SPEAKING UP: Donna Eriksen (left), with Sherie McDonald, is knocking down barriers to start a conversation about bowel cancer.
SPEAKING UP: Donna Eriksen (left), with Sherie McDonald, is knocking down barriers to start a conversation about bowel cancer. Kelly Butterworth

Cutting out the awkward

DONNA Eriksen was forced to undergo emergency surgery when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

At just 45 years old, Donna said she noticed changes but only went to the doctor after a "dramatic situation”.

The Emerald woman said the diagnosis came as a surprise and she was in Brisbane for surgery within the week.

Now, six years later, Donna said she was the healthiest she'd been, and did not expect to have any problems going forward.

But she said she was one of the lucky ones.

"I've known a lot of people in town who've had bowel cancer, and a few who've died from it,” she said.

Despite its prevalence, Donna said bowel cancer was not spoken about enough and the cancer survivor said she wanted people to have a greater awareness.

"Everybody knows about the typical big cancers, breast and prostate, but bowel is the second biggest killer in Australia,” Donna said.

"But for some reason no one talks about it.”

While she said bowel cancer was "not a pretty conversation”, she said barriers needed to be knocked down if progress was to be made.

"It's not pretty talking about toilet stuff,” she said. "People feel awkward.

"It's a bit sad in a way, I don't know why people are so uptight about it.”

But Donna said she did notice people opening up and more willing to talk about it.

While it could be a difficult conversation, she said it was an important one, especially for people living in country areas.

"I think with a lot of medical problems, regional areas have a less good rate of finding and surviving these things,” she said.

Donna said she was lucky it didn't impact her in the long run, but living in the country could have been detrimental to her survival.

"I had to wait two months for a guy to come to town to do a colonoscopy,” she said.

"If I was living in Brisbane I would have had a colonoscopy within a week, but because I was living in Emerald I couldn't.

"That's the nature of living in the region.”

Donna said she was proud she could tell her story if it helped others, and urged anyone who "noticed any changes” to visit www.bowelcancer australia.org.


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