I wanted to start this blog with a shout out to the person who has been with me through this whole journey, accompanying me on every appointment, taking on the household chores without complaining, cooking meals, giving me a hug and words of encouragement when I’m feeling down and that’s Phil, my husband. I know when we exchanged wedding vows we said, “In sickness and in health,” but when you’re young, you don’t think that will apply until much later in your married life. I know it’s hard for him to take in what’s going on but he’s dealt with it so wonderfully and I don’t think I could ever repay him.
Support comes in many different ways, emotional, physical, mental and financial and I have been overwhelmed by the level of support I have received from family, friends, healthcare professionals, neighbours and work colleagues.
Family is an important support system and my family haven’t failed in this respect with lots of messages of support, flower deliveries, visits and even a handwritten letter through the post! It’s lovely to know that they are all thinking of me and sending me get well vibes.
Friends are another important part of this journey, whether it’s having a cup of coffee in their house, going out for a drink, going for a walk with them or just messaging words of support and checking in to make sure that I’m okay. I have one particular friend who battled breast cancer and won, she is an inspiration to me and she kept a blog about her journey…
Apart from friends and family, there’s also the professional support from the Macmillan nurses, district nurses, consultants and organisations.
At each consultancy appointment there has been a Macmillan nurse in attendance, always there to provide information when we’re not too sure what is being said, nothing is too much trouble for them. When I was in hospital Phil went down to the shops and Hannah, a Macmillan nurse saw that he was looking distressed and immediately went over to him and had a chat with him, even though it was her lunch break.
Phil is a keen runner and has ran numerous 10K races, so he has entered himself for the Bristol 10K on 14th May, 2023 and is running to raise money for Macmillan.
There is a place called Maggie’s at Southampton General Hospital which provides free cancer support and provides all sorts of information, workshops, therapy and even financial information. We visited there before a consultant appointment and were very impressed by the work they do there. We sat down and had a chat with one of the staff, it was a very relaxed atmosphere and you could have a free cup of tea or coffee.
Whilst at Maggie’s we wanted to speak with the financial person. I am self employed and so as such am not receiving any money whilst I am having treatment, so we wanted to know what we could apply for and how we go about doing it. Unfortunately she was busy with another couple so we left our contact details being assured that she would contact us in a couple of days.
Meanwhile I set about seeing what I could claim myself and after perusing the Bowel Cancer Support Group UK, which is a great group to find help and advice, I discovered I could apply for ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and PIP (Personal Independence Payment). I am now receiving the ESA payment, but am waiting on the decision regarding the PIP payment.
True to their word, the financial lady from Maggie’s phoned me and she asked what I had applied for, when I told her I had done the ESA and PIP she said that that was the main ones, but had I applied for the Macmillan grant? I replied that I hadn’t known about that and after asking me for my bank details she then informed me that £350 would be in my account next week! She also said that if I get refused the PIP payment then make an appointment to see her and she’ll fill out the appeal form. So I would definitely recommend a visit to Maggie’s.
Mental wellbeing is a tough one. I know that positive thinking goes a long way to help with the process, but sometimes I’m not in that headspace and the slightest thing can turn me into a blubbering wreck. But I have learned that on the good days, you need to take advantage and as I love all things creative I try to do a bit of art work, whether it’s with polymer clay, watercolour paints or just drawing. I watch YouTube videos of people creating art work and that inspires me to try myself, so the other day I made some polymer flowers, which I was quite pleased with. It made me forget about the word, Cancer, and get lost in an artistic bubble.
Of course, writing these blog posts does a lot of good for my mental health as it is quite cathartic and it reminds me that I have a lot of love and support and that I’m not alone in this battle with bowel cancer!