Cancer news: Parents ‘worst nightmare’ as Australian man diagnosed with cancer hours after wife

Home Family Cancer news: Parents ‘worst nightmare’ as Australian man diagnosed with cancer hours after wife

A “lovely” Adelaide couple with two young children are “in shock” after both being diagnosed with cancer on the same day.

Kirsty Lee got a call from her GP last Tuesday morning to tell her she had stage 3 breast cancer.

Just hours later, her husband Steve Lee went to hospital to be told by his surgeon that he needed to start a fight against rectal cancer.

A husband and wife have both been diagnosed with cancer - on the same day. Kirsty Lee and husband Steve, were both told they have the disease.
Kirsty Lee, left, has stage 3 breast cancer and Steve Lee, right has rectal cancer, a type of bowel cancer. (Supplied)

They are looking down the barrel of a year of treatment, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

All while caring for their five-year-old daughter and four-year-old son.

A family friend of the Lees spoke to 9news.com.au with the couple’s permission and said they were still reeling over the diagnoses.

”They are still processing it,” Sonya Kohlhagen said.

“Steve had some abnormal results from a colonoscopy the week before and they suspected rectal cancer.”

Now the timber salesman will face radiotherapy, then chemotherapy.

Kohlhagen, whose husband went to school with Steve, said Kirsty had a mammogram after finding a lump in her breast.

The government worker will need 12 months of chemotherapy.

A husband and wife have both been diagnosed with cancer - on the same day. Kirsty Lee and husband Steve, were both told they have the disease.
A husband and wife have both been diagnosed with cancer – on the same day. Kirsty Lee and husband Steve, were both told they have the disease. (Supplied)

The couple met eight years ago and got married just before pandemic lockdowns in 2020, with Kohlhagen describing them as “lovely”.

She said neither had been unwell before they were diagnosed and are fearful cancer will stop them from continuing to lead active lives.

“They’re just really unassuming and humble,” she said.

“Just really happy with the simple things in life.”

“Their life really is family.”

A husband and wife have both been diagnosed with cancer - on the same day. Kirsty Lee and husband Steve, were both told they have the disease.
Government worker Kirsty Lee will have 12 months chemotherapy, and husband Steve Lee faces radiotherapy then chemo. (Supplied)

“They go for bike rides and to the beach, so the thought they will have times where they can’t get out of bed, I think that’s what gets them.”

The Kohlhagens have started a fundraiser for the pair, amid what she called their “worst nightmare”.

The Canberra couple want to raise money to help with Kirsty and Steve’s rent, bills, treatment and childcare.

“This will be tough. It’s tough for everyone going through it. They have limited leave entitlements,” they wrote on a crowd fundraising platform.

“They’ll probably need to move out of their house.

“But to see them go through it at the same time, and with kids at that age, that’s what really breaks my heart.”

A husband and wife have both been diagnosed with cancer - on the same day. Kirsty Lee and husband Steve, were both told they have the disease.
Mother-of-two Kirsty Lee has been told she has breast cancer. (Supplied)

How common is bowel cancer and what are the symptoms?

Rectal cancer is a form of bowel cancer, which is one of the 10 most common in Australia.

More than 15,700 people were expected to be diagnosed in 2022 alone, according to Cancer Australia.

In 2020, bowel cancer was the second highest cause of cancer death in Australia.

But, 71 per cent of people survive five years or more.

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, develops from the inner lining of the bowel and is usually preceded by growths called polyps.

Bowel cancer may be called colon or rectal cancer depending on where it begins.

Aussies over 50 can get free screenings for the disease.

You can find out more information on the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program here. 

Bowel cancer symptoms include:

Change in bowel habits including diarrhoea or constipation

  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent urination

How common is breast cancer and what are the symptoms?

Breast cancer is the abnormal growth of the cells lining the breast lobules or ducts.

This year 20,640 women and 212 men were expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to Cancer Australia.

It’s the second most common cancer but also one of the most survivable, with 92 per cent of people living five years later.

  • Lumps or thickening in the breast
  • Nipple sores or discharge
  • Changes in size or shape
  • Swelling or pain in armpits

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