A young man turned away by multiple doctors and told he was ‘young and healthy’ before he was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer now has just months to live.
Hans Su, 29, a business analyst Melbourne, first went to a GP in 2019 for persistent stomach pain but medical staff believed he was passing a kidney stone and he was sent home.
In 2021 he went to the emergency department with the same symptoms but doctors believed he may have had a minor infection and he was again told to come back only ‘if the pain gets worse’.
Eventually after demanding doctors scan his stomach in July last year, Mr Su was given the devastating news he had stage four bowel cancer.
A failed ‘life-saving’ surgery left Mr Su in ICU and in January he was told he has less than a year to live.
‘It never occurred to me that something like death could possibly come so soon, but here I am,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
Hans Su (pictured) was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer and in January told he had a year to live
Mr Su (pictured with his wife) has says he wants young people to know ‘cancer doesn’t discriminate’
The 29-year-old has undergone 19 rounds of chemotherapy and is now hoping to raise awareness of bowel cancer so other young people don’t ignore the warning signs.
‘You have to be your body’s strongest advocate. If you know something does not feel right, don’t minimise it, push for further investigation,’ he said.
‘Cancer does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone no matter their age or their overall health status.’
Mr Su could have died without ever being diagnosed had his wife not intervened on the second occasion he wound up in the emergency department for his mysterious stomach pain.
‘My wife basically said to me that I wasn’t allowed home until they did the CT scan,’ he said.
Mr Su (pictured with his wife) has left his job and hopes of having children behind as he turns his full attention to trying to reverse his cancer
‘They did an ultrasound on my first visit and somehow found nothing despite the tumour being a decent size. So the next logical step was for a better scan.
‘They eventually decided that a CT scan might be helpful but strongly expected to find nothing. I’m sure they were shocked with the results.’
By the time his tumour was found, it had already spread to his peritoneum – the membrane that lines the inside of the abdomen and pelvis – which meant that chemotherapy was unlikely to help.
After eight rounds of chemotherapy and no signs of progress, Mr Su underwent major surgery where any organ that has been affected by the tumour was removed.
Recovery for that kind of surgery is usually expected to be around six months.
Mr Su has undergone 19 rounds of chemo and various surgeries to try and stop the spread or remove his cancer
‘As described by our previous surgeon, it’s like being hit by a bus six times over,’ Mr Su said in a GoFundMe to help fund his extensive medical expenses.
He underwent the surgery in January but as the cancer had spread to major blood vessels around his liver and heart, surgeons were unable to remove much.
‘I was basically told that I now had terminal cancer, and a cure was no longer on the cards,’ he said.
He said the recovery from the surgery was unbearable, adding the physical and mental pain was exhausting.
‘It also took everything out of me to even just take a few steps, and the sight of having multiple tubes coming out of me was daunting,’ he said.
‘Mentally, I was distraught. To be told you’re dying at the age of 28 was an incomprehensible feeling.’
He said chemo has left him losing his hair and the tips of his fingers and soles of his feet numb. He has also developed blood clots in his lungs.
Mr Su brought his wedding forward and married his partner last November. He had to quit his job while his wife is working casually as she helps care for him.
The pair had also dreamt of starting a family together.
A heartbreaking but not uncommon case of young-onset bowel cancer meant Mr Su was given only a year to live, now he doesn’t want anyone else to miss the warning signs
Staring down the barrel of his heart-wrenching diagnosis Mr Su reminded young people to remember to be grateful for things in life.
‘One thing that I’ve learnt the hard way is to not take anything for granted,’ he said.
‘Live each day to the fullest, look after your health and be grateful, even if it’s for the smallest things.’
Mr Su is still undergoing treatment and in some good news has secured an appointment with a Sydney-based surgery team who will review his case to see if there are any more options to try.
Another major surgery has been planned for August in Sydney.
Mr Su (pictured) isn’t done yet, he will fight the cancer until the end and says there’s much more living he’d like to do
As the majority of bowel cancer cases are in those over the age of 50, Mr Su said doctors were reluctant to think his symptoms were a sign of the disease.
The average age at the time of diagnoses for men is 68, and 72 for women, according to cancer.net.
Cancer Council research shows 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be treated successfully.
For Mr Su, the chemotherapy has stopped his cancer from spreading any further, and he hopes his treatment and another try at surgery will give him some more time with his wife and family.
‘I’m not ready to leave this earth yet, there’s just so much more living I want and need to do,’ he said.
WARNING SIGNS OF BOWEL CANCER
- Persistent changes in bowel habits
- Rectal bleeding
- Persistent stomach discomfort
- A feeling the bowel isn’t completely empty
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Source: The Cancer Council