Interview 21

Age at interview: 54
Age at diagnosis: 52
Brief Outline: Diagnosed with colorectal cancer 1999, under went surgery.

More about me...


Explains how she learned to meditate and how it helps her.

The meditation I think slows me down. It gives me a period in the day where my system is slowing down, it's actually becoming very still and I, I believe that research has shown that you do actually have physiological changes when you meditate that can be measured and it has been shown to be very good for things like stress.

How did you learn to meditate?

We did a little bit of introduction at Bristol and the GP's surgery was actually very helpful and loaned us a tape on learning to meditate and a book to go with it and we just practiced and it felt very strange at first, it felt very alien.

And it was not something that was necessarily comfortable to do and I think when I started doing it I, I felt well nothing much is happening, why am I doing this?

But as you get more and more into it, it becomes noticeable that things are happening and that things are happening in your system and slowing it down and I find that things worry me less now than they would have done before.


She wanted a second opinion because she lacked confidence in the first surgeon she consulted.

I woke up and I can remember sitting up in bed and saying to my husband "How do we know that this bowel surgeon is the right one to do the operation? I'm about to let somebody do the most major operation on my body and I don't know anything about him."

So as we drove to this specialist centre I was feeling really, almost paralysed I think with panic and I think the most important thing about the surgeon when we saw him was that he gave me back my hope.

He had statistics, he had experience, he'd been doing that operation for a large number of years, he had developed a specialist technique for doing it and he had the results to prove it.

And I think I found that immensely reassuring. And I really did need to feel that if I was going to lie on a table and have a huge abdominal operation I needed to feel confident in the surgeon.

So we actually came away from our interview with him feeling happy which sounds a strange thing to say in the light of what we were living through. But he he just contrasted so strongly with the previous guy, it was amazing.

Describes the holistic approach to dealing with cancer she encountered at the Bristol Cancer Help...

And one of the helpful things at that point was that I went off and I did a two-day course at The Bristol Cancer Help Centre and that for me was very illuminating because it does look at a disease like cancer in a very holistic way and it says You're not just a disease, you are a person.

You have a mind, a body and a spirit and they're all inter-related and let's look at the balance in your life. And they give you the opportunity to talk with a lot of very useful people like a holistic medical doctor, a counsellor, a nutritionist, a healer.

But I think what Bristol did was to make me realise that I did not have to be a passive victim and I did not have to let the disease be bigger than me and that there were things I could do to improve my health, my sense of well-being and my sense of being in control.

And there were things that I could put in place which would enhance my life and therefore my sense of being positive and feeling healthy. But I would say that with cancer it's probably good to have a, a several-pronged approach to use of resources. 

And it's very much a question of exploring what's there, what's out there and utilising what seems to be right for me and I think because individuals are different some people will key in to one aspect and other people will key in to others, so it's important that there's more than one option.


A junior doctor reduced her pain relief without consulting her.

The medical staff were very good apart from a resident junior doctor who decided on the second night that he would reduce my medication in the epidural without saying anything and he reduced the level of the drugs and so, I think that's the one night I spent in great pain and I couldn't understand it.

It was very distressing, the night nurses were very reluctant to wake the doctor and kept trying to jolly me along until a reasonable hour in the morning.

And I think in retrospect I should have been more assertive and I should have kind of thumped and said "Get the doctor" because I felt as if my insides were falling out, it was a really unpleasant and painful burning sensation.

And I, afterwards, the next day they said "Oh doctor so-and-so reduced the level of the pain killers, he didn't think you needed them because you were doing so well."

And I think you know, that was, that stands out as the sort of the big down period of being in hospital. And he was you know, not particularly apologetic, he said "Oh I didn't think you needed it. You looked as if you were doing fine." But I think I did express to him that he should have actually discussed it with me rather than just taking action.


She gradually became more comfortable with other peoples' interest in her illness.

I think I'm quite a private person, and I think I did find it quite hard that so many people knew, but having said that it generated a huge amount of support and care and love, and the cards and flowers and things that I had just sustained me for oh about six weeks post-operatively, and while I was in hospital.

And although in a sense that, I mean I think part of the problem with bowel cancer is people feel it's unmentionable because it's talking about a part of your bodily processes that people don't normally feel comfortable with. But once I'd got over that and didn't mind everybody in the world knowing generally about the workings of my system it was fine.

And I found people were saying to me "Oh you know we really are very interested to know about it, we don't like to ask in case you mind, but we'd love to know."

And I think, I think out there, there is a, there's a sort of fear of it and a reluctance to talk about unpleasant topics but actually a genuine desire to know the facts.

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