before that first chemo treatment was nothing like I have ever felt before.
You are told about all the bad side effects that can happen while having chemo.
As bag after bag gets put up on to the drip stand, you think, "What the hell is going to happen to me? How sick am I going to get?"
The nurses were just fantastic.
They really calmed me down and got me back on my positive track.
The treatment at the hospital takes around five hours and is on a Monday.
I am then fitted with a bottle containing more chemotherapy at the end of the treatment, which is connected to a port in my chest and hangs in a bag around my neck.
I take this home until it is removed on Wednesday afternoon.
This happens every two weeks.
Luckily, I don't get too sick after the treatment.
When I was first diagnosed, I decided to keep my fitness up.
I was swimming 2km in the pool every morning.
I had to move from the pool to the ocean for the risk of germs in the pool (as chemo weakens your immune system, you are susceptible to catching anything).
I started swimming in the bay of Mooloolaba.
I would swim from the Spit across to the surf club and back - around 2km.
I ran into an old friend who was swimming with a group from Mooloolaba surf club across to the Spit.
He invited me to join them and I did. They were all very welcoming and I was amazed at some of the inspirational people in the group.
They are varied age groups and some of the guys are in their 80s.
They still swim 1km across the bay and then walk or jog back to the surf club. This inspires me to keep going.
After four months of chemo, I was getting weaker and could only manage 1km across the bay and then walk back to the club.
I was struggling to keep swimming but watching these older guys keep going kept me motivated.
After eight months of treatment, I am now back to swimming 2km.
I also walk in the mornings when I have the bottle attached.
I have changed my diet and do not eat meat or dairy any more.
I have read many books on cancer survivors and they have inspired me to change many things in my life: I meditate as often as I can, don't drink alcohol any more and make plenty of fresh juices.
All the changes I have made and the chemotherapy have seen reductions in my cancer each time I have a test.
I just came back from a cancer retreat in Melbourne run by the Ian Gawler Foundation.
I found out about this after reading Gawler's book, You Can Conquer Cancer.
It was an amazing experience to be with 30 other people with cancer - all positive and determined to beat the disease inside us.
I have also my wonderful family and friends who have given me so much support and love. It is very important to have good support.
I know there are many people out there who are struggling with their prognosis.
I hope my story can inspire these people to not give up hope.
You don't have to accept the doctor's prognosis.
Make some changes in your life that are going to help you - even if you can walk 30 minutes a day.
There are plenty of walking groups on the net of all different levels of fitness. They are all positive people, too. Just make an effort and do it. You can beat this!
An important point I would like to make is about prevention.
If you recognise any change at all in your daily toilet routine, go to your doctor and get some tests done.
I made a big mistake when the government stool-test kit arrived and I just threw it in the bin.
Make sure you do the test and post it back.
It could save your life.
I still have a long way to go, but I am positive I can turn this prognosis around.
I am enjoying life as much as I can and smile and joke all the time. Laughter and exercise make great medicine and they're free.
Get into it!