Find your why – it will keep you going through your darkest of days
I was shocked to learn I had stage III colon cancer last year, as I have always been a healthy eater and a lover of exercise. I hardly drink alcohol and I have never smoked. I have, however, been through some pretty stressful times in my life and I believe this played a part in me getting ill.
Following my diagnosis, I soon learned that my colon cancer symptoms started like so many other people’s, with blood in the stool. This occurred a few months prior to my diagnosis and a couple of months after that I developed a pain in my left side, which can only be described as a period pain. This pain only lasted for short spells of time. I later realised this must have been when whatever I had eaten passed the tumour site. Colon cancer used to be referred to as a disease for older people and lovers of meat, but I have come across many young people, mainly women, who are far from this stereotype.
Straight after my surgery, tests were done and I found out that the cancer had made it to the lymph nodes and that chemotherapy was recommended. I wasn’t sure whether to go ahead with the treatment, as let’s be honest, it is some really strong, toxic shit, but as it severely upped my chances of surviving five years, I decided on a treatment plan which combined conventional and alternative treatment. My husband and I read a lot of books and did a lot of research to prepare and in the end going through chemotherapy turned out ok – although I decided to stop after seven out of eight cycles, as I didn’t want any of the side effects to become permanent.
A few things I found incredibly helpful during my treatment journey were the treatment support clinics at Penny Brohn and the help available from a UK charity called Yes to Life. They work closely with a remarkable lady called Patricia Peat; a consultation with her helped me prepare for chemotherapy and to stay strong throughout. She is an ex-oncology nurse, so she knows a lot about the conventional side of things, as well as the complementary treatments. I also found the silver gloves (look them up) a godsend, as the chemotherapy for colon cancer affects your nerves and give you spasms and sensitivity to cold.
My advice to anyone who has recently been diagnosed: try not to read too much into statistics as everyone’s situation, treatment experience and journey is completely different. I would also recommend taking a proactive role throughout your treatment and healing journey. I found that this made me feel somewhat in control of the situation. Also, remember that there is plenty of time to think about your decisions. From what the doctors think, my tumour had been there for about five years before we found it due to its symptoms. Don’t let anyone push you into doing something you don’t want to do. It is your decision and your body. Above all, my main piece of advice is to find your own ‘why’. The reason why you will get through this and why you want to live. Mine was my kids. They kept me going every single day.
I am currently in remission and I feel pretty strong most days. I am back in the gym and I’m trying to keep on top of my clean eating and all the supplements I take, which I believe has brought me to where I am today. I am determined to live my life to the maximum and I won’t let what I’ve been through define me.