No one ever suspected Renee had bowel cancer

Posted 1 Dec 2023
For months Renee felt unwell. No one ever suspected she had bowel cancer. She was just 33 years old.

Renee was in and out of hospital for months with excruciating abdominal pain and uncontrollable vomiting for hours, sometimes days.

“I felt like I was going to die,” Renee recalls.

Appendicitis, endometriosis, and Crohn’s disease were all explored. But no one suspected bowel cancer.

“I think my age and my gender were a big factor in it becoming a long process to get diagnosed,” Renee says.

“Bowel cancer is presumed to be an older person’s disease.

“After I had a colonoscopy, the surgeon appeared in my room straight after which I knew wasn’t a good sign.

“When they told me it was cancer, I was just floored. I just bawled.

Renee had stage three bowel cancer, which had also spread to her lymph nodes. What followed was major surgery, where a third of her large intestine was removed, and three months of chemotherapy with “horrendous” side effects.

Specialists believe Renee’s tumour could have been there for 10-15 years.

During that time, on more occasions than Renee can possibly remember, blood samples were taken from her.

It’s these same blood samples which Flinders researchers believe hold the key to earlier and easier diagnosis of bowel cancer.

At no point did I ever expect bowel cancer … It was something that just didn’t happen to people like me.

Renee Smith

Never far from her thoughts

Pleasingly, Renee is now cancer-free. And recently, she had even more reason to celebrate, marrying her husband, Clint!

But bowel cancer is never far from her thoughts. She still lives with the effects, and there’s constant worry that it may one day return.

That’s why she’s a passionate advocate for bowel cancer research, including the biomarker research being carried out at Flinders.

“If you've been diagnosed with cancer, you know that there's a chance that it's going to come back,” Renee says,

“It’s a long time to wait between follow up scans, and there’s real ‘scanxiety’ there – but a simple blood test that I could do every few months just to keep an eye on it… that would be huge for people in my position.”

You can support patients and their families on their cancer journey with a donation to fund cancer research and care at Flinders.

Help save lives today

With your help the researchers at Flinders can develop methods for earlier cancer diagnosis, better preventions and better treatments, to help save lives.

You’ll be helping to save lives and spare people like Renee the nasty side effects of cancer treatment.


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