Be vigilant for bowel cancer
One of the benefits of being a professional speaker is that you get to meet and mingle with other speakers.
Having been on the global circuit for 15 years now, I have met plenty of inspirational and motivational speakers but none quite like Liam Malone.
New Zealand’s own blade runner, who ran faster than Oscar Pistorius and is only a second or so behind Usain Bolt at 100 metres, is a force of nature. Having had his plane to Rotorua for a recent event cancelled, he drove like the wind (legally) and burst on to the stage after my talk.
The 24-year-old’s exploits could fill a book, and I’m sure one day they will fill many. One part of his story that resonated from a wellbeing viewpoint was of his mumdying from bowel cancer. There probably wasn’t a dry eye in the large audience as he recounted her battle and her final message to him.
It’s hard to imagine facing as many setbacks as having his legs amputated as a kid, being on a benefit, losing your mum, and myriad other hurdles.
I was fortunate enough to get a lift back to Auckland with Liam and hear more of his incredible journey.
Another thing that resonated between us was that two men could talk openly about mental health, and anything else for that matter.
As June is men’s health and bowel cancer month, I asked him if he had a colonoscopy screening as his risk of bowel cancer has increased because of his mumhaving it. He said he had a few weeks earlier and had a few polyps (growths) removed.
I think we could be more vigilant about men’s health and bowel cancer every month, not just June.
Polyps and cancers grow inside your bowel no matter the month, and sadly about 1400 Kiwis die a year from a disease that is preventable and curable if caught early.
Cancerous bowel cells gone wrong burrow into tiny blood vessels that join bigger blood vessels then flood to the liver. They become stuck in the liver’s filtration system, then grow into nests of cancerous cells known as metastases.
They infiltrate the liver, block the system and, if left untreated, you can go yellow (jaundice) and die. When I graduated from medical school metastatic bowel cancer was often a death sentence.
Fortunately, chemotherapy and surgery now mean there are better outcomes unless those cells are growing around essential plumbing, such as main ducts and arteries.
The best outcome is to prevent the cells getting there in the first place.
Stool testing for microscopic blood and a camera up the back passage (colonoscopy) helps diagnose pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions early and prevent their spread. My grandmother had bowel cancer, so I have had a few colonoscopies to get a bowel warrant of fitness.
Young people in their 20s and 30s get bowel cancer and sadly die of it. GETTY IMAGES
It’s hard to be the fastest man on blades if you have cancer. It’s hard to do many things.
So, hats off to people such as Liam Malone and others for talking about issues like this and motivating others to get checked.
Ignoring it won’t make it go away, it only makes it worse. ● Dr Tom Mulholland is an Emergency Department Doctor and GP with more than 25 years’ experience in New Zealand. He’s currently a man on a mission, tackling health missions around the world.
Liam Malone has been an inspiration on and off the athletic track.