real life

What’s hiding in your bloke’s top drawer? What every woman should look for.


Two years ago my life changed forever. Within the space of a month, both my Dad and my brother were diagnosed with bowel cancer. Whilst Dad battles on two years later, we lost my brother after just three months and I miss him every day. We found a bowel cancer test kit in my brother’s top drawer after he passed away, unused. It had sat in his drawer for two years. Had he taken the test, it may have saved his life. 

Christine’s Mum and Dad (Phyllis and Fred Bragg) with brother Andrew just before he passed away Feb 2012.

It all started when we noticed that my father had lost weight and had blood in his bowel movements. At 81, the doctor told my mother he was not concerned. Mum pressed further and a colonoscopy was booked however it could not take place as the ‘blockage’ would not allow it. On 8 November 2011, a scan revealed Dad had bowel cancer. It had already spread to his liver, lungs and kidneys. An operation to remove the blockage went well and he did not need a bag or anything else. He was given two years, which has just gone.

I was with Mum when Dad had his operation. My mother told me at the time that she was worried about my brother Andrew as he was losing weight too. I suggested he see the doctor but he didn’t act. On 3 December 2011, Andrew was taken to hospital with a pain in his right side. We thought it would be his appendix, but a month after my father was diagnosed, my brother Andrew was told he had bowel cancer too. It was in the same spot as Dad’s and had spread to his liver. Seventy per cent of his liver was affected. It was inoperable. The doctors patted him on the shoulder.

Christine’s brother Andrew Bragg winning at bowls in Nov 2011 just before his diagnosis.

Andrew was in hospital for his birthday on 10 December, and over the Christmas week. He came out of hospital and saw his mates at the bowling club to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Mum battled to have him home, the hospital bed was moved in, and then of course it was morphine.

At 81, Mum faced losing both her husband and her son to bowel cancer. My brother at 56 had not prepared any papers, so it was a race against time to ensure everything was in place. At the end of January, he was moved into palliative care. My mother, father and I visited Andrew each day and tried to bring sunshine into his last days.


Towards the end though it was too much for Mum and she suffered a stroke on the eve of my brother’s passing – 19 February 2012. My little brother was a gentle person. His fondest memory of his childhood were the cracker nights and that we loved each other. That was all that mattered, he said. I miss him every day.

Dad is a battler and very determined. He is on a different chemo treatment now and has lost his hair this time. With his weight now down to 62 kilos, I think this may be our last Christmas together. It is a hard road to travel. You can’t believe how sad I feel for my Mum. Watching her son pass away, her husband of 61 years determinedly battling on and her own health at risk. I envisaged their aging years would be happy just being together. The ‘cancer’ word never entered my mind.

Please everyone, do the bowel cancer screening test every one to two years from age 50. Bowel cancer is so treatable, if you get it early enough.

Also talk to your doctor about symptoms and if they try to fob you off, talk louder. Don’t take no for an answer. Find a doctor that will do ALL the tests. It is so important. Have that colonoscopy if that’s what’s required. I have had my colonoscopy, because of my family history, and I am all clear. It seems I take after my darling Mum.

Happier days: Christine, her Mum, brother Andrew, her Dad and son Glen

Bowel Cancer Australia is calling for Australians who have experienced bowel cancer to share their experiences via an online survey: It will help ensure those affected get the support they need.

Bowel Cancer Australia works to reduce the impact of this common disease through its awareness, education, support, research and advocacy efforts. Visit

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