Why did I get the big C?
Why did I get cancer?
This is a really tough one. I will probably never know 100% why I got bum cancer but, as a cancer patient, it’s very hard not to wonder why. I think about it a lot and I have done a huge amount of reading and research. It’s difficult not to think ‘why me?’ and it’s difficult not to believe that I am inferior to others because I allowed myself to get this illness. I am not beating myself up about it, however I do blame myself for this.
Bowel cancer has increased by 300% in 30 years and it is the number one cancer killer of people 24-35 years old. It is a very treatable cancer if caught early with nearly a 100% survival rate but the tough thing about it is there are often no symptoms. I’m lucky mine is in my upper rectum. I might have a fake bum one day and shit myself at the occasional party but who hasn’t done that before, least of my worries. The location of mine meant that my stool (technical word for shit) was weird, I could see blood and eventually I couldn’t poo past it. Luckily, I had symptoms and acted on it. That said, my tumour had been there for 16-18 months.
So what happened 16-18 months ago? My research began pretty quickly after the diagnosis and the tears were out the way. My mind was racing. I felt like I had found out I was pregnant and had to start racking my brain as to who I had slept with between 3 and 4 months ago. Awkward phone calls and blood tests followed.
In 2022 I had a chest infection that lasted 6 weeks or so. It wasn’t Covid and I can’t remember if I had had the vaccine close to the time. That’s a whole other can of worms. I bought some corrugated iron from a guy on marketplace who swore to me that the vaccine caused it. Anyway, I was taking a concoction of pretty standard drugs like nurofen, Panadol, cough syrup and occasionally a shot or two of my wife asthma puffer. Towards the end of it I went to KI to spend 4 nights camping out in the swag and pruning our vineyard. The first night I had a rash start on my forehead. I worked the next day and that night it had spread to my back. I tried to get to sleep but was too itchy. The only relief was a hot shower. We had a small gas shower in a tent thing in the vineyard shed so I was back and forth all night having hot showers for relief. It was fucken freezing outside the shower and I had to keep going to the rainwater tank 50m away to fill tubs to then fill the bucket that feeds the shower. I nearly got to sleep at one point but a possum jumped on the top of my swag and I had to shoo it away. It was a long night.
I went to the Kingscote hospital in the morning because it was unbearable and it had spread to my chest, back, arms and legs. They gave me more nurofen and I went to the boat to head home. I got a few weird looks on the boat.
I didn’t sleep for 6 nights straight all up and the rash only faded away after about 6 weeks. On day 4 my face swelled up and we thought we better get to emergency. They put me in a different area because Monkey Pox was all the rage at the time and the media were scaring the shit out of everyone so they thought I might have it. I messaged a mate (the sick fuck) with a photo (see below) and he spread the word that I had Monkey Pox which a lot of our mates believed. Classic. He got me good. The dermatologists think it was a spider bite but we never really found out.
During the first week of the rash the only relief I could get was from scolding hot showers and scratching myself with our kid’s toy garden rake. I was properly addicted to the showers. Fuck they were good. I was having 8-10 showers a day and they were euphoric. I can’t even explain. I was asking a lot of people if they had ever tried heroin. I have never tried it but I imagine this is what it would be like. Showers haven’t been the same since.
My surgeon, after seeing the scans, said my tumour was 16-18 months old. This is perfect timing with the rash and the rash was in my mouth and my bum. In other words, it was in my mucosa. I then researched what the hot water was doing to me when it ‘itched’ my rash, and it turns out it was the release of sweet, sweet serotonin. I’m going to write a love song about her.
Serotonin is the ‘feel good’ chemical. It was definitely living up to its reputation in this case. At normal levels it leads to better focus, emotional stability and just generally being happier and calmer. And low levels lead to anxiety and depression. What goes up must come down, and after these showers (and in hindsight) I was depressed. I have never experienced depression and for me, like a lot of mental health issues, it is a hard one to understand. I am blessed with sound mental health but I should have realised what was going on and tried to figure it out, sourced help. Instead I had a glass of concrete and hardened the fuck up. Maybe being a ‘real man’ was my downfall but then again, I love pinot noir so this theory doesn’t add up.
90% of your serotonin is in your gastrointestinal tract where it helps control bowel function and plays a role in protecting your gut. 10% is produced in your brain. It is made from an amino acid that the human body does not have the ability to produce. This is called Tryptophan. Humans need 20 amino acids, 9 of them cannot be produced by the human body and they are essential. We get this essential amino acid from food, mainly plants, that we consume. Leafy greens, mushrooms, broccoli, soybeans, cheese, eggs and peas all have it, and so does turkey meat although the body has a harder time converting this to serotonin.
This brings me to the second and most crucial part of my theory as to why bowel cancer has increased so much in the last 30 years. The herbicide glyphosate has been in use in Australia for 40 years now. It’s a hell of a chemical, so handy, so lazy, so cheap and easy….but so are French backpackers with mattocks. Kidding, I understand the commercial ‘need’ and benefits of how effective this chemical is.
Glyphosate, more commonly known as Round Up, inhibits the Shikimate pathway in plants. This pathway is the synthesis of the amino acids that we can’t produce ourselves, including tryptophan. Humans and animals do not have this pathway so this very marketable miracle product was swooped on by large companies and it fast became the most widely used herbicide in the world, from large scale agriculture to Joe Blog’s (you and me) soy bean patch. A catch phrase back in the day was ‘Safer Than Water’. I would have asked the sales person to drink it. Sorry, anger is a side effect of having your bum shot with radiation 5 days a week. I suppose we can’t hate on these companies or the people who used Round Up but I bet there were a few employees who felt a little guilty as they told consumers (literally) how safe it was. I think, deep down, even without the science backing it, the distributors would have known that this couldn’t have been good. It’s so unnatural. There simply wasn’t time to do the research and truly understand what glyphosate may be capable of.
When glyphosate is consumed is breaks down proteins that help to keep the cells in our gut lining intact. This leads to leaky gut which then allows toxins to enter our system. The place where I have my radiotherapy done recommended a moisturiser to me in my initial consultation. This moisturiser has two chemicals used as preservatives that are proven carcinogens. I only recognised them and looked into it because these chemicals, Propylparaben and Methylparaben have become a big marketing point for shampoo companies. You would have seen it on your shampoo bottle ‘NO PARABENS’ and thought ‘oh thank god there’s none of that shit I have zero idea about in there’. It’s clever marketing in a saturated industry to advertise something that you don’t have, like sulphur in wine. What I’m trying to say though is, if we have leaky gut or even if not, and if we don’t have the essential amino acids and nutrients that our bodies need, these chemicals that are harmless at small doses all add up. Over time they may be waring us down to a point where the body can’t maintain its natural ability to prevent a blood supply to cancer cells or to help to prevent other illnesses. We are built to deal with acute stress but chronic stress is a whole other ball game.
For cancer in the mucosa in general, perhaps it is a combination of multiple things. Poor nutritional value in the food we grow due to the convenience of certain agricultural practices, excess serotonin from the use of recreational drugs or anti-depressants (some release a small amount each dose but I haven’t looked into this yet), alcohol consumption, not looking after ourselves when we have a lapse in our immune system, leaky gut from glyphosate and other chemicals in our environment and on our produce. Oh, and processed foods of course, not even a fucken fruit roll up has fruit in it these days and I will never eat a Bunno’s snag in a rag again. Preservatives, additives, flavourings and clever marketing….sickos.
For me, I think it was a case of the perfect storm. I believe it was a combination of all these things. It’s a buggered immune system for a prolonged period, it’s the ingestion of glyphosate on and in our food or water or in the air (you can be tested for this and I plan to get it done when off the chemo), it’s the excess serotonin or lack thereof post the overload, it’s the inability to get tryptophan or enough of it through the food we buy, it’s processed meats and other food I was eating, it’s constitution, it’s justice, it’s mabo, it’s the vibe and, nah that’s it, it’s the vibe.
I have passed this theory of serotonin on to my oncologists and they did look into it but said that there isn’t enough research or evidence to say that it is related to serotonin but they do believe that it would have been that prolonged lapse in my immune system. Bowel cancer is not in my family. With the rapid increase of a lot of cancers it being genetic is a cop out, so is saying the stats are higher because we live longer, and so is saying it’s ‘bad luck’. I don’t believe in luck and especially bad luck.
At my colonoscopy I had 2 polyps cut out and they found the tumour, which is a polyp that has become cancerous. Maybe the rash caused the polyps and the lack of or excess serotonin which was meant to help my bowel function led to a blood supply to the cancer cells. Maybe the polyps were there already and I could have lived with them forever unharmed if it wasn’t for the rash. Either way I am convinced there is something in this theory. It makes me feel better about my situation anyway. Once I have healed, I am going to go super human and make sure my immune system can deal with whatever comes its way. I’m going to be a vegetarian, juice drinking, nice smelling, hemp wearing, judgemental Adonis heckling people who eat meat, drink alcohol and spray shit chemicals. Can’t wait.
Bowel cancer is a young person’s disease. If it is in your family, get checked from the age of 25. If you see blood in your poo and it persists then get checked. Don’t let the doc tell you it’s just haemorrhoids. Check out the Jodie Lee Foundation on Instagram. They have great advice and are a good reminder to do the things that will help early detection.