David credits bowel screening with saving his life

David Vinsen shares his story of being diagnosed with bowel cancer and undergoing treatment.

"Do the test; don’t be scared about it. It’s not at all embarrassing or awkward."

Title: Screening stories - David Vinsen

[David in his office, working on his computer]

I’m David Vinsen. I’m 68, and I live in Auckland.

I have a range of business activities; I’ve got something of a portfolio career, so I have a pretty active life.

David was shocked when his bowel cancer screening test came back positive.

He was referred for a colonoscopy – a procedure often carried out under mild sedation.

[David to camera]

I came out of that sedation part-way through the procedure and I heard the surgeon say “Oh, I don’t like the look of this fella” as he looked at one of the polyps.

He’d taken a few out, they were all fine. But this particular one he thought was pre-cancerous, he’d identified it, and it turned out to be that.

So it was early stages, it was not invasive and it hadn’t spread, so I was very fortunate.

I’m two and a bit years down the track. I had surgery in February 2015. And I’ve just had a battery of tests on the second anniversary and I’ve been pronounced clear, as I was last year.

The bowel cancer screening programme test is very simple. One small sample, put it in the envelope and post it off and that’s it. Very, very easy.

So do the test, don’t be scared about it. And the second thing is, if you are diagnosed put your hand up, tell people about it, and seek the support from people around you, those who love you and those who care for you.

Hopefully the majority of people will be clear and for those people who are not, it’s a good chance of early detection.

Aucklander David Vinsen lives in a three generation household, which includes his daughter and two grandchildren.

The 68 year old describes himself as having a portfolio career, which includes owning a property management franchise along with his wife and being the chief executive of the NZ Imported Motor Vehicle Association.

David leads a busy and active life, and it came as a shock when the test he completed through the Waitemata District Health Board bowel screening pilot came back positive.

“I was sent for a colonoscopy, which found an early stage cancer. I was very fortunate that it wasn’t invasive and hadn’t spread widely,” David says.

“I had major surgery to remove the cancer in February 2015, a colostomy bag for 4 months, minor surgery to connect things up again (basically a plumbing exercise), and a period of recuperation. Not at all a pleasant experience, but far better than the alternative.

“I’ve just had a battery of tests on the second anniversary of my surgery – and been pronounced clear, as I was last year. My surgeon explained that the difference between a clearance and a cure is that if I go a total of five years with no signs of cancer, I’m considered cured; and I’m absolutely confident that they’ve got everything.”

David is delighted that bowel screening is going to be available nationwide. He is encouraging those who are invited to do the free bowel screening test to take up the opportunity.

“Do the test; don’t be scared about it. It’s not at all embarrassing or awkward. There’s no inconvenience. All you’ve got to do is take one small sample at home, post it off in the envelope and that’s it.

“And if you are among the small group who are diagnosed with cancer, let those close to you know about it and seek their support. You’ll be amazed at the support you get from family, friends and colleagues.

“I also think men, who can sometimes be reluctant to go to the doctor, should consider going for a regular health check-up on or around their birthday. 

“We look after our vehicles and have them regularly serviced and inspected. We should do the same for ourselves.”

Page last updated: 21 July 2017