10 things about Jodie, one of our newest Community Advisory Panel members

1. I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer… when I turned 44. I was feeling really tired, but I’d just bought a café and I thought it was down to the stress of 60-hour weeks.

Instead, it was Stage 3 colorectal cancer (also known as bowel cancer). That was several years ago now and it’s been a long journey.

2. I went to the doctor because… we’d gone into lockdown and I saw a lot of colorectal cancer awareness ads on TV.

But the real push came when a friend told me his wife was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at 34. It’s down to my friend’s wife for saving my life, because I put my big girl pants on and booked that appointment.

3. My cancer journey was… tough, but I worked all through it. I’d have a day off to have an infusion and then I was back in the café.

“Looking back, work was probably what I needed, because I didn’t want the cancer to take over. It wasn’t who I was. Work helped to keep things real for me.”

Jodie is standing with her partner and daughters
Jodie, with her family.

4. I joined the GI Cancer Institute and AGITG Community Advisory Panel because… I love science! I’ve done a lot of studying in science-based areas. Through my love of research, I wanted to help find answers that can make a difference to people’s lives.

5. A turning point during treatment was… when I reacted to the drugs I’d been given before the infusion and I got very, very sick.

That day I said to my husband, “I can’t do this anymore.” He looked at me and said, “You have to.” It was what I needed to hear.

And because I love research, I realised it must be one of the other drugs – that it couldn’t be the chemo that was making me that sick.

I was actually able to have the infusion and go back to work that day. I was very relieved it wasn’t the chemo because that really was the one thing I had to do.

6. One of the most common reactions from other people was… “Oh, you’re too young for cancer.”

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate – you’re never too young for cancer.”

7. GI cancer research is especially important because… we’re a little behind in Aotearoa New Zealand, compared to Australia. We don’t have colorectal screening as early as Australia does.

There are so many good trials happening – where we can connect New Zealand patients up, if even one person gets the trial treatment and has an easier time or comes through, that’s one person who couldn’t have that chance before.

8. My big dream for GI cancer research is… to have public screening for colorectal cancer at the same scale and as early as what we have for breast cancer, so we can catch it before the cancer hits Stage 3 like it did with me.

Because the reality was that my symptoms don’t look like ‘Stage 3’. I didn’t feel very sick, just very tired.

9. There were times where I felt… guilty, because I’m still alive when I know others who passed. But if you get too caught up in that mindset, you can’t move forward.

It did make me realise that the café life wasn’t for me right now, and that I actually had the skills and experience to make a difference.

“I gave my business away and now I can spend time with my daughters. It’s given me clarity – I can share my story and hopefully help to make our care system a little better.”

10. The one thing people should do to protect themselves is… talk about colorectal cancer more.

I tend to joke about it a bit, but it’s something we discuss openly in my family now. I even showed my brother the picture of my tumour, my colonoscopy photos, and said, “Oh, you should get one too. Then we can get a family portrait, you know?”

Jodie joined the GI Cancer Institute’s Community Advisory Panel in 2023. The Community Advisory Panel is comprised of people with lived experience of GI cancers, whether they have lived with it or cared for someone with it, and advises the direction and priorities of our research. 

Thank you to Jodie for dedicating her time and expertise with us, and not only making our research more robust, but also more relevant and accessible to people with GI cancers.

Learn more about the Community Advisory Panel

Learn more about colorectal cancer

You can help make new treatments happen for colorectal cancer and other GI cancers. Donate to our research today.