If only mum had taken the test: Mourning family urge action
IT WAS only days after her mother passed away that Kirsten Van Jaarsveld found an unused bowel cancer test on the kitchen table.
Beside it were two reminder notices, both unopened.
Testing bowel motions is an uncomfortable and off-putting process, but it would have been worth it if it bought Carolyn Diprose a little more time with her adoring family.
Her children watched as their mother became skinnier, paler and a little more exhausted during the past few months, but the hard-working Warwick woman insisted it was nothing.
Daughter-in-law Brooke Pollard said Carolyn hadn't felt sick necessarily, just tired.
"She put the weightloss down to a different eating regime," Brooke said.
"She didn't feel like anything else had changed."
When Carolyn's sister, Joyce Pozzebon, visited from Stanthorpe for the first time in two months, she said she was shocked.
"I had to look at her three times to see if that was my sister," Joyce said. "She had aged tremendously and was incredibly thin and drawn.
"I quizzed her and asked if she was okay but she reckoned there was nothing wrong."
Carolyn pushed on at her much-loved position at the Rose City Fruits until her body completely gave up.
It was a cold July morning when Carolyn didn't show up to work and the alarm bells immediately went off.
"Her employer actually went around to her house and knocked on the door but there was no answer," Brooke said.
"Once she came out, they sent her up to a doctor because they were concerned for her."
Carolyn was shocked when the CT scan showed an aggressive form of bowel cancer, spreading through her body and attacking her liver.
"In hindsight when I'd seen her I thought she didn't look right," Brooke said.
"Her colour was different and she looked smaller, but you just never really think ..."
Then, 39 days later, after a whirlwind of hospital visits and heartbreaking conversations with loved ones, Carolyn passed away peacefully, surrounded by those who cared most for her.
It was too late for her to seek treatment.
"We only got the card saying she could have chemo two Mondays ago and Mum passed away a week later," Kirsten said.
"There was no way she would've been able to handle chemo.
"She was too far gone."
As her family plans Carolyn's funeral, they urge others to learn from their mother's experience and test themselves for bowel cancer.
Carolyn's daughter Analiese Pollard said no-one ever thought it was going to be them that got cancer.
"But it doesn't discriminate," she said.
More than 16,000 Australians have been diagnosed with bowel cancer this year alone, making it the third most common cancer in the country.
Chances of survival are more than 70 per cent, if detected early.
Brooke choked up as she reflected on how the outcome might have been different had Carolyn been tested earlier.
"It was too late for Carolyn and that's what ultimately took her life," she said.
"It took her away from her family and from being able to see her grandchildren grow up."