Nobody wants to talk about poo.
Well, nobody bar my younger brothers, and Australian journalist Anton Enus.
That is, Anton Enus would rather we talk about poo than we talk about cancer, and the SBS anchor knows a fair bit about both.
Back in 2016, at 55 years old, Anton - who is a meat-free, non-smoking, seldom-drinking, respected news presenter - did the national bowel cancer screening test that everyone over 50 has delivered to their letterbox every two years.
He kind of had to - he’s always been an advocate for cancer awareness, and even ran the City2Surf as Cure Cancer's Ambassador to raise awareness and funds this year.
Back then, he was an advocate for Bowel Cancer Australia, so he practiced what he preached, did the test and sent off a tiny sample of poo.
That little bit of poo led to a colonoscopy, to the discovery of a whopping cancerous tumour in Anton’s digestive tract, and to a battle for his life.
Anton tells Yahoo Lifestyle that being told you have life-threatening cancer doesn’t pack an emotional punch all at once.
In fact, he found himself walking back into work at the SBS national newsroom hours after his doctor told him the news.
“I immediately went into work after seeing the gastroenterologist and then I did a live broadcast,” he says.
Once that bulletin was over, he was pulled aside by his executive producer and told to go home immediately and stay there until he was ‘better’.
‘Better’, it turned out, was a relative term.
It would be a matter of years, multiple treatments, and ultimately the removal of a full section of his digestive tract before anything resembling ‘better’ could be used to describe Anton.
A slow dawning
When they first spoke about his options and major surgery was suggested, Anton asked if there was an alternative to what he thought was quite an extreme approach.
The doctor responded that there was one other option - death.
“That helped me make up my mind very quickly,” he now jokes, but at the time it hit home with the force of the natural disaster it was.
“It kind of just came at me like a tsunami,” he recalls. “Walking out into the hospital corridor it just hit me and I burst into tears and fortunately I had my partner with me who could at least give me a hug and a shoulder to cry on.”
“I completely lost it,” he says. “It was completely overwhelming.”
From there, Anton went through all the trauma of cancer treatment and it wasn’t until last October, after two long years, that he finally got the all clear and returned to work.
The newsreader may have won his own battle, but bowel cancer was tragically, not done with him yet.
His sister’s tragic fate
His older sister didn’t manage to get the early detection that Anton’s use of the home screening test gave him, and wasn’t diagnosed with the insidious cancer until symptoms already began to manifest.
“(The cancer) was very, very similar to my own,” he says. “She was diagnosed at the end of April this year and she died at the beginning of July.”
The tragedy, so close on the heels of his own, hammered home a brutal reality - that over half of people eligible for the home test don’t take the test and in some cases, are paying a staggering price.
In fact, just 40% of those who get sent the test send it back, meaning 60% are missing out on the possibility of early detection.
Worse, it’s estimated than 90% of bowel cancer victims can be effectively treated if detected early.
Having seen both outcomes of the cancer play out in his own life, Anton isn’t mincing his words when it comes to awareness.
He says it is ‘completely irrational’ that people aren’t taking the test, and that it’s time to get over the ‘yuck factor’.
“It takes five minutes to do, it’s non invasive and it could save your life,” he says.
“So what’s the downside?”
If you want to support Anton’s cause you can donate via his City2Surf fundraising page.
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