Jodi's storyBy Nick Lee | Aug 07, 12 08:19 AM
One person dies from bowel cancer every two hours. Nick Lee lost his wife and he's determined to change that statistic.
One in 12 Australians will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime and 5,000 people die annually – despite it being 90 per cent curable if detected early.
Nick Lee lost his wife Jodi to bowel cancer at 41. In 2010, Nick established The Jodi Lee Foundation with the aim of saving lives through increasing awareness and encouraging the early detection of bowel cancer. This is Nick’s story.
Jodi and I had been married for 10 years when we moved to Vietnam in 2006. Jodi, myself and our two children Jack and Arabella were having the time of our lives. We were almost pinching ourselves thinking ‘how good is this’.
I was away working when Jodi rang me complaining of constipation, abdominal pain and some bloating. The next morning, her doctor recognised an obstruction in Jodi’s bowel and ordered some scans. The results came in at about 3.00pm that afternoon. Jodi had bowel cancer and the tumor had all but blocked her bowel. She was 39 years old.
Just before midnight she was airlifted from Ho Chi Minh to Bangkok for emergency surgery. She was flown at low level due to the risk of her bowel bursting from altitude pressure.
Jodi had a very successful operation but three days later we received the worst news possible – Jodi was diagnosed with Stage IV bowel cancer and the cancer had spread to her lymph and liver. She had two years to live.
We spent these two years trying to change those odds but nothing seemed to go our way. Jodi had three major operations, two rounds of chemotherapy, radioactive sphere treatment and we even saw a Chinese herbal doctor.
The hardest thing of all was telling our children, then 8 and 5 years old. We took them away for the weekend and explained that their mum was going to die. Jodi passed away on 16 January 2010 leaving her family and friends devastated.
Before Jodi’s diagnosis she was fit and healthy. She had no symptoms whatsoever. We now know this is typical of bowel cancer.
The thing I miss most about Jodi is coming home to her. She made everything better. After an average day at work and she was there to put her arms around me and say ‘tomorrow’s another day’. She put things in perspective for me - that’s what I miss the most.
In 2010 I set up The Jodi Lee Foundation. From our experience came a massive opportunity to try and make something good out of an awful situation. I don’t want anyone else to go through what Jodi and I went through.
Since then I have run two New York City Marathons and ridden over 1,000 kms from Canberra to Melbourne. The amount of pain I went through to finish these events didn’t compare with the struggle and amount of pain that Jodi had to go through during her battle.
I feel like there’s a huge part of Jodi in The Jodi Lee Foundation. The values of the Foundation are values that we held dear in our relationship – integrity, vitality and transparency. At the end of the day there’s not nearly enough awareness about bowel cancer. We are helping to change that.
Everyone needs to be checked for bowel cancer from the age of 40. If each of our events can raise enough awareness to save one person, then clearly it is worthwhile.
I lost my wife Jodi, a beautiful girl, to bowel cancer. Our two children lost their mother. It doesn’t have to happen. Take a simple screening test at home every year from age 40 – it may just save your life.
The Jodi Lee Foundation established a Corporate Bowel Screening Program allowing companies to protect their workforce from falling victim to bowel cancer.
Through the program, you can purchase and make available screening tests to your employees or members for approximately $26 each (including the pathology fee). The simple, non-invasive tests are completed in the privacy of the individual's own home.
If you’d like to find out more about The Jodi Lee Foundation and how you can protect your workforce, visit www.jodileefoundation.org.au