Toni’s bowel cancer experience

Sale local Toni Mackay has opened up about her life living with bowel cancer. Photo: Contributed

Toni Mackay

I DON’T usually share my cancer experience for many reasons, mostly because I don’t want it to define me or my life, however, in the month of March, I decided to participate in a Bowel Cancer Australia campaign to raise awareness of the prevalence of Bowel Cancer in young women like myself and the importance of early detection.

The importance of listening to your body and if something doesn’t feel right cannot be overstated. Advocate for yourself and demand diagnostic testing.

Prior to my diagnosis I had been experiencing issues with my bowels for around 18 months, and after multiple presentations to my GP she diagnosed me with IBS.

I was never offered a scan or a colonoscopy because Bowel Cancer is an old mans disease, right?

I was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in April 2023 at age 46 after a presentation to A&E with excruciating stomach pain.

I sat in a curtained off cubicle surrounded by the chaos of the emergency room when a Doctor declared that the CT scan revealed a mass in my transverse colon, highly likely to be cancer.

I can’t describe the fear I felt in that moment or the anguish of having to relay it to my husband and later my four teenage children.

Two weeks after my cancer was detected, I underwent a resection of my transverse and ascending colon and the removal of 26 lymph nodes. Tests confirmed that I had stage IV Colon Cancer with metastasis to the liver and the BRAF v600e mutation.

I was allowed a month to recover from my bowel resection before a further surgery to resect the cancer in my liver.

Shortly after this I commenced chemotherapy, eight gruelling rounds of CAPOX over six months.

Throughout this period I was unable to work and relied a lot on my incredible husband, family and friends to support me with day-to-day life.

I feel incredibly fortunate that I am currently NED (no evidence of disease) but require surveillance every three months and the psychological impact of living life in 12 week increments in between is incredibly challenging.

The chemo has left me with significant peripheral neuropathy in my feet which impacts my ability to walk long distances and at times affects my balance.

I now live with stage IV cancer, that will never change for me.

I continually hope for new treatment options for myself and others impacted by this prevalent disease. I also hope that by sharing my story it raises awareness and increases opportunity for early detection.

To learn more about the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, visit