Robbie was diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 37: ‘listen to your body’

Robbie Barnes has been a resident of western Sydney for more than three decades. At just 37 years of age he started to experience symptoms which resulted in a bowel cancer diagnosis and drastic surgery to save his life.

Robbie spent New Years Eve this year back in hospital, and it marked the beginning of a three month extended stay at Westmead Hospital to tackle his latest bout of poor health.

His most recent surgery saw the removal of a large part his bowel, as well as complex surgery sealing his bottom.

I would like to thank everyone involved in my care at Westmead Hospital – the Doctors, General Nurses and Stoma Nurses, Physios, Caterers, Cleaners, Orderlies, and Chaplains.

WSLHD patient Robbie Barnes

During the early days of his hospitalisation, medical professionals discovered complications from a previous surgery at a different hospital – he had developed necrosis which affected his organs.

Robbie’s New Years Eve visit saw him spend 73 days at Westmead Hospital, with his time split between the High Dependency and Gastroenterology Wards.

At the time of writing, Robbie’s health has improved – he describes it as “still not the best but slowly improving”.

He’s now back working on basic woodworking hobbies and is hopeful to return to the gym and start playing tennis again.

This Red Apple Day, 21 June 2023, Robbie wanted to share his advice with any young people who are putting off going to the doctor when something’s not feeling right.

Red Apple Day is an annual event dedicated to raising awareness about bowel cancer and promoting early detection and prevention strategies.

“Listen to your body – as soon as you think something is wrong seek professional help from a doctor and start the treatment plan so a simple problem does not become a life threatening one.”

Robbie also credited his care team at Westmead Hospital for looking after him.

“I am grateful for the high quality care that I was given.”

In terms of what’s next for Robbie’s health, he will continue his cancer treatment with a second three-month round of chemotherapy and an additional two surgeries.

The Pulse started following Robbie’s journey last year. Read more here.

Westmead Hospital’s Endoscopy Department provides high quality screening examinations for patients referred as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Find more information about Westmead Hospital’s Rapid Access Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) Clinic here.