JODI LEE'S first inkling of ill health was when she awoke with sharp stomach pains in the night.
In the next two years the 41-year-old mother of two was diagnosed with cancer.
She underwent emergency surgery and therapy but passed away from stage four bowel cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes and liver.
The fight against the deadly disease was given a boost yesterday when Treasurer Wayne Swan announced $49.7 million, from Tuesday's federal budget, to widen the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.
When fully implemented, all Australians aged between 50 and 74 years will be offered screening every two years.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in Australia, killing about 80 people each week and 5000 each year.
Yet, if detected early, 90 per cent of bowel cancer is curable.
Mr Swan, himself a prostate cancer survivor, said biennial screening could prevent between 300 and 500 Australian deaths annually.
Mr Swan also announced $50,000 funding for the Jodi Lee Foundation to continue its work to raise awareness of the benefits of bowel cancer screening.
Jodi's husband, foundation chief executive and founder, Nick Lee, joined Mr Swan and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek at the Canberra Hospital for yesterday's announcement.
Mr Lee said the funding was a vital step towards reducing the high number of deaths from bowel cancer.
Mr Lee conceded that even if the program was introduced earlier, his wife's youth would have precluded her from screening.
But the 42-year-old was pleased his work to raise awareness would be backed up by government funded screening.
''Screening is imperative because so often people don't experience symptoms until it's too late and if detected early, 90 per cent of cases can be cured,'' Mr Lee said.
''The expansion of this program is a very positive initiative and one we're confident will help save many lives.''
■To learn more, visit www.jodileefoundation.org.au.