CHARITY: Dr Sarah Barlow pictured with her dog Lucy. Picture: Warren Lynam.
CHARITY: Dr Sarah Barlow pictured with her dog Lucy. Picture: Warren Lynam.

‘This can’t be right’: Cancer patient creates lasting legacy

AT THE age of 35 Dr Sarah Barlow's life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer and told she "didn't have much time to live".

The paediatric doctor, medical researcher, lecturer and author was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in November 2018.

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Later it developed into stage four after radical surgery and six months of chemotherapy failed.

In an effort to spare others from the same fate Dr Barlow established the Dr Sarah Barlow Bowel Cancer Foundation to provide research grants to groups focusing on the early diagnosis and effective management of young people with bowel (colorectal) cancer.

The born and bred Coast local was shocked after being diagnosed at a young age with limited symptoms.

"I had missed work for three days in a month period and I got checked because I felt guilty for not working, not because I felt my symptoms were severe," she said.

"That's when they found a big tumour.

"When they told me I said, 'no this can't be right'."

Dr Barlow said it was with a lot of difficulty that she came to terms with her illness.

"Especially when they told me it was terminal and had a limited life span," she said.

"But I would like to leave a legacy … that will continue once I have left this earth."

Ms Barlow became aware of the increased rates of bowel cancer in young people and said most of the research was for patients aged over 50.

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She said she wanted the foundation to put a bigger spotlight on the younger demographic impacted by the disease.

"Over the last 20 years there has been an increase of diagnosis for people in there 20, 30 and 40s getting bowel cancer and it's not really known why, and unfortunately there is no screening test like there is for people of more than 50 years of age," she said.

"Once young people are diagnosed it's because they are symptomatic and when they are symptomatic it's because it's advanced and when it's advanced there are limited treatment options.

"I hope the foundation leads to more people being diagnosed earlier and effective management that will stop young people from dying."

The Dr Sarah Barlow Bowel Cancer Foundation is a charity formed by Dr Sarah Barlow and her family to raise money for bowel cancer research. Picture: Warren Lynam.
The Dr Sarah Barlow Bowel Cancer Foundation is a charity formed by Dr Sarah Barlow and her family to raise money for bowel cancer research. Picture: Warren Lynam.

Today Barlow Shelley Consulting Engineers directors Tony Shelley, Cameron Landreth and Peter Barlow donated $10,000 to the charity.

Ms Barlow's father Peter Barlow, who is well known for his involvement with many major residential developments on the Sunshine Coast, said he was proud of his daughter.

"It was step by step after Sarah was diagnosed and unfortunately when we got news it was always bad for quite a while, but we realised you've just got to do the best we can with what you've got," he said.

"The foundation has given all of us something to look forward to and it has given Sarah something to focus on."

For further information visit the Dr Sarah Barlow Bowel Cancer Foundation Facebook page.


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