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‘Treatable and beatable’

Roger Faber is still waiting for the green light 18 months after the diagnosis he had stage three bowel cancer.

June is bowel cancer awareness month with the 2021 campaign called ‘Move Your Butt'.

Roger has been very open about his bowel cancer. He's happy to speak about it to anyone because if it is caught early, it is treatable and beatable.

This month he was a guest speaker at the U3A monthly meeting. So far, Roger has had seven people tell him they got checked because of what he said, and were found to have bowel cancer as well.

It's not just a male thing either, although it is more common in males.

For Roger, the first sign was blood on the toilet paper.

Concerned, he made an appointment with the doctor who did some tests.

“Don't be too proud to go to the doctor and talk about these symptoms,” he encouraged the crowd.

“Those tests came back clear, and the doctor said it must be bleeding from haemorrhoids. So, I took some pills and got on with life.”

But there was still occasional blood.

“A few years later and things got worse.

“They did the same tests, told me the same thing, but recommended a colonoscopy.”

Within two weeks he had had one and when he woke up from that procedure in January last year Roger was told he had bowel cancer, and that he'd had it for seven to 10 years.

The oncologist told Roger, “it's lucky you're fit”.

Being super-fit, a non-smoker who had a healthy diet, he'd done everything right. Other than the blood spots, Roger never had other common symptoms like a change in bowel habits, pain or a lump in the abdomen, tiredness, weight loss or anaemia.

Roger had surgery, which removed 30cm of bowel and left him with a stoma and a bag.

He went through chemotherapy over lockdown last year.

The close shave with death has made Roger and his partner reassess their life.

He sold his carpet business — which he co-owned for 25 years but had worked at for 43 years. Now he and partner Penny Pardoe want to spend long holidays up North on the boat, fishing.

“We can enjoy our life together.”

Bowel cancer is more common in men, especially those over the age of 60, but still 12 percent of New Zealanders diagnosed every year are aged 50-to-59.

CATCH IT EARLY: Roger Faber had bowel cancer for around seven to 10 years. He first noticed blood in his poo but initial tests at his doctor did not show anything up. It was only when Roger had a colonoscopy they told him he had stage three bowel cancer, and had had it for almost a decade. Rogers encourages anyone with symptoms to make an appointment with their doctor. It is a cancer that is beatable and treatable if caught early. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell