Peter Got A Gift In The Mail But Ignored It, Then The Stomach Cramps Started

When you turn 90, the Prime Minister sends you a little note – you know, to say congratulations for making it that far unscathed, that sort of thing.

When you hit 100, you get the same kind of shout-out from the Queen herself (who, meanwhile, is getting close – who’s sending her a card?)

But before you see a century (or close to it), the Australian Government has something to send you – and we’re not talking about the $1080 tax break everyone’s so keen to get their hands on that it crashed the ATO servers.

When you hit the big 5-0, the Australian Government sends you a little something in the mail that might just save your life. Delivered direct to your mailbox, all wrapped up in shiny blue and white packaging, is your bowel cancer home screening test.

Before you go around calling it junk mail and tossing it in the bin, you should know that opening this little package could just help get you a few years closer to that birthday card from old mate Liz. Image: Supplied

Bowel cancer is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer, taking more lives than breast, prostate or skin cancer. But if it’s detected early, more than 90 per cent of cases can be successfully treated. That’s pretty huge.

And that’s exactly what the at-home test that arrives in the mail is designed to do: catch the signs of bowel cancer early by looking for traces of blood in the stool that are invisible to the naked eye.

It’s a parcel Peter wishes he’d opened

The 54-year-old executive received his National Bowel Cancer Screening Program kit around his 50th birthday and even though he had every intention of doing it, life got in the way (as it so often does) and he forgot all about it.

Two years later, stomach cramps had him visiting his GP for tests – which revealed he had stage-four bowel cancer.

Despite a bowel re-section and 12 successful rounds of chemotherapy, tumours had spread to Peter’s lungs and liver within six months, and neither chemo nor surgical options were possible.

“Initially, there were all sorts of emotions,” Peter said. “The reality of having terminal cancer is tough to process.” Image: Getty

Would doing the test when he received it have prevented Peter’s bowel cancer?

It’s likely he still would’ve received a positive result, says his surgeon -- but the cancer may have been picked up early enough to be treated successfully.

I don’t want people to put a test kit in the wardrobe. I want people to know how important a very simple test can be to saving your life.

According to the Cancer Council, around 40 percent of people who received the test between 2016 and 2017 took it.

Yeah, OK, it involves poking around in the toilet with a little stick – maybe not the way you plan to spend your ideal Saturday night – but it’s quick, easy and hygienic; and if we can bump that 40 percent up to 60, almost 84,000 Australian lives will be saved over the next 20 years.

Seems crazy not to do it, right?

Peter said when you receive the kit – do it.

"The idea of it may sound a bit unappealing, but ultimately it’s a very simple test that you can do in private, and it will provide an opportunity for somebody’s life to be saved," he said.

Had I have done the test, my story could have been, would have been, a lot different.

So when the government sends you your free bowel cancer screening test for your 50th birthday – and every two years after that until you hit 74 – don’t throw it in the wardrobe with the unwanted gifts.

Open it, use it – and maybe even boost your chances of sticking around long enough to get that letter from the Queen.

Featured image: Getty