Saturday, 12 January 2008

Getting Real...Part 1

I am not quite sure where to start with this post. I have thought about it quite a bit and keep chasing my tail, it is difficult for me to write which is why I am determined to do it. I want to write about it for a few reasons, which I will explain as I go along. The main reason I have decided to write about this subject is precisely because I do feel uncomfortable about it. Just from my own personal experience I know a lot of women find this topic uncomfortable, so it is for them and for me that I write this. It feels a bit like a 'coming out' type of post if you will. Coming out in the sense that, most of us who have been through this type of cancer and surgery have felt as though we should keep the details of what we have been through somewhat foggy, kind of private! Most people are very aware that with a cancer diagnosis comes treatment and part of that treatment, is more often than not, surgery. The surgery can be life saving but it is not without it's price. Some surgeries are more debilitating than others, of course, Breast Cancer surgery is one that springs to mind quickly, because it has had so much attention, which is wonderful. Some of the reasons it has had so much attention is because it became apparent reasonably early on that, although these women having had the surgery were living longer or indeed being cured because of it, there were other issues surfacing that were causing women a lot of angst. A lot of emotional issues, psychological issues were coming up for them and got to a point where they needed to be dealt with. Part of the answer to dealing with these issues for women was public awareness. It is truly amazing how much has been achieved in treating a woman for breast cancer, in treating the whole person not just the cancer or the lump. Not the least of the issues for these woman was the fact that they felt disfigured, less feminine, downright ugly, they lost self esteem and quickly became depressed at the loss of their breast, or partial loss of their breast/breasts, or, as some felt, the mutilation of their breasts and in a wider sense their bodies.

So it was that all these issues and many more combined, became so loudly voiced that awareness and education was made much more available than ever before, therefore helping these woman to come to terms with what had happened to them and their bodies and to overcome any feelings of shame or revulsion toward their bodies. I believe a huge part of this healing was because of the awareness and education being made widely available, this helped women to see themselves as the survivors they were, to feel pride in themselves instead of feeling like freaks. The fact that celebrities and movie stars, the Prime Minister, got on board along with everyone else because everyone knows someone with breast cancer, really helped raise the banner , these women were being recognised as heroes, as fighters, as survivors as all these good, strong, things. So rather than feeling ashamed and like mutilated freaks, these women started seeing themselves as hero's which led to more action being taken to help those that struggled. Resources were put in place to help women through the journey of breast cancer, counselling, support groups, seminars, an endless array of supportive services out there in the community. This is interesting because it shows what can be done to turn things around if people are made aware. Now what I want to address is not breast cancer but I draw a parallel due to the fact that breast cancer and bowel cancer can both leave you disfigured, lacking self esteem, feeling mutilated and ugly - in fact all the things that breast cancer sufferers feel and more BUT we (the bowel cancer patients/survivors) do not have in place all these wonderful resources and supportive services. People are not aware and educated about what it means to have your bowel removed, in fact it is considered a 'no go zone', talked about in hushed tones, words like 'discreet' being bandied around. Well I am sick of it, keeping quiet about things that may be embarrassing does not help any woman (or man) overcome the feelings and emotions described above. All keeping quiet about it does is to further impound on the negative feelings and emotions that we struggle with post surgery, most of which are so similar to how women losing a breast feel.

I know that me writing this post and others about what it is like to go through this kind of cancer and it's surgery will not change the world and will not bring about a movement like the breast cancer movement but the breast cancer movement started somewhere and the more people that talk about something and put it out there the more it starts to accumulate in the world. So that is what I am doing, I am simply going to talk about it. Someone may read it that knows someone that has been through, or is going through this kind of surgery/cancer and pass it on. The universe works in amazing ways and I do believe it totally supports action so I am just going to do the little bit that I can and hope that someone else takes it from there and so on until this cancer gets the recognition and support it deserves. We shouldn't have to feel ashamed to talk about what has happened to us or to our bodies, I want to help open up the lines of communication, especially for young women. There are quite a lot of support groups available for the older citizens but I know I didn't feel truly comfortable in that environment as the issues for people of old age are very different to the issues women of my age or thereabouts face. There is nothing much out there for young women in terms of support, meetings, get together's, etc. I would like to change that and I will start that too by offering a Support Group for younger women. I want them to see that you can still look good, you can still do things, at the same time acknowledging how difficult it is and talking about some of the really 'hard' stuff like relationships and sex and body image. On it goes, there is so much to talk about. So there you have it, that is why I am going to discuss this subject and put myself on the line so to speak about having a 'bag' and what that entails - not loving doing it mind you, I do squirm a bit but hey, it's real and I'm going to try and be bigger than that. In the next post I will discuss the surgery performed for bowel cancer and what that entails. Wish me luck!!! Take care of yourselves and each other.


  1. You are changing the world. I appreciate your willingness to write about what's difficult. I sometimes think I hang out too much in the "easy" places - but then trust that things rise to the surface when they're ready and make it very clear that you're ready.

    xo Jena

  2. I am so proud of you Jenni. I am so very proud to stand by you. Awareness starts by one person telling their story. With each candle that is lit, it gets a little bit brighter. I know you will do wonders to help so many others.

  3. You are courageous and valiant of heart. I applaud your boldness, your bravery, your readiness to start speaking the truth, your truth, even in its "uncomfortable" detail. We need this voice. And we will be better for it.
    For all you write, I will be here, listening.