Thoughts & Perspectives from Members

Here we can share our views/thoughts/helpful tips/experiences to help fellow members with their journey.

A Personal Perspective by Pat Jennings



Dear friends, 
I`ve been thinking of many of the comments on here recently, and how cancer has affected us all. At how we all appear to deal with it in sometimes very different ways, of how we cope.

To be told that you have cancer, is probably one of the most terrifying things any person can be told.

Over time, we change, we absorb the enormity of that knowledge, and we begin to respond differently to life, in most cases. A lot depends on how late our diagnosis is, how well it was diagnosed, how many treatments and surgeries we undergo, and ultimately, what our prognosis is.  Whatever the circumstances and prognosis, I believe, cancer changes most of us irrevocably.

The more affluent amongst us, may in times of better health, or with positive outcomes, may choose to achieve dreams on their "bucket list", dreams such as walking the Great Wall of China, following the Machu Picchu Trail, or take cruises, or foreign holidays of their dreams. Other people throw their energies and time into raising money for cancer research or cancer-related charities. There is no "one size fits all", when cancer knocks on our door. People obviously can only achieve some of these goals when they have the physical strength and stamina, and, or the financial means to see them through. 

Many of us, even though we may have had good prognosis, after cancer treatment, would not, because of the physical side effects of the treatment and surgeries, be able to partake in these bucket list schemes or charity raising events. In reality our worlds become smaller, our options far less than ever before. 

What do we do and think, when we are in this position? 

I, for one, was for a long time, like a "startled rabbit in the headlights", right at the beginning of diagnosis, 6 years ago. I functioned on "automatic pilot", chemotherapy, financial and business affairs and protecting my family and friends from the worst aspects of a cancer diagnosis, seemed to fill my waking hours. Nights were of fitful sleep and scenarios played over and over again in my mind, but we cannot live like that, and eventually we grow to find acceptance, strength, courage, and hope. I began to take more control of what seemed to be, controlling me. To take back control, if only in its simplest form, is a good approach, it might simply be to watch a film on TV that you might enjoy. It might be to chat with a friendly stranger outside a shop and exchange pleasantries, it might be planning a meal out, a holiday, a couple of days away, to go fishing. It is like learning how to live again, to say "Yes it is alright to do that." In the very early days after a series of clear scans, I often felt lost, thinking "Shall I read this book?" or "Will I waste time by staring through the window at the wild birds feeding in the garden?" I was filled with confusing emotions - thankfulness, tears, grief, anger and sorrow, loss, all mixed together. 

We are thrown out of this medical system when treatment is complete. We are left to pick up the pieces, and carry on with life. It is a strange situation, a feeling of being given time, time we did not expect in many cases, to have, but with more advanced treatments to allow patients to live longer than for expected, this is happening more and more. 

Especially for the older and retired, or those who cannot work again because of the disabling effects of cancer and its treatment, how do these fill their lives? It is beneficial if we already have a lifelong interest, creativity or hobby, or pets, which gives us the opportunity to satisfy those leisure pursuits, but if your interest was within the physical realms, and are no longer able, how do we cope? 
My life, was filled mainly with caring for others, either the family or guests who stayed in our busy bed and breakfast. My main hobbies were gardening and walking. I can do none of these things anymore.

I believe we eventually find a way of coping with our lives after, and living with cancer. Cancer has a great levelling effect. It can bring out the best in individuals and it can bring out strength and courage and doggedness, things we never thought possible in our selves. 
For me, my experience has given me an undoubted desire to help and support others afflicted with the same concerns. Finding the Bowel Cancer Group has given me a focus and outlet. 
My desire also is to raise awareness in the general public, in family and friends, and all medical fields, of cancer`s symptoms. The vast differences and in many cases, the mediocrity of the subject of recognising cancer in its early stages, is frightening. All seems to be a lottery how diagnosis is made. 

So I believe that we all can find our places through and after cancer. Some spend more time with their families and friends, some become more outgoing and achieve great good for the society such as young Stephen Sutton who died so young, of bowel cancer. Some write, some paint, some fund raise and some support and some of us just "be"................we all have our place - and that is alright.


So on Saturday, a beautiful "Indian Summer" day was promised. We packed a simple picnic and flask and headed towards the north Devon and Cornish coast, towards Hartland.

Whilst we find the inland area from Kilkhampton to Hartland a bit flat and uninspiring, the coastline has some lovely and interesting features such as Morwenstow, Hartland Quay, Bucks Mills and Clovelly.

We headed for Morwenstow and parked on the large expanse of village green outside the 13
th century Bush Inn.

We drank pints of "Tribute" shandy outside in the gardens looking towards the sea, and wooded valleys, and just peeping over the horizon, we saw the intriguing satellite dishes overlooking "Duckpool".
  A herd of cows in a field or two across, spotted the farmer`s Landrover, ambling across the grassy expanse, with "lunch" they thought! The cows soon straddled the field, jostling for position, in an excited bunch.  The last swallows and martins of summer ducked and dived around the old stone buildings and courtyard, then away over meadows to the sea.

We perused the menu of the Bush Inn. It had appeared the last time we visited it had veered towards posh and expensive nosh, but now it appeared to have had a change of heart and had something which appealed to us again, there. We can return again, soon without picnic, then! 
Once the shandies were finished, we moved the car to a quieter part of the green and set up the little fold up chairs, swotting the odd wasp and eating fresh crusty bread and cheese sandwiches with a pot of "Garner`s" pickled onions, strawberry yogurt and coffee. Two working collies watched from a distance, much more disciplined than the average mutt, even though they knew food was there, they kept their distance. The farmer eventually appeared, whistled the dogs, one jumped straight in the Landrover`s back, the other waited to be manhandled in by the farmer - obviously enjoying his freedom too much!

We sat absorbing the very warm sun rays and the mellowness, the gentleness of the day. Certainly it was a "good to be alive "day!

Later we packed up, with the intention of visiting lovely Morwenstow Church a little further on down the lane, by the Rectory Tearooms. Every man and his dog had appeared to have the same idea, so we carried on to Hartland Quay, not too far away. Here too, folk were enjoying the lovely day, chatting, eating, drinking, sunbathing, enjoying the warmth and balm of the day. The world seemed at peace. We had an iced cream, and watched the sea, in silence.

We drove home slowly, glad that we had enjoyed our simple day in the sun, in this lovely landscape.


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