“She was 39 years old, no symptoms. Fit and healthy. And one night she started complaining of abdominal pain, and went off to the GP. She had emergency surgery to have a tumour removed. But then we got the worst news we could possibly get – that she had stage 4 bowel cancer – which is the most advanced stage – and that she, at best, had two years to live.”
This is one of those stories that happen to “other people”, right? Yet, this story is about Jodi Lee, the wife of my friend Nick.
Recently I caught up with Nick at a party to raise funds for The Jodi Lee Foundation. It’s an organisation he started after his wife passed away from bowel cancer to educate people about the importance of bowel cancer screening and that early detection saves lives.
I tried to capture our conversation on video to share here on Fox in Flats, but the party was cranking. We tried to disappear into a quiet bathroom to do the interview (as you do!) but in the end the footage wasn’t that great. Regardless, here’s part of our interview.
Andrea: We worked together years ago, but then both moved to different states and kind of lost touch, so I never met Jodi. Tell me about her!
Nick: “She was a beautiful person. She was my wife and I loved her.
She was just so non-selective. She worked with autistic children and helped out an orphanage when we lived in Vietnam.
She had loads of beautiful friends, and she had loads of fun! She loved a drink, but she never smoked. She was fit, healthy. I guess sometimes these things happen… You would have loved her, everyone did.”
Andrea: And you’ve got two kids.
Nick: “Yes, Jack 10, and Bella 8. They are a constant reminder about her.”
“Bella is a mini-me of Jodi.”
Andrea: To put it bluntly, you must be really pissed off that you didn’t know about this early detection test.
Nick: “We weren’t even in the ‘demographic!’ Jodie was just 39. Most organisations recommend to start screening from 50 onwards. But we didn’t even know that much about it.
And that’s the purpose of The Jodi Lee Foundation. To get this message of early detection out to as many people as possible. And we recommend screening from 40 onward.”
Andrea: What should we all be doing?
Nick: “There’s an inexpensive early screening test available, that can be done at home. The test itself is a simple non-invasive procedure. They’re available at most chemists or online – The Jodi Lee Foundation has more information here.”
“Screen yourself for bowel cancer every year from age 40.”
Andrea: What can we do to help?
Nick: There are five things you can do straight away:
- Spread awareness about the easy early detection test.
- Ask your family if they’ve taken one, and let them know how.
- Share this article with your friends – email it, print it out or share on Facebook or Twitter.
- Encourage your friends and family to screen regularly.
- Find out if there is a history of bowel cancer in your family.
Andrea: Can we donate to The Jodi Lee Foundation?
Nick: “Yes, via our website. And we raise awareness of early detection through holding Little Black Dress parties. Jodi loved a party and wearing little black dresses – it’s a fun way to get people together and raise money.
We’ve also got an event called Ride for the Little Black Dress where a group of 21 cyclists ride over 1,000km in little black tutus! The get-ups certainly catch people’s eye where-ever they go, raising awareness and we aim to raise $200,000.
Andrea: What are the key things everyone should know?
Nick: “A bowel screening test every year from the age of 40 could save your life.
1 in 12 Australians will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.
5000 people will die from it each year.
It can affect anyone at any age.
If diagnosed early, 90% of cases can be cured.”
“I don’t want anyone to go through what Jodi and I have gone through. It’s been a particularly tough few years. And that’s what the Jodi Lee Foundation is all about – stopping this situation from happening to anyone else.”
This is such an easy test to do, and it really could save your life. It could have saved Jodi Lee’s, and the lives of her husband and children could now be very different. To find out more click here.