Devastating reason for Aussie tradie's 'beer bloat'

The 36-year-old has been told his bowel cancer is incurable but his response to the news has been surprising.

It’s not often that you meet a cancer patient who doesn’t want to Google the disease that may one day snatch their life away, but Nathan Lawrence has no interest in being given a timeline.

The 36-year-old is a father of two and when doctors told him last month that the five centimetre mass inside his colon was metastatic bowel cancer, the tradie from Lake Macquarie in the NSW Hunter Region requested not to be told what stage it was at.

“I’m in a really good mind frame and I'm gonna go beat this,” he told Yahoo News Australia. “And if my mind can beat it, my body can beat it, so I don’t want any kind of negativity.”

Nathan and Ilana Lawrence on their wedding day on the beach (left) and the couple with their two daughters (right).
Nathan Lawrence knew something was wrong when he started to experience symptoms 12 months ago. Source: Supplied

It’s a positivity that also radiates from his wife Ilana, who described her husband as a “trooper”.

“The day that we found out about the cancer, is pretty much the only day that I’ve seen him very upset and distraught by the information,” she told Yahoo News Australia.

“And then since that day, I guess a candle has been lit. It was like a switch. You could see it in his eyes. It was like, ‘I’m going to beat this’.”

The couple, who have two daughters aged four years and nine months, are just grateful that they caught the cancer when they did.

“Just like a lot of tradie blokes”, Lawrence – who owns his own residential building company – said he loved having a beer. So when he first noticed 12 months ago that a few stools weren’t normal, he brushed it off as the result of excess drinking.

But when the 36-year-old continued to feel unwell with continual bloating and cramping and couldn’t put his finger on the cause, he sought out his GP.

“I acted on it and got blood tests straight away,” he explained. “I gave stool samples too. I just knew something wasn't right. But nothing showed up from those results.”

He thought it could be an intolerance so tried eliminating certain foods, as well as coffee and beer. “But it didn’t matter what we did, everything started to make him feel crook,” Ilana said. “That's when he went back to the doctor and just said: 'There's definitely something wrong, I need a colonoscopy’.”

The couple with their two daughters on their christening day (left) and the couples with their girls in a restaurant (right).
The 36-year-old is a father to a four-year-old and nine-month-old girl and husband to Ilana. Source: Supplied

After initially being told that there were no specialist appointments available until the end of May, a last minute cancellation meant Lawrence was able to undergo the procedure on April 26. Afterwards, his wife – who’s on maternity leave – was called to collect him.

“I thought that we were just going to be doing a massive Woolworths shop, like for foods for all the tolerances,” she explained. Instead, her husband delivered the devastating news.

“He just goes, ‘You need to sit down’, and as soon as he said that I knew there was something wrong."

Since being told that Lawrence has colonic bowel cancer that has metastasized to the lymph nodes in the lining of the abdomen, the couple have learned to “become comfortable with the term incurable”.

As scary as it sounds, they said, there are treatments, but the best known in the world right now is not readily funded or available in Australia.

The ‘two-pronged-approach’ of Ipilimumab and Nivolumab has only just undergone clinical trials in America – with positive results – and while Lawrence can now access it, it comes at a cost.

Lawrence holding his two girls (left) and Lawrence in a hospital chair with a drip in his arm (right).
Lawrence is determined to fight his bowel cancer and is remaining positive. Source: Supplied

“One drug is $11,000 and for a full cycle, you need it four times within a two year period,” Ilana explained. “The other is $3,000 and you need that every two to three weeks for a period of two years.”

All up, including other out of pocket expenses, the family is looking at a $125,000 bill. But they aren’t alone.

Family and friends have rallied around the couple living through their darkest hour, by setting up a GoFundMe page and delivering an outpouring of support. So far the account has raised more than $58,000, but there’s still a way to go before Lawrence can commit to being able to afford the emerging treatment.

Until then, the father to Harriet and Minnie will receive the immunotherapy drug readily available in Australia.

Lawrence with his wife and two girls outside a door (left) and his two girls wearing bunny ears (right).
The family is hoping to raise enough money to fund an emerging treatment from America. Source: Supplied

“We made that decision because we didn’t want to wait for treatment,” Ilana said. “We figured that some treatment, even if it's not the best, is better than no treatment.”

Once the family has the funds, they’ll be able to switch over to the American drugs. In the meantime, they’re remaining hopeful.

“The funds raised have been pretty overwhelming to be honest, it’s getting traction now among friends of friends and everyone’s been very generous,” Lawrence said.

While Ilana is just glad that they have a plan, and said that it's the drive to keep them going and keep them strong.

“It was hard for me when we first found out that Nathan had cancer, because I would just watch him play with the kids and I would just start crying in the park because I couldn’t help thinking that this is going to be the last time he plays with the kids.

“But he’s a stubborn person. He’s not a quitter. So this is like just another thing on the cards. It’s just a challenge. It's a marathon for him.”

You can help support Lawrence and his family by donating to their GoFundMe page here.

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