Bowel Cancer Australia asked people who have had or are living with bowel cancer to send in their top tips for feeling well. The response was wonderful and so were the ideas!
We hope some (or all) of the tips shared will help you or someone you know in the face of operations, chemotherapy and on the road to recovery.
Before undertaking any recommendations, contact one of Bowel Care Nurses to discuss what might work best for you in your situation or call our Helpline on 1800 555 494.
Robin’s Eleven Essentials
1. Feel well - listen to your body, refuel with plenty of food and water.
2. Be well - keep moving and keep your body active I found my walking during treatment helped with my energy levels and healing leading up to the next cycle of chemo.
3. Surround yourself with supportive people.
4. Most importantly keep positive; always see the positive in any situation. Keep your mind strong and your body will follow.
5. The power of the mind is a special thing.
1. Be well - keep your Mind focused and strong, keep positive and remember how far you have come.
2. Remember it’s ok to feel down about what you have been through but always remember what a miracle you are and the second chance you have been given at life.
3. Feel well - keep moving, adding exercise into your routine will help with muscle and bone repair list treatment.
4. Seek nutritional advice if you feel you are struggling with foods to eat.
5. Listen to your body, it knows you the best and never be afraid to go to the doctor if you feel something is wrong.
6. Be persistent and stay strong!
Kelvin’s Eight Absolutes
1. Get the best doctors (surgeon and oncologist) you can find and do what they tell you to do – when they tell you to do it. They know a huge amount more than any lay patient ever will.
2. Be disciplined. Treatment is not easy, but it is necessary. Don't skip out on it. If you need to be at the clinic, that is where you should be - it’s that simple.
3. Ask questions of your treatment team.
4. Confide in the oncology nurses and your oncologist. Tell them what is happening, tell them how you feel. They are the most amazing people that you are ever likely to meet.
5. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If you're tired, as you inevitably will be, have a sleep. If you feel up to doing some work, do some work, but don't overdo it. If you feel pain, tell someone about it.
6. Talk about it. A colleague was diagnosed with stage 3A bowel cancer about two months after me. We formed our own little support group over the phone. It is amazing how therapeutic that was.
7. Try not to take "it" out on your family. They are in this with you.
8. Try not to dwell on the 'Why me? What have I done to deserve this?' feeling that will inevitably surface. It’s easier said than done.
Maria’s Simple Seven
1. Buy a pedometer, to make sure you get as much exercise as you can.
2. Walk to chemo to get extra exercise.
3. Keep an open mind about what is normal. When I had an ileostomy bag, it was quite convenient in many ways.
4. I had an ultra-low resection, so post reversal of my ileostomy I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to return to work due to many urgent and frequent bowel movements. I decided that I could get around this problem by getting up 2 hours before I needed to go out and have a glass of prune juice and clear my Bowel, so I never have any "urgent" situations for the rest of the day.
5. Be kind to yourself.
6. Ask for help when you need it.
Liz’s Sensational Seven
1. Find a support person – someone who can accompany you to appointments. This has many advantages as there are no parking worries or waiting around for public transport.
2. Bring the support person with you to all appointments – that person will be able to remember details that your befuddled brain might not. Their company at your hospital bedside is also priceless.
3. Get a surgeon and oncologist who are positive – it will increase your belief in them.
4. Once home, find someone who can go with you on daily walks, at first just a few minutes and gradually further each day.
5. Between chemo episodes try and get away for a few days – 2 nights in a B&B, fresh air and new scenery. It can be good to be away from the hospital and confines of the home.
6. The support of family and friends and delicious meals delivered also make life much easier.
7. The ‘Look Good Feel Better’ programme is well worth attending and has a very positive effect on people’s self-respect. (They have special programmes for men and teenagers as well as women.)
Leeanne’s Super Six
1. Take time for yourself - your body and mind need time to process what is happening and help you through the treatments and beyond.
2. Listen to music - whatever you like. It helped me when I was in the hospital/chemo chair to have a little world to go to that was familiar and took my mind off things. Thank you, Michael Bublé.
3. Meditation/Relaxation/Mindfulness - I was fortunate enough to attend relaxation classes which helped with anxiety and sleeping. I continue practicing the skills I learned to this day.
4. Seek help and information - there are many places like the Bowel Cancer Australia website with up to date relevant information and assistance on everything from your treatment pathways to nutrition advice.
5. Ask questions of your doctors and specialists and become an active member in your recovery.
6. Keep your loved ones close - you don't have to do this alone.
Martin’s Meaningful Five
1. Talk to people about your problems or experiences.
2. Share your information with other bowel cancer survivors.
3. Listen to your body. You alone are the only person who knows your body intimately and can really understand any changes.
4. Read about others' experiences as no 2 people's experiences are the same, but there may be some similarities.
5. Enjoy your life, family and friends, but be mindful of your diet as it has a big influence on your well-being.
Megan’s Magnificent Four
1. Have a sense of humour. Laugh or cry right? I'd rather laugh. Not that cancer is a joke, but I've never taken things too seriously.
2. My partner only cooked my favourite foods because I rarely wanted to eat.
3. Listen to your body – if you need a sleep, sleep. Hungry - eat. If you need a manicure and a massage, have one.
4. My children kept me focused to fight too. Nothing else did. Sure, I was surrounded by loved ones, but I needed to teach my children that sometimes you got to fight in life. If I can do it. They can too.
Graeme’s Great Four
1. Constant use of mouthwash is great for keeping thrush at bay during chemotherapy.
2. Soaking your feet in warm water can be very soothing when undergoing chemotherapy, although the numbness from neuropathy is something that simply must be endured.
3. Remember while you are going through treatment that it is a rather severe process for the body, and so it is important to exercise as best you can.
4. Allow your body to rest. Naps are the go!
Eve’s Fantastic Four
1. Drink plenty of fluids every day, especially water to help with bowel motions.
2. Drink freshly squeezed organic orange juice (squeezed yourself, not bought) daily to help with fatigue.
3. If you suffer from Palmar-Plantar syndrome following chemotherapy, wear loose footwear with padded insoles and cotton gloves so that you can use your hands without it being painful.
4. Bathe your feet in tepid water and gently rub some cream for sensitive skin on them before going to bed.
Carol’s Key Three
1. A booklet called' Improving Bowel function after bowel surgery Practical advice ' An Australian Government initiative National continence Management Strategy - contains useful food charts and practical explanations of the types of bowel surgery.
2. Ginger and Lemon tea bags - These may settle the stomach and alleviate cramps. They are useful in cooler weather and a change from coffee and tea.
3. Discuss discharge planning in advance with a Health Professional such as a Clinical Nurse.
Trevor’s One & Only
1. A simple change from Benifibre to Metamucil has changed my life for the better. My bowel movements had been terrible for 2 years after my op (Ultra-low anterior resection and temporary stoma).