09 April 2020, By Mater Lotteries

With your support, Giles is one step closer to beating his cancer

4 min read

Colorectal (bowel) cancer is Australia’s second-most deadly cancer, early detection is rare. Many people either have no symptoms or don’t recognise their symptoms as being serious—as was the case with 53-year-old Giles Stimson.

A fit and healthy father-of-two, Giles had completed a 10km fun run just weeks before he received a devastating Stage 4 colorectal cancer diagnosis. It was Christmas Eve 2018.

“I had a chest infection and went to my GP who ordered a scan, which picked up tumours in my liver. I feel blessed that I wasn’t a typical bloke and actually went to see a doctor! If I hadn’t had that chest infection, who knows where I’d be?” says Giles.

“Often tumours in the liver mean it’s a secondary cancer so they investigated further and found a tumour in my large intestine,” he said.

The news came as a complete shock to Giles and his wife, Kate, who chose not to tell their two children until after Christmas.

When Emily, 23, and Christopher, 25, found out about their dad’s diagnosis, they were understandably distraught. Christopher, an engineer, wanted to do whatever he could to help his dad. He now takes Giles to his fortnightly chemotherapy treatments while Emily, who’s training to be a nurse in Melbourne, travels to Brisbane regularly to be with him.

Giles had no family history of cancer and no contributing lifestyle factors. He had always eaten a healthy diet, maintained a good weight and did not suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“It was an absolute bombshell, but what made the knock so much easier was finding out that I could receive treatment at the new Mater Cancer Care Centre Redland that was close to home, which meant I didn’t have to travel to Brisbane,” he said.

Giles began a fortnightly high-dose of chemotherapy and targeted therapies to try and shrink his tumour. Initially he responded well to treatment.

“My cancer markers were down compared to those of a healthy non-smoker. My doctor said to my wife Kate, ‘What are you doing to him? Whatever you’re doing, keep it up!’”

Then, after a promising start, Giles suffered a perforated bowel—just four months after beginning his treatment.

“I woke up at 2 am one morning in agony and asked Kate to take me to hospital, where I stayed for three weeks. It’s possible that my bowel tore because the tumour was shrinking so fast.

“While in hospital I also developed sepsis—the doctors said I was very, very close to not making it, and I had to stop my chemo while I recovered from surgery.”

Despite this setback, Giles managed through several challenging, long days. But even today, he is extremely positive about his future thanks to the support of his family, his employer and the exceptional care he receives at Mater.

Giles was one of the first patients to start treatment at Mater Cancer Care Centre Redland when it opened in early 2019.

“The space is welcoming and it is dedicated to cancer patients like me. The layout has been well thought out and it offers patients the option to have their privacy or open up their area to talk with other patients,” he said.

I feel blessed to have an incredible healthcare team working with me. The doctors and oncology nurses are sensational.”

After six months of treatment, Giles switched to another treatment—a more aggressive combination of chemotherapy drugs.

“Together with the chemotherapy and my healthy eating and positive mindset, I’m fighting this cancer as best I can,” he said.

Giles has just finished his 22nd chemotherapy session and says he’ll keep going for as long as it takes. While the primary tumour in his large intestine has disappeared, secondary spots remain on his liver and peritoneum. Mater’s doctors are keeping an eye on these, but so far they haven’t got any bigger.

“Everyone is amazed that I’ve got an aggressive high-stage cancer, yet I’m so chirpy…  I’m convinced I’m going to beat it. Why can’t I be one of the small number of people who do?

“My wife is a gorgeous woman and she’s going to help get me through this. She’s my earth angel. Together we are doing all we can to help the medical team fight the disease.”

Thanks to your support, Mater researchers can invest in new ways to unlock the secrets of aggressive bowel cancers like Giles’s.

Mater’s Dr Gregor Kijanka, a Senior Research Fellow at Mater Research is exploring the possibility of a simple blood test that could diagnose early colorectal cancers and help determine the best treatment path for men and women with this disease.

Tumours produce antigens (proteins)—and our immune systems recognise antigens as foreign, so they create antibodies to fight them. Dr Kijanka hopes to identify these antigens in patients with colorectal cancer via a simple blood test.

Mater’s experts are also seeking to discover the processes that drive aggressive colorectal cancer—and use this information to personalise treatment for men and women with the disease, giving them the best possible chance of survival.

By supporting Mater’s Cars for Cancer Lottery, you are funding vital medical research that could mean all the difference for people like Giles.

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