“On a roller coaster, you will be strapped in and sent off into the terror, knowing that there is nothing you can do about it until you emerge, wobbly and battered at the other end."
“You manage by getting your head down and dealing with it as best you can at the time."
“It is only afterward, when you are on solid ground again, that you can look back with amazement and view what you have experienced and marvel at your courage,” Dr Harvey said.
Once treatment is over, focus shifts to the day-to-day business of improving health and trying to regain a sense of normality; however, Dr Mike Osborn, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, recommends patients give themselves a one or two-year plan for getting back on their feet.
“Don’t worry yourself or rush yourself through recovery. “People don’t recover quickly,” wrote Dr Osborn in his book ‘Afterwards – Recovering from the Impact of Cancer Treatment’.
“Everybody who recovers from treatment is always surprised at how long it takes before they feel back to their old self. “Medically you may recover in a few months,” Dr Osborn wrote, “psychologically it can take longer.”
The psychological recovery process is very individual and can take much longer than the medical side of things.
People often don’t talk much about the way cancer makes them feel due to the pressure to be positive all the time and not appear low or negative.
Someone living beyond bowel cancer may experience a whole range of unexpected emotions, such as feeling withdrawn, fearful or disassociated, guilt at having survived, low self-confidence, irritability, frustration, poor concentration or ‘foggy brain’.
These feelings may be fleeting, but if a person feels this way most of the time it is important to seek help from a GP or hospital team who help by making a referral to a psychologist or counsellor, or by recommending a support group to join, or by offering medication to help with depression or anxiety.
It’s important to share thoughts with someone, whether it is a friend or family member, a health professional, or someone who is going through a similar experience.
Bowel Cancer Australia offers an online forum for a lively community of patients, people living beyond bowel cancer, relatives and loved ones, an active Facebook page as well as a Peer-to-Peer Support Network, where patients and loved ones can get in touch with others experiencing something similar.
Many people say that living beyond bowel cancer has given them a greater appreciation of life but getting to that point can take some time.
If you or someone you know would like to speak with a Bowel Care Nurse for information or support, email them and they will respond within 2 – 3 days.
Alternatively, you can call the Bowel Cancer Australia Helpline on 1800 555 494, Monday – Friday 10 am- 3 pm.