A mum-of-three with advanced bowel cancer is urging other young parents to get checked before it’s too late.
Kat Lawrenson, 35, wants to bring attention to the “silent killer” she was diagnosed with just eight weeks ago.
Lawrenson owned Queenstown’s Forge Cafe for five years and was PA to the resort’s Chamber of Commerce.
She visited a medical centre four times in 10 days in February with stomach pain, seeing three different doctors.
But it wasn’t until she was admitted to Auckland Hospital on Valentine’s Day that she received tests and surgery to remove a tumour from her large intestine.
“I knew there was something wrong but nobody was listening to me,” Lawrenson says.
“I was just prescribed antacids and told it was probably just a pulled muscle.
“There needs to be more awareness. We lost a friend last year to bowel cancer who was 31 but the focus for screening seems to be firmly on the older generation.”
Lawrenson now lives in Cromwell with partner Jarred Andrew, and their sons Jayden, aged five, Nathan, aged three, and Ryan, who’s just three months old.
In Auckland, doctors told her a CT scan had revealed a tumour.
“It was horrendous. It was 1am when the doctor told me. My response was ‘I can’t have cancer, I have three young children’.”
Lawrenson had an operation 18 hours later, which was a success, but on March 2 she was told test results confirmed she has stage four bowel cancer.
“The cancer is in my blood,” she says. “It’s floating around in there and can attack the organs when it feels like it pretty much.
“I haven’t been told I’m terminal - my oncologist was nice enough to say you’re in the process of living, not in the process of dying.
“They don’t know whether I’ll live two years or 10 years.
“It’s just something I’m going to have to fight every day and try to keep at bay as long as possible.”
Lawrenson says not being able to plan for the future is hard. She and Jarred hope to marry next year.
She has begun a course of aggressive chemotherapy, which is not fully covered by the government and her health
insurance, boosted by the $25,000 drug Avastin.
A Givealittle website appeal has raised $21,000 in less than a week.
The money will be used to cover the cost of chemotherapy.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone who has donated, it’s been overwhelming.”
Lawrenson’s urging other young parents to get screened, especially those with health insurance.
“It probably sounds quite harsh but older people get lots of attention while the younger generation have to push and push to get checked out.
“Then when we’re diagnosed it’s usually so advanced that it’s not an easy fix.
“There needs to be a screening programme, regular checks and much more done for people our age.
“We’ve got young families and our lives ahead of us and yet we’re getting the short end of the stick.
“People who have health insurance should use it to get checked up. You’re paying the premiums so use it.”