The Early Stages
On Thursday 14th December 2000, I woke up with a slight pain in the stomach. To begin with it seemed as if it was a normal stomach ache and it was likely to pass away at some time during the morning. At that time, I had a job as a Revenue Assistant at the local Inland Revenue, which had only started three months earlier.
I started work at 9.00 A.M. and was home by mid morning. Although my parents were a bit surprised to see me home early, once I had explained to them why, they soon understood. During the late morning and early afternoon, the stomach ache seemed to get slightly worse. When it came to approximately 10.00-10.15 P.M. the pain became very strong and extremely uncomfortable. It was actually unbearable, plus I was in agony. I had to get a telephone number for a call out doctor. When I eventually found a telephone number I was told to see a doctor at one of the local hospitals in Great Yarmouth. My parents took me to the hospital and not long after I got there and explained to the doctor about how I was feeling, he told me that I should go through the Accident & Emergency Department at the main hospital in Gorleston.
My parents then took me to the hospital. Once I got there I explained how I was feeling and not long after I was taken in to another room. The waiting time was only about five to ten minutes at the most. That is very good because on some occasions it can be a lot longer even in the accident and emergency department. The staff at the main hospital in Gorleston were actually annoyed at the fact that I was sent to the other hospital in Great Yarmouth to see a call out doctor rather than straight to A & E in Gorleston.
For the first two weeks of being in the hospital I was nil by mouth except for water. During the third and fourth weeks of my time in hospital I had light foods and liquids including ice cream and jelly. Because of the kind of operation I had it did also make me have to go to the toilet on quite a few occasions including one night when I had to go on fifteen occasions. I had regular doctor visits, check-ups and tests. All the staff including consultants, registrars, nurses, porters, domestics etc. in wards and clinics have looked after me really well and I thank them for everything they have done for me.
Back Home + Chemotherapy Treatment
I was eventually discharged on Thursday 11th January 2001. Not long after I was discharged from hospital at the end of January 2001 I started thirty weeks/seven months of chemotherapy. That was done by injection.
The After Effects and What They Felt Like
After a big operation like bowel cancer it would be surprising to live a normal life without any after effects or pain. One very common thing people have after bowel cancer is adhesion and abdominal pain. It is mainly a build-up of air that causes the scar and tissue from the operation to move and feels like a stomach cramp, and like a knife being stuck in the stomach. It is uncomfortable and hard to put up with on some occasions. It is also a very tight feeling inside the stomach as well and feels as if it is pulling all the time. It can last, in my personal experience, approximately three days up to three weeks. There are also different levels or degrees of pain and they go from a very dull and low pain level up to a very strong and severe pain level. I used to keep a record of this. When keeping a record of this I used to record them on a bar chart and they were put in four different levels and they included a dull to low level pain, a low to medium level pain, a medium to strong level pain, plus a strong to severe level pain.
Some days I had two levels if it increased or decreased during the day or even during the night. When I was in pain during the night I just had to realize that I will not only have to put up with the pain but also it will keep me awake all night. I kept these records mainly for the benefit of showing the general practitioner or hospital doctor and also for my own benefit to know if I had improved from time to time or not. When the pain is quite strong I try to keep both the body and mind active. One thing I have done when the pain is quite strong is to lie on the floor on my back and put the legs up in the air and keep moving them up and down for a few minutes. Another thing I had to do was take a walk up and down the road but while I was walking I was in agony and had to walk up the road bent over. People may have wondered why I was bent over but if they asked me I told them why. I have even gone out for a cycle up the road while in pain just to keep the body moving. It wasn’t easy but I forced myself to do it to keep going. I still have to be careful today because eating too much causes a lot of air and bloating as will sitting around for long periods of time. To reduce after effects it is up to the individual to make the effort to prevent them getting worse. It is possible. Sometimes it is a matter of just putting up with it. Another thing I have always been is positive and this situation has made me even more positive.
Some people in my situation may have reacted differently in knowing they had bowel cancer and also having adhesion and abdominal pain. Some people may get emotional and depressed, plus given up and thought there was nothing to live for.
My first reaction when I was told I had bowel cancer was just being surprised. When I heard that I had my life saved I was amazed and I asked the consultant to say it again in case I had misheard him. I smiled at him and nearly started to laugh. I was that grateful to the consultant and his staff I had to send him a thank you card. I still carry on thanking him inside me because it was a really special and big thing.
Hearing the words “saved your life” was the best thing I could have heard. Because I only had a stomach ache the day before the operation, hearing those words was unbelievable and that is why I had to ask the consultant to repeat it again. I just wasn’t expecting to hear those words. Once the consultant explained the bowel cancer to me I accepted it fairly easily just because my life had been saved. I wasn’t even upset about it. Some people have found it hard to believe when I tell them. For quite a while, during my stay in hospital I was actually thinking to myself “I am still living, I have had my life saved and I am here to tell people”. Even now I still think about it and how far I have moved on since then. When other people have had their lives saved they should be very grateful whatever the operation or treatment was for, even if they have been told they have cancer. They have still had their lives saved and a chance to carry on living.
Being positive, even while in agony can also help. Reacting to pain in a negative way won’t help in any way including worrying or getting emotional.
Eating and Drinking
I also saw a dietitian to get their advice on what to eat and drink and what not to eat and drink.
Being careful with what you eat and drink plus the quantity could even be a big factor in preventing cancer in the first place.
Interests and Hobbies
When the adhesion and abdominal pain flares up it is not only hard to stop thinking about it but it is not easy to find something to take your mind off it. Being involved in several things has helped me a lot.
Whether you are in a lot of pain through adhesion and abdominal pain or in no pain at all having a daily walk or cycle is a good idea. Both are a form of exercise and movement; they can help with not only losing weight but also trying to reduce the wind inside the stomach/bowel. I do more daily cycling than walking because my main form of transport is my bicycle.
Attitudes and Feelings
Some people that have had bowel cancer and now have adhesion and abdominal pain would possibly not think of getting better or wanting to overcome their health situation because of their attitude and feelings at the time. It is possible they may not be able to handle the situation of being in pain or even hearing the word cancer. Some people are either very nervous or have negative thoughts about bowel cancer plus adhesion and abdominal pain, and have a problem with how they react to their situation. They may end up not wanting to talk about it or letting their emotions get the better of them. This kind of attitude is the wrong kind of attitude because it won’t help or improve any person’s situation.
Being very positive and optimistic after having bowel cancer plus having adhesion and abdominal pain is a big help and will make a lot of difference.
Another thing that helps me an enormous amount is having faith.
The fact that I am with Jesus Christ all through my life is the most important thing in my life and that I have a very strong faith is also a big help in my life. It helps me when I am having problems with adhesion and abdominal pain. Knowing that another human being sacrificed their life for me and every other human in this world is an extremely special thing in my mind. It was all because of the bad and wicked things that go on in this world. They are known as sins. They are provided by the Devil or Satan (Jesus Christ’s opposition) and are something we could do without in our lives.
Making Life Easier
Because I am a cancer survivor I am aware of when the pain comes, what to do. It isn’t easy and is uncomfortable but overcoming it is always possible. The longer periods of adhesion and abdominal pain are the hardest but it makes me more determined to overcome it and move on.
Since I was thirty-eight, when I had the operation for bowel cancer, had chemotherapy, and have been coping with adhesion and abdominal pain it feels as if having my life saved and living a life with putting up with these after effects has been some kind of an achievement.
It wasn’t easy when I first had it and it is still not easy. If anyone ever had the same operation as I did and they still have the same after effects, and they are having a hard time coping with it, I would help and support them and try and make their lives easier. If one person can give any advice, help or support to another person in a similar situation it will not only make their lives easier but it may also make a person who is struggling to cope start to feel there is still hope for them. It is beatable, I have beaten it.
All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer. If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you! Please submit your idea at https://elephantsandtea.org/contact/submissions/.