Cancer is a leading cause of death around the world.

In Australia, one person is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes –that’s 440 people every day.

One of them was Raimo. This is his story.

Few things are as frightening as hearing your doctor say, “you have cancer”. These distressing words are spoken far too often.

As the population grows and more people reach older ages – where cancer rates are higher – medical research is our best hope to remain healthier for longer.

At WEHI our researchers are committed to uncovering new early diagnostic tools, new ways to prevent illness, and new and improved treatments for cancer and other life‑threatening diseases.

An all-too-common cancer diagnosis

Cancer rates have alarmingly risen over the past 20 years. Shockingly, every day over 440 Australians receive this daunting diagnosis.

Two years after moving to Australia, Raimo was celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife on Hamilton Island.

“I was puffing a lot climbing the hills around the island. I didn’t think much of it other than ‘I need to get fitter’. I bought gym memberships, and my wife and I started working out together. However, I was puzzled because while I got fitter, my aerobic fitness capacity didn’t improve much.

“Five months later, I developed an odd gastro with strong stomach aches that lasted on-and-off for six weeks. The pain became so unbearable that I eventually ended up in emergency.”

At the hospital, Raimo was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.

Graphic of cancer statistics

Treating Raimo’s bowel cancer

Unfortunately, Raimo’s cancer was very complex as it had metastasised – it had spread to his liver.

Raimo’s medical team successfully performed two surgeries after his diagnosis: one to remove the primary tumour in the bowel, and the other one in the liver. After recovering from his surgeries, Raimo underwent six months of chemotherapy treatment.

Cancer patient Raimo photographed in a hospital bed“This was the hardest part of the cancer treatment. Chemotherapy took the life out of me.”

Another side effect of the cancer treatment that greatly affected Raimo’s life was abdominal hernias.

Following the surgeries to remove the tumours from his bowel and liver, he was left with significant scars on his abdomen – over 35cms long. These weakened his abdominal wall, allowing tissue to penetrate and leading to multiple hernias.

Over the course of eight years, Raimo underwent five additional surgeries to address the hernias, including a complete abdominal wall reconstruction to prevent future occurrences.

“After surviving my ordeal, I had a very strong desire to ‘give back’.

WEHI researchers are working on new treatments for bowel cancer

Raimo is currently working with Associate Professor Oliver Sieber and his team, who are conducting pioneering research which uses ‘organoids’ to help cancer patients. Organoids are miniature tumours grown in the laboratory using tissues from patients’ tumours. This means organoids are ideal for testing and determining which drugs, or drug combinations, are most effective for treating each patient’s cancer.

Raimo is now cancer-free and cherishing every moment with his family. He plans to continue to support medical research into bowel cancer, so that everyone diagnosed with this disease can have the same positive outcome.

“I am determined to help change these statistics and improve the health outcomes for all cancer patients. It was me this time, but it could be someone you love in the future who is faced with this ordeal.”

Unfortunately, Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world. Each year, over 16,000 Australians are diagnosed with this insidious disease, just like Raimo.

This is why we need your help now more than ever.

Donate to medical research

Before every great cure comes a breakthrough. Before every WEHI breakthrough comes you.

Please donate today and help our researchers find better diagnostic tests and more effective treatments for diseases that threaten the lives of millions.

Your kind donation now could give you or a loved one a better chance of surviving a life-threatening disease in the future.

You are the cure.

Other ways to donate

To make a credit card donation by phone, please call +61 3 9345 2403 (9am to 5pm AEST).

To donate by cheque, please download this donation form.

If you would like to make a donation via bank transfer, please call our Fundraising team on (03) 9345 2403 or email us at fundraising@wehi.edu.au

To request donation envelopes to use at an event, please contact us on 03 9345 2403 or fundraising@wehi.edu.au.

US supporters can donate via the Chapel & York US Foundation, nominating The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research as a recipient.

Donations to WEHI of $2 or more are fully tax deductible.

Infographic sources:

Banner image: Raimo, cancer survivor and his wife, Tiina.

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