Red Apple Day encourages bowel cancer conversations

Sharen Hackfath, Brooke Roberts, Donna Harper and Baringa Private Hospital CEO Jo Brown.

SHAREN Hackfath and Donna Harper are on a mission to get Coffs Coast residents talking about bowel cancer.

Both recent bowel cancer survivors, the pair have set up a local support group, Coffs Colon Cancer (CCC), a platform they will use this Bowel Cancer Awareness Month (June).

Celtic RootsAdvertise with News of The Area today.
It’s worth it for your business.
Message us.
Phone us – (02) 4981 8882.
Email us –

Sharen and Donna are busy spreading two key messages about Australia’s second deadliest cancer: you’re never too young for this insidious disease and early detection is a key to best outcomes.

Red Apple Day Giving Day on Wednesday, 19 June is the big day for bowel cancer conversations in a bid to broaden awareness.

CCC support group volunteers will host three awareness days: Wednesday 19 June at Coffs Harbour health Campus, Thursday 20 June at Baringa Private Hospital and Friday 21 June at Coffs Plaza near Woolworths.

Donna, a registered nurse, is a living example of why early detection of bowel cancer is so important.

“It was only from doing my routine bowel cancer screening test in 2021 when I was 50 that I discovered I had sigmoid cancer,” she told News Of The Area.

“I had no symptoms at the time.”

Her treatment was bowel resection surgery and chemotherapy post-op as the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.

“This year cancer affected my life again when a small metastatic cancer was found in my liver on a routine follow up CT scan with my oncologist.

“I have recently undergone a liver resection in Sydney.

“It was found early and removed so my prognosis is good.”

With this lived experience Donna has expanded her advocacy and is now passionately spreading the word to those who have been treated for bowel cancer to continue being vigilant with follow up care and scans post-treatment.

Sharen, who celebrated her two-year all clear, cancer-free milestone in May 2024, and Donna shared their own personal stories last Red Apple Day.

“Our support for each other was invaluable,” Sharen told NOTA.

“The bowel is not a pretty subject – lacking in funding and support.”

Sharen said the sharing of “experiences, advice and most importantly laughs” in CCC’s face-to-face meet-ups have been fantastic.

“This year we are sharing brave Brooke’s personal story and the huge impact that bowel cancer has had on her life and her family’s.

“A reminder that sadly the disease is affecting younger people more commonly than before.”

Brooke Roberts received her colorectal cancer diagnosis a few weeks after her 40th birthday.

“I had been feeling off for a few months, and at my insistence with the symptoms I was experiencing, my GP sent me for a colonoscopy,” Brooke told NOTA.

“That day finally rolled around, and my world was flipped upside down to hear these words: ‘We’ve found a tumour’.

“I was familiar with what this entails as my nineteen-year-old son sadly lost his dad to this exact same disease in 2019.”

Numerous tests and examinations led to chemotherapy, radiation and then a bowel resection at Baringa Private Hospital

“I express huge gratitude to the treating team: Dr Das, Dr Sutherland, Dr Briscoe, Dr Tahir, and the amazingly wonderful and compassionate team at the North Coast Cancer Institute.

“The wonderful team there really showed empathy and kindness.

“I have now undergone a reversal of my ileostomy and been given the amazing news that I am now cancer-free.”

Life may go back to some form of normality for Brooke, but one thing is for certain.

“Mediocrity will no longer reside in my life,” she said.

“I am extremely grateful to make it through the other side and I put this down to my early detection.

“Early detection is paramount for a good prognosis.”

Brooke said she learnt a lot about herself during this last year of treatment and surgery.

“You really do find out who your tribe is.

“I am forever in debt to all my amazing friends and incredibly resilient son Jake who encouraged, supported, advocated, and helped me.

“My positive mindset also allowed me to take each day as it comes.

“I was fortunate to have an incredible boss at The Shoreline, who supported me to continue working full time through the ordeal.

“Owen’s support was unwavering.”

CEO of Baringa Private Hospital and Ramsay Surgical Centre in Coffs Harbour, Jo Brown is getting behind the CCC’s Red Apple Day.

“Baringa Private Hospital is pleased to be part of this great initiative to raise awareness of bowel cancer and the importance of screening.

“We care for many patients who are affected by bowel cancer, providing treatments from colonoscopies to surgery, chemotherapy and allied health services.

“I didn’t hesitate when approached by the organisers to get involved.

“Knowing all three of these ladies makes it personal for me.

“Donna has been a long-time friend and I have been there through her cancer journey.”

Jo is inspired by the CCC’s great work raising awareness of bowel cancer and providing support to those affected.

“Baringa is proud to be a part of their campaign this year in order to show our support for bowel cancer awareness.”


Now cancer free, Brooke Roberts shares her story on Red Apple Day for bowel cancer awareness in 2024.

Leave a Reply