By BEV JORDAN
DARREN KWAN is 36 and has a lot he is grateful for. The Gables resident is married to his high school sweetheart Vanessa and they have a busy and involved, 10-year-old daughter, Layla.
But the past four years have been a test of strength for them after Darren was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. To date he has undergone six surgeries, over 20 courses of radiation and over 40 cycles of chemotherapy.
An automotive mechanic by trade he was running an automotive spares department for a luxury car brand at the time of his diagnosis.
“I was working in the office 10 to 11 hours a day … I was working so hard and never had a sick day but I started to get constipated and started to lose weight,” he said. “I was so busy, I didn’t have time to check it out. I knew something was wrong with me but I didn’t know what.”
It was when Darren saw blood in his stools some time later that he went to see his doctor to organise a colonoscopy.
The week before he was due to have it he took his first sick day off to go to the nearest hospital emergency department because of excruciating pain in his stomach and back.
“They did all these tests and found nothing,” he said.
He thought his colonoscopy a week later would be fairly routine but that’s when the tumour was discovered. Surgery removed 25cms of his bowel and cancer was also detected in his liver and lymph nodes.
Throughout his journey he has been supported by Bowel Cancer Australia’s telenursing service which enables him to call nurses from home whenever he needs help. They also call him.
“They have been very supportive, they ring and email to see how I am going,” he told the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News.
“There’s always going to be physical problems with having cancer but this helps the mental side because it can be a struggle. I am blessed that I have very good family and friends as a support base and I have my faith. I’m a positive person but for people who really struggle it is very beneficial.”
He says cancer takes away the ability to plan for the future. “It’s hard because everyone else is moving along, living their lives, but our life is at a standstill. We do what we can and have faith that everything happens for a reason. We live, learn and then we can appreciate it for what we have. I’m praying for a miracle and have been since I was diagnosed.”
Bowel Cancer Australia was one of 33 organisations to benefit from the Dry July fundraiser with a $130,000 donation to assist in providing cancer patients with the tele-nursing service and $25,812 for the tele-nutrition service.
Both his wife’s parents, Janice and David Lawrence did Dry July, joining 38,000 Australian who raised funds for those affected by cancer.
Darren and Vanessa’s daughter Layla has also been fundraising by selling hand-made bracelets.
“She’s so switched on,” says proud dad Darren. “She raised $800 selling bracelets out the front of our house.”
Darren’s message to others is, don’t wait to see a doctor. “If you don’t feel right just go to the doctor,” he said. “If (my cancer) had been detected earlier it would’ve been sweet. Bowel cancer is one of those cancers that’s okay if it is detected early.”
According to Bowel Cancer Australia, Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. Almost 99% of bowel cancer cases can be treated successfully when detected early. Bowel Cancer Australia is a 100% community funded charity that offers information, resources and support to anyone with issues related to bowel cancer.
For details visit bowelcanceraustralia.org or, to speak with a bowel care nurse call 1800 555 494 Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm.
Dry July donations topped $13.3 million in 2021 with more than 38,000 Australians giving up alcohol to raise money for those affected by cancer.