“I was diagnosed with Dukes C bowel cancer in 2011. I was 56 at the time and working as an assistant director of education looking after over a hundred schools. I had surgery, a right hemi-colectomy and, due to a wound infection, was in hospital for three weeks. I then had eight cycles of capecitabine and had a bad reaction after cycle six, with a septic rash and severe hand and foot syndrome. Most of my side effects have gone, but I still have problems with my fine motor skills and my saliva glands no longer work well, so I have to use an artificial spray.
I retired from my post in 2014 due to ongoing bowel issues and the need to have toilets near to hand. However I continue to work as an education consultant, inspector of schools and chaplain.
My follow up scans have been clear ever since and my physical needs have stabilised. However, the emotional and psychological effects that came along with my diagnosis and treatment caught me by surprise. It took me some time to realise that people around about me were just as susceptible as I was.
What I eventually learned is that an emotional response is allowed; we all need time to adjust and come to terms with everything. I’ve come to accept that ‘not dying’ does not mean that I am ‘really well again’. All my ongoing issues continue to need emotional and psychological resilience, but I manage to live a good and meaningful life.
My advice, whatever stage you’re at, is not to suffer in silence. Let your voice be heard, because only then will you learn about and receive the help and support there is out there, and you might just help educate those around you into the bargain!”