UNCLE david copley

Bowel cancer survivor

Uncle david is a southern elder of kaurna and a peramangk man from the adelaide plains, south australia


"Immediately my Aboriginal brain, my traditional brain kicked in which said if you get cancer then you must have done something really bad.

People don't want to talk to you or come near you in case they get it too, whatever 'it' is.

My nursing training vanished, it completely went out the door.

It took me 6 or 7 weeks to get out of that head space.

It was a very powerful and dark place to be in. I felt like I was dead now."


"I was unwell on a holiday and my family forced me to visit my GP.

It was a comedy of errors as the test was dodgy and gave a negative result which led the GP to diagnose constipation.

The pain was great and I saw a gastroenterologist surgeon friend on a Friday and by Monday I was booked in for surgery. They discovered a huge tumour. It had been there for 5-6 years and my whole bowel was blocked.

I worked through my year of chemotherapy to keep my head together so I didn't go nuts. I was lucky to be able to go home each night, take my shoes off and walk on country to put my head in charge of my body.

Aboriginal males are lousy at their own health. We are really bad you know. We need a kick up the backside regularly, not just once by our families, to go and have a health check.

If you are due for a bowel screening, go and have the screening. The trick is to have a regular health check. Regular checks will pick up the other stuff and you can have that treated too.

learn more of Uncle david's story

The Stories of Survival Men's Project is a joint project between Menzies School of Health Research and Oxfam Australia.

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