EMILY Taylor was feeling fairly helpless when her identical twin sister, Christina Milojeski, was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in April.
The sisters are 29, so when Ms Milojeski presented to hospital with persistent stomach cramps, doctors did not immediately suspect bowel cancer to be the culprit.
The majority of newly diagnosed cases occur in people aged 55 and above, although Bowel Cancer Australia says there has been a 186 per cent increase in cases in adolescents and young adults in the past 30 years.
“Because she is so young, the doctors didn’t automatically think ‘bowel cancer,’ Ms Taylor said. “Her symptoms were thought to be that of ‘girly issues,’ and she was also being tested for Crohn’s.”
Ms Milojeski continued to feel sick. She was bloated and vomiting, and lost weight.
“She had three hospital trips, and then her doctor pushed for a colonoscopy,” she said. “They worked out she had bowel cancer from there, and more tests showed that it had spread.”
Ms Milojeski had emergency surgery to remove a large tumour from her bowel, and has begun chemotherapy at the Calvary Mater Newcastle.
Wanting to do something more to support her sister, Ms Taylor decided to raise money for the hospital by giving up drinking alcohol for 31 days.
“The Dry July campaign came up on my Facebook feed, and I thought it would be an opportunity to support her,” Ms Taylor said.
“People give up alcohol for the month of July to raise funds and awareness for people affected by cancer, and there are a whole bunch of organisations that you can donate the money to.
“I chose the Mater because my sister would be getting treatment there. And it’s not just for bowel cancer. The money gets spread across the hospital, for all different kinds of cancer.”
So far, Ms Taylor has raised almost $6000 for the cause.
“I work in property management. And in real estate, we are known as a bunch of big drinkers,” she said.
“And I do have my girlfriends hen’s party in July.
“I think I’ll survive. Giving up alcohol for a month is nothing compared to what people with cancer go through.”
Since its inception 10 years ago, Dry July has raised more than $30 million dollars to fund 1000 cancer support projects across Australia.
Ms Taylor also wanted to raise awareness of the disease during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month.
“It’s not just an old man’s cancer – it does affect young people too,” she said.
“For Christina, nobody suspected bowel cancer at all. Which is why it needs more awareness – especially in the younger generation.”
To support Ms Taylor’s fundraising efforts, visit dryjuly.com/users/emily-taylor.