In June 2019, I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Whoa! How did that happen? I’ve never had a major illness. Never been in hospital before. I’m a long term vegetarian, more recently vegan. I don’t drink alcohol or take drugs. I avoid chemicals as much as I can and eat organic wherever possible. I meditate. I look after myself pretty well. But … I do spend a lot of time sitting at my computer desk. Several people in the medical profession told me that sitting is the new smoking in relation to cancer.
For 6 months prior to the diagnosis of cancer, I had been noticing, but disbelieving, drops of blood in my stool. Kept dismissing it. Then gradually there were other changes in frequency and consistency, and then one day I couldn’t ignore all these signs anymore and booked in for a colonoscopy. Immediately after the colonoscopy David and I were informed that there was a malignant bowel tumour. What a shock! It was all a bit surreal. I managed to draw upon my years of meditation practice and a phrase came to me, which remained my companion through the whole journey.
“It is what it is”.
I was very fortunate to be referred to St Vincent’s Public Hospital in Melbourne. A wonderful place, with an atmosphere of calmness and care, provided by an awesome team of nurses, doctors, anaesthetists, radiologists, dieticians, volunteers, receptionists, cleaners …. I would especially like to honour Dr Richard Brouwer and Mr Michael Hii, my two awesome surgeons, and their teams, who were all spectacular. And the nurses on 7 East and 7 West at St Vincent’s, who are earth angels.
After various scans a second tumour was discovered in my stomach. A GIST (gastro-intestinal stromal tumour). Whoa! Two surprises!
In August 2019 I had successful surgery to remove the bowel cancer and was extremely fortunate to avoid any follow-up chemo or radiotherapy. I am so grateful for that. I did however receive an accessory to my body in the form of an ileostomy. I was supported by family, friends and my partner and was able to take time-out, and do nothing but heal. I slept a lot. Watched a lot of movies. Enjoyed the birds in the garden. Several people dropped some funds into our bank account – unasked and incredibly generously.
I could hardly think, and definitely wasn’t in a creative space. Some people suggested writing a new book, but honestly, I couldn’t write a single sentence. All my inner resources went into healing. This took many months.
In January 2020, the second tumour was removed, by a resourceful surgical team led by Michael Hii, who managed to do the whole process via keyhole surgery – brilliant! Healing required a fluid-only diet for some time afterwards. Smoothies, soups and juices – yum.
I’m now waiting for a date to reverse the ileostomy and get my body back. I was scheduled to go back for this surgery on 3rd April … and then COVID-19 entered our collective reality and my surgery is postponed. There’s a glimmer of hope that the reversal surgery might be rescheduled in the middle of 2020.
Why am I telling you this story?
I want to leave you with two thoughts. Firstly, if you notice any changes in your body and bodily functions, any symptoms or signs, then PLEASE attend to it immediately. Don’t put it off. It could be a life-saving moment.
Secondly, I want you to remember that there is hope. Your body can heal. You can survive cancer.
PS – upon diagnosis, I asked myself – why has this cancer come to me? I lean into spirituality and consciousness at such times, and I recognised that within me there was a deep-seated worry about survival. About having a secure place to live and enough money to survive after I retire. I’ve been doing my best ever since, to let go layers of worry, and to trust. I am safe. I’m OK. Everything’s going to be OK.