Cancer doesn't wait in a crisis. That's the message Bowel Cancer New Zealand are sending out by continuing on with their annual Bowel Cancer awareness month and Move your Butt challenge despite Covid-19 disruptions.

For Raumati South father of three Marcel Sandland catching his bowel cancer early was key to his recovery.

Being the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand, bowel cancer is curable in 75 per cent of cases if caught early.

"Bowel Cancer NZ's motto is don't sit on your symptoms, something in hindsight I did," Marcel said.

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With intermittent abdominal pain that grew worse and worse over a couple of months, it wasn't until Marcel also had a reduced appetite, drastic weight loss, inflammation and pain that would keep him awake at night that he went to his GP to get a check-up.

Marcel Sandland with his wife Francis, Madeleine, 5, Lucy, 8, and Nathan 10.
Marcel Sandland with his wife Francis, Madeleine, 5, Lucy, 8, and Nathan 10.

"I was lucky that she was very thorough and also noticed that I was looking anaemic.

"She ordered a blood sample, a stool sample, and referred me on for an ultrasound first, which lucky for me I managed to get on the same day.

"She rang up the radiology to see how long it would be for the wait time and they said probably about two weeks.

"Lucky for me she pretty much said that they could do better and they managed to get me in that afternoon."

The scan could see an obstruction and inflammation.

"From there my GP referred me to a colonoscopy, which I had two weeks later, to have a look and see what was happening.

"During the colonoscopy they detected the tumour in my bowel and without any further testing they could tell me it was cancer.

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"It was pretty horrible and I was in shock at that point.

"I tuned out, didn't really take anything in and my wife had to ask all the questions, like how they even knew it was cancer with barely any testing."

With the doctors confident of the diagnosis, two days later Marcel was booked in for a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread any further. This determined what stage Marcel was in.

"The worst part was the wait between finding out I had cancer and getting the results of the scan to find out how far it had spread.

"When they said they think they can take it out with surgery and six months chemotherapy, I felt pretty good at that point but before that it was a tough time, there was no way to tell which way things would go.

"The point of not knowing was the worst part mentally."

Not long later he had surgery which removed the tumour from his bowel and found that it hadn't spread to his lymph nodes, taking him down from stage three to stage two.

"It was then 50-50 on whether I would need chemotherapy or not, and I decided to go for it."

With his youngest child just 2 and a half years old, Marcel wanted to make sure he had done everything he could to make sure he was clear.

Genetic testing has revealed Marcel has a condition similar to Lynch syndrome, a type of hereditary colon cancer.

Marcel will be screened regularly for the rest of his life and so too will his children when they are old enough.

"I would say from my experience to get checked out if you're showing any symptoms, a lot of stuff doesn't fix itself.

"To put it into perspective, a month after visiting my GP with abdominal pain, I was being discharged from hospital post-surgery."

More information on bowel cancer and Bowel Cancer New Zealand can be found at www.bowelcancernz.org.nz