“Thank you for saving my life”
It seems like a stretch to call someone diagnosed with bowel cancer at 28 ‘lucky’. But that’s exactly how Peter Iwaniw describes himself. Because three decisions, by Peter, his family and his medical team, ended up saving his life.
When Peter saw a GP with concerns over rectal bleeding, the GP laughed and told him it couldn’t possibly be bowel cancer, but Peter decided to get a second opinion. This was the first decision that saved his life.
Peter didn’t want to have a second colonoscopy so he decided to put it off. His fiancé Sarah said she wasn’t comfortable with the delay and pressured him to have the test. He eventually relented. This was the second decision that saved his life.
Peter agreeing to another test to establish the cause of the bleeding led him to have a scope test on his intestines. It was the doctor’s decision to investigate a mass beyond the reach of the scope that was the third decision to save his life.
And now, Peter’s most recent decision to fundraise for Let’s Beat Bowel Cancer (LBBC), a Cabrini initiative that aims to lower deaths related to bowel cancer through public awareness, research and medical advances, is a decision that will save others.
After Peter had surgery to remove his cancer, gruelling chemotherapy, complications from surgery, blood clots and many other hurdles, he and Sarah started thinking about the future and planning their wedding.
When Peter had finished his chemotherapy, his oncologist told him patients who exercise and have a diet rich in fruit and vegetables have a lower rate of recurrence, so together Sarah and Peter embarked on a total change in lifestyle. This new undertaking led Peter to decide to do the Noosa Triathlon to raise money for LBBC – a combination of getting fit and doing something to support other people with bowel cancer.
“I could never have done a triathlon before I got bowel cancer. For me it was very much a personal point to prove: now we have our lives back, I have the ability to do a triathlon,” Peter says.
Peter raised over $45,000 for this cause. Every cent of the money he raised will be used to demystify bowel cancer and increase awareness of bowel cancer as a major public health issue, encourage Australians to be regularly screened for bowel cancer and promote and support ongoing bowel cancer education and clinical research, focusing on prevention, early detection and treatment.
“At the moment they are trying to take tumours and grow them in the laboratory and the benefit is that they can test different treatments on them and give patients the most effective treatments for them,” Peter explains, about one of the projects he will help fund.
“This isn’t going to some beast of an organisation, you are actually donating to the laboratory and it will be great.”
To the friends and family who supported his fundraising, Peter has nothing but humble thanks.
“It’s amazing and thank you all. The response was ridiculous and I didn’t expect the response that I got, it was quite overwhelming to be honest,” Peter says.
He was also proud to support the doctors and staff who cared for him at Cabrini.
“I would say to the doctors and staff at Cabrini, thank you for the most unbelievable care,” he says.
“I don’t think you could have better people in your corner; always available, always incredibly caring and just so thorough. Thank you for saving my life.”