World Cancer Day Q&A

Any Human Heart, Cancer & Me

Hello all, happy World Cancer Day!

As a way of highlighting the fact that it is World Cancer Day I thought that I would answer a few of the questions I’m repeatedly asked about my cancer experience, so here we go…

What was the best thing that someone did / bought for you when you had cancer?

People are always asking me this because they want to know how they can help someone else.  You don’t need to wait to be asked to do something, no one is going to mind you turning up with a casserole, they will love it, but equally don’t expect to eat it with them or be messaging twice a day asking for the dish back because that just makes it stressful.  Do things without expecting anything back.

The gifts I appreciated the most were uplifting DVD’s (keyword uplifting) and microwaveable gloves and booties as your extremities can get very cold when you are having chemotherapy.

Do your children know you had cancer and how did you talk to them about the illness?

When I was diagnosed my son had just turned two years old and my daughter was three months old.  My son could see I was very sick so we always explained it in a language he would understand.  Things like, mummy has an owee and the doctor is giving her special medicine and we have always tried to encourage both kids to ask plenty of questions.

As my kids got older they’ve asked more questions which I have answered as honestly as possible so they now know that I had an illness called cancer.  They also know that the reasons we do so many Cancer Research UK campaigns is because they raise money to help people like mummy get better and I just love being able to tell them that!  My wish is that one day every parent can tell their child that they are cancer free.

It is really tough being a mum whose sick, there are no two ways about it. I actually wrote an article about coping strategies and the subject gets a whole chapter in the book because being a mum with any long-term serious illness has such a massive impact.

Was writing a book about having cancer therapeutic?

It was but it wasn’t always easy.  I remember when writing about (and reliving) the moments that I was so low I wanted to give up, I came away from my computer crying.  But at the same time, that was what I wanted, an honest account that did approach the harder emotional parts of having cancer, so I felt I had to go through that.  I think that, combined with the time that has passed, definitely helped me come to terms with what I went through.

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Wearing my Cancer Research UK Unity Band

Have you got an advice to anyone wanting to write about their cancer experience?

I think writing is a unique and amazing way to process emotions, good and bad.  Obviously you don’t have to keep a blog or write a book, it can be private thoughts just for yourself.  If you do want to publish, I think WordPress is an excellent blogging platform, it’s what I use.  If you want to write and don’t know where to start, check out a book like Let It Out by Katie Dalebout which gives prompts and different ways of looking at your illness.

What is it like for you when people donate to Cancer charities?

Ok, so the only people who ever ask me this are cancer charities but it really is an AMAZING feeling!  You feel like people are doing something very personal for you and your family – they are helping to ensure that you live.  It feels incredibly personal and incredibly moving.  I feel the same way about people who volunteer in charity shops.  Because of YOU, I was offered a type of chemotherapy that my mother, 8 years earlier, wasn’t.  The fact that people I don’t know and never will are actively doing something which helped save my life is a very unique and powerful feeling that I can’t fully articulate.

If you want to be one of those amazing people – great news – you can!  Give whatever you can to the cancer charity of your choice and know that you are doing something this World Cancer Day to literally change the life of someone with cancer!

With love & Unity! x

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Writing Wednesday Vlog – Part 1

Cancer & Me, Vlogs, Writing & Blogging

Hello all,

This is something that I have been putting together for a while and I am SO pleased to finally be uploading my first Writing Wednesday Vlog.

This series is really about the joy of writing and living more creatively. Using writing to help you through trauma or negative experiences, or just for the plain fun of it!

I really hope that you enjoy this vlog and if you do please share the love.

Happy Watching x

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The Bourne Diagnosis – Nicola B & the Big C

Cancer & Me

I posted this article 2 years ago today and it is still one of my most read… My experience getting diagnosed with colorectal cancer and beyond…

Nicola Bourne

I knew that I had cancer.  I had a strong inner feeling and I knew.  I was experiencing textbook symptoms and had a basic knowledge based on a strong family history – my mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandfather all died from Bowel Cancer at ‘young’ ages.  Even so, getting diagnosed was not as easy as it should have been.

I had been getting rectal bleeding on and off, probably since 2006.  Over the years I had visited various GPs but they always said the same, that I was too young to have  Bowel Cancer, it was probably a small internal cut and if the bleeding went,  there was nothing to worry about.  The bleeding would stop so as far as the GPs were concerned, that was that.  I now know that the bleeding was probably polyps in the colon, which can bleed intermittently and it is these polyps that grow into cancerous…

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1st Birthday of The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

I cannot believe that my book was published a year ago today!  Happy Birthday to my book!  The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer was a labour of love and nothing compares to the getting wonderful, heartfelt messages from ladies who have been touched or helped in some way by reading it.  I have written honestly about the parts of writing a book about cancer which can be difficult in an earlier blog post but those emails and messages I get from people – knowing that I have been able to use my love of writing and turn something so negative into something positive is, quite simply, amazing.

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Over the last year I have posted a few blog posts on writing and why I wrote The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer, I think my favourite is What Do You Wish You Had Done?  It is something I try to keep in my mind, what do I wish I had done and what do I still want to do.  It can be so easy to fall into a routine and stop pushing yourself but this post reminds me that no one else is going to make amazing things in my life happen.

And I think we should all ideally not wait for a near death experience to push us into action.  We owe it to our future selves to create the life we want.

It never ceases to amaze me, just how many people are effected by cancer; how it comes round and round, time and time again, yet I also know that if I had my cancer ten-years ago, I would not have survived.  Now I am 3 years into remission and it is only getting better.  More and more of us are surviving even extreme cancer diagnosis’ and I love that my words can help others who are going through similar experiences.

Publishing this book was one of my proudest moments, along with this blog and I really want to send a heartfelt thanks to all of you who have read, commented, reviewed, been involved, anything… Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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To anyone who had or had cancer I just want to say… You are so strong, especially on the day’s that you don’t think that you are, the days that you want to give up, those are the days when you are actually the strongest because you keep going.  You are going to do things you only dreamt of before.  You are going to be even more amazing because at one point you were stripped of all and (if not now, in time) you will rebuild.  Give yourself time and be kind to yourself and let the magic of life unfold.

Happy Birthday book x

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What it’s Really Like to Write a Book about Cancer

Cancer & Me, Writing & Blogging

It wasn’t easy writing a book about one of the worst experiences I’ve had to encounter. I remember when writing the section about chemotherapy, I swear I could feel the cannula in my hand and the chemo seeping up my arm. Similarly when writing about the emotional side of cancer, reliving the rollercoaster once again and remembering points I was so low I wanted to give up, I came away from my computer crying.

Read the rest of the article on Medium

This weekend ‘The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer’ is only 99p on Kindle

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Top 5 Things To Do When a Loved One Has Cancer

Any Human Heart, Cancer & Me

I know that finding out someone has cancer can be just as daunting for a friend or family member as it can be for he person who has just been diagnosed.  Suddenly you are on the side-lines desperate to help and not alway sure what to do, so here are my top ideas…

  1. Listen…

This is definitely the most important and evidently not as easy as you may think because I mean really listen!

If they are talking about their type of cancer, avoid jumping in with comparisons of your friends-friends-Grandmothers-cousin who knew someone with the a similar cancer, because they are trying to talk about their cancer. In doing so they are probably getting their own head around what is happening to them, and need to say it all out loud, so… just listen.

If they are talking to you about their fears, don’t cut them off and tell them to think positively.  They are valid fears (however irrational) and they obviously feel the need to voice them to a loved one, so… just listen.

Whatever the circumstance, just listen!

  1. Take Food…

photo 1Freeze-able food is ideal. Especially when having chemotherapy your appetite isn’t great meaning having little bits to pick at is ideal, if possible, freeze food as small portions then they can have a little now and a little later.  Plus, if your friend is tired, not having to cook and clean up makes eating much easier.

Little snacks are also great. My neighbour used to drop in flapjacks, which were amazing and so handy when I needed a little boost but not a whole meal.

  1. Think About Their Primary Careers…

In some ways I think me having cancer was harder for husband (primary career)! He had to cope with all the fallout, look after me, take over all my responsibilities in the home, do the night-feeds for our baby, work his normal job, etc etc… and without the same level of support or care that I was lucky to experience.

My dad used to do food shops when I was ill and would always buy something’s that were easy to cook that my husband could chuck in the oven, or if you are cooking for your friend, maybe do some extra for their career, but let them know it is for them! Tell them they are doing an awesome job and ask what tasks you can take on for them. Offer to watch the kids at the weekend so they can catch up on some much-needed rest.

It will make your loved one with cancer feel so much better knowing that the people looking after them, are being looked after too.

  1. Just Do It…

Similarly to the point made above, I found it difficult to ask people for help because I didn’t want to burden people. With the ideas listed above, I don’t think you need to wait to be asked, if you are going round – take food / an uplifting movie for them to watch.  Even if you’re not going round – drop some in and leave (don’t use it as an excuse to stay). Phone their husband/wife and say, “why don’t I take the kids to the park on Saturday so you can get some rest.”  They may not want to impose and ask but be thrilled when someone offers.

  1. Be Flexible…

If you do offer to do something, don’t be offended if they say no. Or if they say yes and then cancel. With cancer, you rarely know how you are going to feel from one day to the next – sometimes from one hour to the next so accept that arrangements are very fluid and subject to change at any moment and that is OK because this isn’t about you, it’s about your loved one getting through the best way they can find with your wonderful support.

Any other suggestions?  Leave a comment and let us know! Nx

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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – Day 18 – Know Your Colostomy from your Ileostomy

Cancer & Me, Colosto-ME

Day 17 – My DictiOSTOMY!

This is something that is commonly confused, especially by the media, so this is basically it in my version of a dictionary – My DictiOSTOMY

STOMA

Stoma, literally translated, means ‘mouth’ or opening.  In this case referring to the opening from the colon coming through the abdomen.

COLOSTOMY

The more common, or at least the most referred too, is the colostomy.  A colostomy is formed by a stoma being made from the large intestine and brought through the abdomen wall.  A colostomy bag can then be attached to the skin to collect any waste.  A colostomy hangs on the persons left side.

ILEOSTOMY

An ileostomy is basically the same as a colostomy but it is made from the small intestine and the waste is generally still a liquid.  An ileostomy bag is then attached to the skin again to collect waste.  An ileostomy hangs on the persons right side.

OSTOMY

Keeping it general, it is referring to be both colostomy’s and ileostomy’s.

OSTOMATE

Someone who has an ostomy.

So there you have it, a little break down of the lingo so you know what we are all talking about! 🙂

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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – Day 14 – When I Knew Something Was Wrong and My Symptoms

Cancer & Me, Colosto-ME

Day 14 – When I Knew Something Was Wrong and My Symptoms

I will always remember the look on the colonoscopy consultant’s face when he told me he had found a tumour he believed to be cancerous.  Pure shock.  The nurse looked like she was going to cry and my husband’s jaw was somewhere near the floor.  This was the beginning of me having cancer for them.  But for me, my cancer experience had started much earlier…

I had been getting rectal bleeding, that was very on and off, for around 8 years.  A classic sign of Bowel Cancer.  Over the years I had visited various GPs but they always said the same, that I was too young to have Bowel Cancer (a common misconception –  Remember Day 4?)  It was probably a small internal cut and if the bleeding went, there was nothing to worry about (another misconception – Remember Day 5?) The bleeding would stop, so that was that. In hindsight this could have probably been dealt with in the early stages if my initial concerns and symptoms had been taken seriously.

This is why I keep repeating over and over during Bowel Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) that

the only way to truly know is to have a colonoscopy so get a referral from your GP!

The rectal bleeding now combined with discomfort when going to the toilet became intolerable during my second pregnancy in 2011.  I returned to the GP three times during that pregnancy, always with the same responses from the GP.  When my symptoms continued after my daughter was born, I quite literally fought for tests until my GP gave in and referred me for a colonoscopy.  The colonoscopy consultant found the tumour before he had even inserted the camera.

My daughter was only 6 weeks old and my son had just turned 2 years old.

Another symptom was extreme tiredness and fatigue but its only on reflection I am able to see that.  At the time I just put it down to life!  Being a new mum.  A lot going on.  Like I said, life.  Having said that I had said to my husband before “I swear there is something wrong with me, I know I have all these things going on but it can’t be normal to be this tired all the time!”  Now I know it is because my body was attempting to fight my cells turning on themselves.

I know it is harder to diagnose but do keep an eye on your energy levels as they can be a strong indicator that something is wrong.

 

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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – Day 13

Cancer & Me

Day 13 – Take Responsibility for Your Own Health

If you are unhappy with the direction your GP is taking, do not be nervous to ask for a second opinion or to push for a referral.

It is what doctors are there for… to assist you with your health.

Unfortunately things do occasionally get overlooked or misdiagnosed, or a certain doctor may have fixed ideas of a Bowel Cancer patient which they don’t believe you fit into.

That is why it is important that you take responsibility for your own health.  That means know your own body, know when something is wrong and have the confidence to make sure someone does something about it!

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Bowel Cancer Awareness Month – Day 8 – The Truth of the Colonoscopy

Cancer & Me, Colosto-ME

A colonoscopy is a simple procedure where a tiny camera is inserted in to the colon so the doctor can see exactly what is going on in the large intestine.

Before the Procedure…

You have to drink what can only be described as a minging drink, which will act as a laxative to empty the bowel.  This allows the doctor to get a good look at the intestine lining.  I’m not going to lie, it’s not the most pleasant experience (especially when you have a colostomy), but it’s a lot more pleasant than  having cancer or whatever illness you are being checked for, trust me!

Top Tip – Stay at home when you take the drinks so you can be near your own toilet, things do get moving quite quickly and frequently.

At the Colonoscopy…

You may be offered gas and air or a sedative, I have done both and I would definitely recommend the sedative.  It makes the procedure much more comfortable.  The sedative is given through an injection in the back of the hand.

Top Tip – Do not worry about the procedure.  I remember being so freaked out by the thought of having the procedure but in truth, the thought of having a colonoscopy is immeasurably worse than the reality.

The camera is entered through the rectum, so you will lay on your side so the doctor can insert the camera.  Or if you have an ostomy, the camera will be entered through the stoma.  Pictures from the camera are shown on a TV screen so you may be able to look – should you be so inclined?!

They Looking For…

Any irregularities in the bowel lining.

Polyps, which are small growths that the doctor can remove using a small polyp remover that is on the end of the camera.

Top Tip – You won’t feel anything if they do remove polyps, so don’t be concerned about that.

After the Colonoscopy…

You will be given a little time to rest and relax and allow the sedative to wear off.

The doctor or nurse should speak with you and let you know how the procedure went, as well as if they removed any polyps or tissue for biopsy.  Results from a biopsy can take a few days and they should be able to let you know exactly how long and how you will get your results when they speak with you.

Top Tip – In my case, they discovered a large cancerous tumour and I was taken aside so the consultant could speak with me privately and give me my diagnosis.  I had my husband with me and appreciated having the support when getting the news.  If possible I would try to have someone you trust with you.

You will not be able to drive if you have had a sedative so arrange for someone to take you home.

Occasionally having the procedure can cause some problems to the large intestine…  

I have had 3 or 4 colonoscopy’s now and have never had a problem but do speak with your doctor if you experience any of the following…

  • Abdominal pain – particularly if it becomes gradually worse or is different from any ‘usual’ pains that you may experience.
  • A high temperature.
  • Passing a lot of blood from the rectum.

Colonoscopy’s really are the most effective way to see if you have any kind of growths in the bowel.  CT and MRI scans only show part of what is going on inside the intestine.

If you are genuinely concerned about a bowel condition, make sure that your GP refers you for a colonoscopy, nothing else will really give the insight needed.

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