The Reality of Getting Ill After Cancer

Cancer & Me

What do you do, when your favourite place is also your absolute worst?  When I remember having cancer I am always in one of two places.  One (as you would expect) is the hospital, the other is in bed at home.  Both were accompanied by dark emotions of fear, anxiety and discomfort — physical and mental.

Although it was more comfortable being in bed at home, it was also scarier.  The security of having medical staff, diagnostic tools and the (seriously good) painkillers nearby would be stripped away and I would feel so much more vulnerable.  I couldn’t press a little buzzer and say to someone within a matter of moments; Is this normal?  Should I be concerned?  I think something is wrong.  I had to determine those things on my own and would be constantly double guessing my own judgement.

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If you follow me on social media, you will probably know that over the last few months I have had a number of bladder infections, kidney infections and Sepsis.  The most recent being last week when I ended up in A&E — again!  Each time these illness’ have seriously knocked me for six and I have ended up back in bed for days whilst the medication does its thing. Immediately I am thrown back into a very strange headspace.

I don’t worry about it being cancer or anything like that, but being back in bed is still very triggering for me.  Those feelings of fear, anxiety and discomfort come back.  The vulnerability of taking responsibility for whether I am OK or not and the constant double guessing of myself, overwhelms me.  The ability to see an infection as just an illness being easily treated is lost as I fall headfirst down the emotional rabbit hole.

Being in bed whilst sick gets me so upset and tearful, even though logically I know I am being ridiculous.  I know I haven’t got cancer.  I know once the antibiotics kick-in I’ll be fine.  I know that unlike before, I’m not going to be stuck in bed for months on end with a complete lack of control over myself and my health.  Even so, it still triggers all of these negative emotions and connotations.

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There is a reason for this.  It is caused by the way our brains hold onto emotional memories and create shortcuts.  Once the brain associates a ‘thing’ with an ’emotion’ — in my case, being in bed sick = fear, vulnerability and very long-term, severe illness — the brain will quickly recall that emotional memory when in a similar situation.*

As horrible as my sickness recalls are, they are nowhere near as bad as they used to be.  I’m getting better at saying to myself – this is just an emotional memory, it’s not what’s happening now, but it’s not a flawless system.  Sometimes I’m so in the depth of despair, I’m not able to remind myself, but I do try and I am getting better.  Plus, as I continue to get ill and recover, my brain will start to create new shortcuts and I will have a different set of memory recalls.  It will just take time.

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I think this story serves as a reminder that cancer isn’t over and done with as soon as the doctor says, you’re all clear.  As with anything, it takes time for the emotional fall-out to settle, for your emotional resilience to build back up and for your brain to create new shortcuts.  It is also a great reminder that it is not a straight upward line from feeling shite to feeling fine all the time.  Like life, there are up’s and down’s, followed by one step forward then ten steps back, followed by a few stumbles along the way.

So if, like me, you are feeling all the things right now, logical and completely illogical, just know that you’re not alone – I’m right there with you!

Stay healthy!
Nx

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About Nicola
Nicola is the author of ‘The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer’ part memoir, part guide for people going through, or supporting someone going through cancer.  Nicola has also published creative fiction and non-fiction, and copyedits and writes for others.   Nicola also runs online  Writing Workshops throughout the year, sharing her love of reading and writing with everyone!

*You can read more about emotional memory here…

Virtual Book Tour Coming in March

Writing & Blogging

Hello all!

I am so excited to be able to tell you that we have a very exciting time coming up in March. This Virtual Book Tour is going to be FULL of events, interviews, giveaways, guest posts, blog visits, hangouts, vlogs – both on this site and on some other awesome blogs and websites including Nicola Jane, TEND Nutrition, Womb Cancer Support and more!

Sign up here so that you can keep up to date and find out about EVERYTHING that we have going on!

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Summer Reception with Bowel Cancer UK

Cancer & Me, Uncategorized

Fun, emotional, heartbreaking and inspiring – just your standard Thursday night!

I was so excited a few weeks ago to receive an invitation to Bowel Cancer UK’s Summer Reception and the event was finally held on Thursday evening. Held at the Royal College of General Practitioners on an amazing roof-terrace in London there was a mixture of researchers, medical practitioners, supporters, writers, survivors, I’m sure many more interesting people and my husband and I.

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I must admit to not knowing what to expect but it was wonderful, interesting but also emotional. Speaking with other people who have, like me, been directly effected by Bowel Cancer and people who work tirelessly improving everything from patients survival rates and quality of life to government policy and social awareness – and basically STOP Bowel Cancer, it brought a number of experiences back to life.

My highlight was listening to speeches from both a research scientist and Deborah Alsina who gave us a flavour of what is going on behind the scene at Bowel Cancer UK…

Bowel Cancer UK export the need for research with their Gaps Analysis Project. It is not just one disease but could be as many as 7 or 8.

Money from Bowel Cancer UK bring the best in the UK to fight this particular cancer and designing new approaches such as personalised medicine.

Exciting science that can have a real impact. Understanding the illness is key to improving the outcome for patients.

As amazing as everything they are doing is, it also reminds you just how much still needs to be done.

Bowel Cancer remains the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. However if you are diagnosed early – within Stage 1 – your chances of survival are 90% that’s why ongoing research, developments and symptoms awareness (so you can get an early diagnosis) are so vital.

Then great news is that you can now become a Friend of Bowel Cancer UK to ensure this work continues.  Sign up here and you can give a couple of quid a month and continue the fantastic work Bowel Cancer UK do.  I’m so grateful.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  I genuienyly love to hear from you so pop over and say hi!

Buy your copy of The Fabulous Woman’s Guide Through Cancer here

Sun, Sand & Septicaemia! (part one)

Cancer & Me, Health & Beauty, What's Happening?

Well that was NOT part of the plan when my family and I decided to go on a dream family holiday to Mauritius!

My husband and I worked, saved and planned for months. We were so excited to finally be going and once there, it was as close to paradise as I could have hoped. We were all having the perfect time – until…

A few days in I started to feel unwell.  There was a medical centre on site and a nurse gave me some rehydration sachets.  I did keep saying that it felt more like a bladder infection but it was considered dehydration.  I know that with a colostomy dehydration is an extreme issue, so I was furious with myself that I had become dehydrated.  But the sachets didn’t help, in fact when I tried to drink one, I instantly threw it back up again – sexy!

Back to the medical center where it was agreed – it was a bladder and possibly now a kidney infection as well but not to worry, oral antibiotics and you should feel better in a day or two.  Sorted.

Not so.  By the next day I was convulsing, vomiting and had a temperature of 40c.  The medical team sent me straight to hospital.  I can’t lie, the journey to hospital was petrifying. It was an hour and a half away. I had to go by taxi on my own because it was too far for an ambulance to come and Husband had to stay with the kids. I had no idea what to expect when I got there – a posh private clinic, or like something off an episode of panorama.  The hospital was fine, basic, but fine and the staff were really wonderful.

Arriving at hospital I was delirious and writhing in pain. The doctors wouldn’t give me any medication until they ran tests, sorted my insurance and had my passport so the next hour was pretty awful and involved a lot of tears as I played the worlds smallest violin to myself.

Quick side note: I couldn’t be admitted until my insurance was sorted and they took my passport as a guarantee of payment which I didn’t have with me, the nurse seemed to think  couldn’t be admitted (more crying/violin playing) until thankfully someone was able to come and help me be admitted without my passport.  There was security on all the doors so no one can leave and they only removed the drip and cannula once the bill has been paid.  I understand why, but I really was reminded how lucky I am to live in a country with a National Health Service.  It might not be perfect but at least you never have to fear being turned away from a hospital like I nearly was, or worry about paying the bill – that truly is amazing.  But anyway – back to the story…

I was diagnosed with a chronic bladder, kidney and blood infections – septicaemia.  It was the septicaemia that was causing the convulsing and fitting.  I had non-stop drips running for three days with antibiotics, liquid and painkillers.  Honestly I can’t explain how ill I was.

The only other time I have felt that bad was when I was having chemo and a junior doctor gave me the wrong amount of morphine and I overdosed.

Because the hospital was so far from the hotel, it wasn’t easy for my family to visit so I spent most of the three days I was in there contemplating being severely ill again. Obviously it’s not like my cancer was back but being hooked up to machines day and night, having numerous scans and tests – it all felt far too familiar and took me back to an emotionally dark place.

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Getting to sit and watch the sunset

As there was a medical centre at my hotel, my consultant (after quite a lot of negotiation) agreed to let me convalesce in the hotel with the medical team supporting me.  I couldn’t get out of bed and was on a lot of medication but who cares… I was back and with my family for the last few days of holiday.

The day I was released I saw a blog post from Consciously Healthy which seemed to sum up just how I was feeling.  The author Emma was reflecting on how after a long recovery, she stopped giving her mind, body and soul the attention it deserved, till eventually her body gave-way again.  This was exactly how  felt.  I know I didn’t have cancer again and my life is full of people and things that I love, but slowly my life had returned to crazy busy with little down time and having septicaemia made me realise it was time to have a little rethink!

I will be writing more about how and ‘if’ the rethink happened in a few days so check back or sign up for part 2…

Are there any times in your life when you have had a rethink?  Or any tips for anyone else having a rethink?  Please leave a comment and share you stories with us.

Come join me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

With love XX

©

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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That Dreaded Day

Cancer & Me, Journey Back to Health

There is a time in every cancer survivors year when a dreaded day (or two…) comes around.  They are of course the dreaded check-ups!

I remember the first time I had to go back for a check up, pushing back the tears as I arrived the hospital.  The familiar sights and smells… immediately I felt like I was driving back for yet another chemotherapy appointment or to get some more “it’s worse than we initially thought” type horrible news.

I have gone so far as to actively try and avoid these dreaded days but they always catch up with you, usually encouraged by husband saying “Nic, what’s happening with your appointment?”  “seriously Nic, what’s happening?”

Well I couldn’t make the last appointment so I will rebook… you know…. next month… or maybe the month after… no rush hey?!

“Actually Nic – yes, there is.  Your delaying the inevitable and if there is something wrong, the sooner you find out…”

So annoying when ‘people’ are right.

The problem is the nerves don’t start as you get to your appointment.  They probably start about a month before, when you know the appointment is coming.  It’s not like it’s consuming my every thought or anything but it’s just… there.  It’s like a star that’s about to collapse -it has a fire burning inside and the stronger it gets, the more it silently consumes itself from the inside.

So that is where I have been for the last few months.  Burning up and having check-up’s which have confirmed I am still all clear (yay).

I have also been having some internal scar tissue (that has been problematic ever since the surgery and continues to be so) treated – basically the scar tissue in my cervix is growing abnormal cells which if left could turn cancerous… seriously…  You have to love the irony – it won’t because they are all over it but still… It’s surprisingly all-consuming when these dreaded days are going on.

But I’m back, and wondering, is there anything that you would specifically like me to write about over the coming weeks?

If not I shall be left to my own devices – equally fine.

But, as I say, it has not been all bad by any means- quite the opposite in fact, so here are some photo’s from my wonderful mothers day surprise – an awesome day out with my lovelies.

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I genuinely love to hear from you so come and say hi! Nx

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 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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find out about the #BiBs and how to nominate here…

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