Bowel Cancer

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* Embracing Chemo – six week course commences February 2013*

It has often been suggested that the diagnosis of a life-threatening condition can be a little like pointing the bone in Aboriginal culture. Where death results with relative speed for the person who has been boned. And it is a little like being boned, isn’t it?. When the shock of diagnosis can cause so many to give up.

I saw my own surgeon resign himself to a speedy exit. ‘My stats aren’t good’ he said about his own diagnosis of cancer. I don’t believe in stats (unless they’re in my favour). I think we can do much to create our own stats. And in a matter of only 4 weeks my strong, six foot surgeon went from being my doctor to becoming a frail and ill man needing support of his own. I was shocked by the speed of his transformation. In his book Timeless Healing, Dr Herbert Benson describes it like this: ‘Overnight, patients diagnosed with chronic medical problems or illnesses began to think of themselves as ‘sick’, and the effect that label had on their psyches and their physical heath was substantial’.

I’ve heard it said that there are some doctors who believe they have killed more people through diagnosis than the actual disease. And, as helpful as it is to diagnose something so we can get appropriate treatment, I often wonder how many lives are shortened by the power in these words? I’m not advocating we stick our heads in the sand, but it’s so important to remember we always have a choice in how we think of ourselves, isn’t it?. We can allow other people to label us, or we can choose to see ourselves differently.

Yesterday at a workshop, a beautiful young woman shared her father’s story when she heard of the work I was doing. A beautiful story of hope and the power of the human spirit. You see, many years ago, this man was misdiagnosed and treated for haemorroids for an extended period of time. So by the time he received the diagnosis of cancer, he was given only 3 months to live.

But he went on to enjoy another 7 years of life. And enjoy them he did!

When the doctors were pessimistic he allowed their pessimism to wash over him. After all, it was their pessimism, not his. And so he found new doctors that gave him hope. He travelled some distance to find them, doctors trialling experimental techniques, and he embraced them boots and all. During this time he travelled the world 5-6 times and enjoyed his family. Chemo was an experience they chose to share, his children accompanying him to the chemo suite and making the most of the opportunity just to be together. In the end, his daughter tells me, he let go not when the doctors decided, but when the time was of his making.

Isn’t it empowering when we can move through the shock of diagnosis and take the responsibility for our lives into our own hands. When we take an active part in our own self care…