By Vinnie Rodi

A VISIT to the region by The Jodi Lee Foundation CEO Nick Lee, PICTURED, has helped shine a spotlight on bowel cancer, while also promoting the importance of undergoing routine tests.

Australia currently has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, and while 90 percent of cases can be prevented or successfully treated if detected early, it remains the second most common cause of cancer-related death.

The Foundation works to encourage Australians to screen regularly for bowel cancer, know their family history, act quickly on symptoms and maintain a healthy lifestyle through events and awareness campaigns.

Mr Lee was the special guest of Sunraysia Medical Imaging this past Tuesday, with staff given the chance to hear his story, and learn more about the Foundation at a dinner event at The Office Wine Bar.

The Foundation was established in honour of Mr Lee’s late wife, Jodi, who lost her battle with bowel cancer at age 41.

Jodi and Nick had been together for 12 years in 2008, and were living in Vietnam with their two young children when Jodi began complaining of constipation, abdominal pain and bloating.

The next morning, Jodi’s doctor recognised an obstruction in her bowel and ordered scans, determining that Jodi had bowel cancer, and that the tumour had all but blocked her bowel.

Just before midnight she was airlifted from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok for emergency surgery, and while the operation was successful, three days later Nick and Jodi received the worst news possible – the cancer had spread to her lymph and liver.

At best, she had two years to live. Jodi passed away on January 16, 2010.

Nick was a director at Unilever before establishing the Foundation in 2010, and since then he has successfully driven the growth of the Foundation, including securing a $2.5million Federal Government grant to run a national awareness campaign, while also negotiating a major deal with the AFL to use the sport’s high profile to further raise awareness.

“This week’s visit was actually the first time I’ve had the chance to come to Mildura as part of the Foundation’s Workplace Prevention Program,” Mr Lee said.

“I have known Dr Michael Petrucco (Sunraysia Medical Imaging co-owner) for some time, and we have been talking about how he can support the Foundation, and we wanted to start by talking to his team.

“The Foundation’s message is an extremely emotional one, with my personal story, and Jodi’s story, easy to relate to, and I often see people while they are listening trying to put themselves in mine or Jodi’s shoes.

“The presentation offers an opportunity to share our story with others, and afterwards we often hear about the early detection stories of those who had been in attendance, so it’s nice to hear that the message is getting through and people are acting.”

Dr Petrucco said that he, and fellow Sunraysia Medical Imaging co-owner Dr Michael Shepherd, had been excited to host Mr Lee in Mildura.

“The program was most opportunistic for us because as a workplace, we work in helping to diagnose and treat cancer, especially bowel cancer, on a daily basis,” he said.

“It was a way for us to show our staff that what they do is very important.”

Dr Petrucco said that close to 30 people had attended the presentation, including a number of his younger staff.

“Some people might have that perception that it’s a younger person issue (bowel cancer), but we really need to think about it from an early age,” he said.

Dr Petrucco said that Sunraysia Medical Imaging was planning on hosting Mr Lee again in the future, while also encouraging other workplaces to learn more about the Foundation.

“Bowel cancer is very much one of Australia’s silent killers, and it’s important that people are informed and know what to look for,” he said.

Mr Lee said that while this week marked his first time in Mildura, he was working towards expanding the Foundation’s reach into the area.

“I would love to do more work in Mildura, with reaching those regional communities a constant challenge for us,” he said.

“If the opportunity was there to present to other businesses or community groups, I would certainly jump at the chance. What’s important is getting the early-detection message out to the public.”

More information about The Jodi Lee Foundation is available online at www.jodileefoundation.org.au.