I’m writing to you today in honor of National Women’s Health Week (Learn more about National Women’s Health Week.). I’m a Colorectal Cancer Survivor, advocate and inspirational blogger.I love the phrase coined by National Women’s Health Week “It’s Your Time”. I couldn’t agree more now is the BEST time to take care of any tests and lifestyle changes you’ve been meaning to take care of but have been putting off for all the same reasons we all do.
I was diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer almost 24 years ago and at that time I couldn’t find help. Now I’m using my survivor story to advocate for Early Testing and to help others.
WHY, I started my blog sharing my healthy story for two reasons:
First, To come alongside other cancer survivors and family members as an outreach to be there for those going through cancer treatment and after care. Please visit and share (https://chatwithdeedee.wordpress.com/about/) my blog with others who may have colorectal cancer or similar.
Second, To bring awareness and advocate for testing and early diagnosis of colorectal cancer. By sharing my health story and life lessons I hope others will be compelled to take action. I hope others can learn from my life experience.
MISSION, A key part of my mission as an advocate is to share resources I discover especially for colorectal cancer survivors, digestive diseases (IBD, Crohn’s Disease) and other health care issues (those with neuropathy, lymphedema) as well as support for cancer survivors and families. It would have been so comforting to have someone come beside me and share with me their journey. To have someone tell me, “I’ve been there – and here’s what I can tell you from my experience.” It started with a polyp, which was cancerous and removed surgically.
In an earlier post I wrote on the topic of not being able to go back for a do over ‘There’s No recall button on Cancer – Surgery and Radiation Treatments“.
First I WAS TOO SCARED: If I only knew signs of irregularity like bright red spots or dark “tarry” stools was a sign of blood in the stool. I didn’t notice the problem until I was literally bleeding with each bowel movement. This went on for quite some time and I was too embarrassed and too scared to go to a doctor.
Then I was TOO SCARED NOT TO SEE A DOCTOR: The pain was so severe like a piercing knife through my spine I knew something was wrong. My gynecologist said to me the blood was too excessive and was going on for far too long and was certain it was not related to my nerves. He gave me the name of a proctologist to make an appointment for a colonoscopy and that’s how they found the polyp. As a result, my surgery warranted an irreversible colostomy. After enduring 22 radiation treatments only lasting 22 seconds each session, this surgery lead to an ileostomy, due to post-radiation burn and other post-surgery complications. My doctor told me if I would have only come to him when the symptoms first occurred he could have removed the polyp and we would have avoided all the rest. If only there was a recall button.
By sharing my story I hope to bring further awareness to the importance of early testing and detection by blogging (https://chatwithdeedee.wordpress.com/), social media and fundraising efforts. In my blog, I will cover a number of topics from Colorectal Cancer (previous posts ‘Warning Signs Ignored‘, ‘Cancer Surgery & Radiation Treatments’, ‘Complications of Radiation Therapy‘, ‘Unexpected Encounters – Power of Love’, ‘Refusing to Quit’ , Sharing Our Story Helps Us Begin to Tackle Some of the Tough Questions Together, Ileostomy Nutrition: What can I eat after my surgery?, Empathy: How We Can Be Better at Listening and Responding and My MISSION to discussing practical tips about dealing with a Colostomy and Ileostomy, Lymphedema, Neuropathy, Hip Surgery, UTI, Fractured Pelvis and much more. I will also share dietary tips despite limitations from a personal, first-hand perspective. I will also touch upon the treatments and medications that have helped me along the way (disclaimer).
I want to encourage women to listen to their bodies. Is your body trying to tell you something?
- Are you drinking enough water? It acts as a softener for the stool helping it to pass. Our bodies need it to stay hydrated, protect our joints and organs.[ii]The amount we need depends on how much you eat, exercise, climate conditions, bowel, weight and height. About 8-11 glasses for women and 8-15 cups for men according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The rest of the liquid intake comes from our food.
- What’s your diet saying? I know you’re thinking I have an iron stomach this doesn’t apply. I too had an iron stomach growing up and ate almost anything. I love food and still do to this day. But if you’re eating a lot of white flower (ice cream, pasta, rice, cheese bread, processed foods: chips, cookies, crackers) you may be doing more harm then you realize? You can do it by making a few small changes and eating more fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) it gives your stool the consistency it needs to help keep you regular. About 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil daily can protect you from bowel disease.[iii] The current suggestions are about 20 grams of dietary fiber per day. Another super food you can eat is yogurt (aka Lactobacillus). Yogurt has been noted to decrease growth of tumor cells of the GI tract and improve immunity according to CTCA[i]. Limit the amount of red meats you’re eating and alcohol intake. I know bummer but everything in moderation. If we over eat we’re taxing our bodies and reducing years from our life. And please don’t smoke!
Did you know? Fiber and a healthy diet on a regular schedule daily will play a big role in reducing conditions, namely constipation but also things like heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease. However, there is still no direct proof indicating fiber will prevent colon cancer.[iv]
- Are you giving yourself enough of time? Are you always in a rush and holding it in because your too busy or you’re out and don’t want to go in public? I know we’ve all avoided public bathrooms but did you know ignoring the urge to go can result in the following:
- More constipation
- Hemorrhoids are often a result of constipation, poor diet, lack of exercise and/or hormonal changes
- Avoid straining it can lead to fishers. Not worth it!
- Get your bodies moving! Exercise is great for your overall health and psyche. It’s also important for good digestion. Only 20-30 minutes a day. Take a walk; jump on your bicycle; dance (do the tarantella); jump rope; skip whatever it is just do it!
- What medications or OTC’s are you taking? Did you know that a number of prescription drugs and over the counter (OTC) medications can cause constipation? If you are on medications or OTC’s please talk to your doctor and ask if any may be causing constipation.
I know that I could have never done it without the Lord, my family, my church family and friends. Alone we are weak, but you are not alone. There, but for God’s grace, go I not only to share my story, but to listen to your stories and questions and help you on and through your journey (e-mail Dee Dee Click Here). I will help to bring awareness to organizations and people in need (like the Osto Group a non-profit offering a hand up to those who do not have insurance for ostomy products) and much more I’m sure.
I know my drive and perseverance to fight was what helped me, thank the Lord. You must make an active choice to fight for your life as I did. I often cry out to the Lord and especially when we are going through a very tough time it’s difficult to pray or think of scriptures, but I would remember and want to share with you that the Lord refuses to quit on us. When we are too weak to pray the Holy Spirit intercedes with God’s will on our behalf (Rom. 8:26-27). That comforts me immensely and I hope that it will comfort you too.
Would you believe that over a year ago I didn’t even know how to turn on a computer! That, too, was another big leap for me, but I did it! So here I am, typing to you, hoping the Lord will use this story to bring you hope. May the Lord equip you and give you hope and strength to live life abundantly beyond your limitations!
With love and God’s Blessings,