At the age of 42 and after many years of having symptoms which went undetected by the medical profession due to my age I was diagnosed with Advanced Bowel Cancer with a very large tumour. My treatment included eight rounds of chemotherapy and a major operation to remove the tumour along with the removal of two sections of the bowel and appendix as well as a full hysterectomy, this meant I was absent from work for twelve months. Thankfully recovery went well, I have now received the milestone of five years all clear. As you can imagine this was a horrendous time for me and my family but with the love and support of them all and my own quirky way of dealing with things I am on the way to enjoying everything about life.
Below you will find a list of things that helped me during the very dark times and I wish each and every one of you the strength and courage to beat this disease:-
Don’t think about the negatives. Think ‘I am going to survive this’! You can’t do anything about your situation medically but you can think positive thoughts to make the journey easier. It is believed that a positive approach to difficult situations and life in general especially can help in regards to helping with depression and stress. Throughout my illness I never once thought ‘Why me’, obviously at times I felt very low due to chemo but through positive thoughts and actions (e.g. getting washed and dressed every day even to lie on the sofa) helped me to deal with my situation.
Sense of Humour
You will be surprised how dark and warped your sense of humour becomes when faced with a life-changing situation especially if you embrace the POSITIVE THINKING attitude. Your sense of humour enables you to address issues in a way that is easier for you and your family to discuss. As I already had a down and dirty sense of humour this was very helpful, I even named my Cancer ‘Cyril’ so that the word Cancer wasn’t given the spotlight.
Your family and friends will want to help you, so accept any help that is offered. This not only lets you get the rest that you need, but also goes a long way to providing something for your loved ones to do where they feel they are supporting you, because at times they may feel useless so this gives them a sense of being needed. Luckily my family was fantastic and they even did a spreadsheet on who was doing what when, i.e. taking me to chemo, bringing food or even who was providing company that day.
When having a good day (so to speak) use this to maybe start a new hobby or go somewhere different. Obviously, your illness may prevent you from doing some things but going to the cinema or for a walk in the park makes all the difference. This takes you out of the house and provides you with a different experience which doesn’t involve hospitals, doctors, procedures etc. For me it was sewing on a machine my mother bought me kept me going, so the number of patchwork quilts we now own could fill a shop.
You know that no amount of sugar coating is going to disguise your illness and wearing rose-tinted glasses and having tunnel vision isn’t going to get you anywhere. By all means fight the fight but make sure you and your loved ones are prepared; the medical profession knows a lot more than you do so ensure you understand everything they tell you. For me this was when the consultant told me that should all options of treatment fail that I would be given a life expectance, this was when the floor opened up under me and I was hanging onto the edge. At this stage I was determined to fight every step of the way. Thankfully, I won.