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Rosie's top 6 tips to endure pain, treatments and survive cancer

1: Allow your family and friends to care for you

I had been in denial for half of the year, my friends kept saying see someone about your pain. I ignored their pleas. I thought it was an ulcer and I was taking antacids hoping this would eventually help. I even tried to keep my condition from my husband, as we were in the middle of major renovations to our home. I finally caved in after making a promise to him that if the pain came during the night he could take me to the hospital. A week later my diagnoses was confirmed.

Our first thoughts were to call our children and tell them the news. They both now lived overseas. They both dropped all their Christmas engagements and flew home to be by my side and also to support their father. I found it was wonderful having my family unit around me. My son was always giving back massages to relax me and before my daughter returned back to the USA she had made and frozen a variety of soups to last me for a couple of years.

I had emailed all my friends on the mainland and kept them up to date with my condition and treatments. By doing this it allowed them to feel more comfortable if they wanted to contact us and talk. There were a couple that felt very uncomfortable about it all and they couldn’t bring themselves to keep in contact.

I had many kind offers from friends who wanted to come over and care for us. It’s funny how, that even in sickness pride can take over. Another form of denial when we refused help from our friends.

If a family member or friend offers to come over to help, never let pride take over. Accept gracefully, because we all will benefit from this kind act.

What I had learnt from this experience was that even though it was hard on me. It was just as hard on my family and friends.

Cancer has been a very positive experience for me. It has taught me to enjoy and appreciate life on a day to day basis. Family and friendships are so important, we need to treasure every moment when we come together to enjoy each others company.

A lovely phrase from David Baird’s book says:

“Treat your family like friends and your friends like family”

2: Positive Attitude

I remember, when I was told I had cancer the first thoughts that ran through my mind was, “how long have I got?” I felt very calm. At last! I had a name for my condition.

I was now in the hands of experienced Physicians. My attitude was, lets deal with this problem one day at a time.

Did I get frightened? Yes! I did, I am only human. Pain, loss of weight due to an inability to keep food down was a concern. New experiences of being bombarded with many treatments made me anxious.

It’s amazing how the body and mind can cope through all of this. I was so hell-bent on fighting for my survival.

Prior to my cancer I had bought a book called “ aThousand paths to Comfort “ by David Baird. I never dreamed I would be the one needing the comfort, because I was always the comforter.

There was one phrase in this book I found very helpful:

“Be comforted by the thought that each new challenge builds your strength and character”.

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3: Holistic Support

Although the medical industry is amazing and I would not have survived without their support. I decided to think outside the box and this was for me to find natural therapies to compliment my treatments.

I had decided to find a new General Practitioner that could treat me holistically and I was fortunate to find one that practiced not only as GP but also specialised in alternate medicine. My lifestyle, diet, medications and other health concerns needed to be addressed. This holistic approach helped me through my illness and the regime of treatments.

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4: Eat Well

I use to love food that made me feel healthy, I also enjoyed naughty foods like chocolates, jelly babies and hot chips. When I became unwell my desire to enjoy food was gone. In its place was burning, gripping, searing pain that was wreaking havoc in my stomach and through to my now skinny withering body. I was so weak and tired. Not only did I have trouble eating I found I was having trouble keeping food down. I needed nourishment for my body to survive, help fight of the cancer and support the onslaught of my treatments of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Thank goodness for natural therapy it assisted in saving my life.

Between the treatments and the cancer, my stomach has the appearance of being lap banded. In fact I have not one stomach but now two pockets. I tell my friends that one part of my stomach is for my main meal and the other is for desserts.

Another thing that occurred was loss of taste and smell and to this day I am still slowly recovering from this problem. I am eating well now. No more pain. I now only get discomfort if I over eat and stretch my two stomachs.

My dietary intake has changed. My body can not tolerate red meat. I find I have discomfort eating to much protein in the evening. I had to relearn to eat smaller amounts. It’s amazing how sometimes your eyes can be bigger than your belly. Relearning to adjust meal sizes is not easy.

I have bought myself two handy books the first book is called:

“Staying Alive Cookbook for Cancer Free Living” by Sally Errey... stories by Trevor Simpson.

This book talks about “survivors...recipes...results.”

I found the chapter on “Healing, mind, body and spirit” fitted into my way of holistic thinking.

The second book is about:

“The Doctors Book of FOOD REMEDIES” by Selene Yeager

I have found this book extremely useful in understanding the goodness of the foods we eat. One sentence I found interesting was:

“When it comes to cancer prevention, food is a powerful medicine”.

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5: How to relax

Relaxing for me came in many forms. Due to my illness I was always extremely tired from the bombardment of treatments and drugs. All I wanted to do was sleep and hope this nightmare would disappear.

To overcome this negative feeling, I turned it around to a positive attitude through my music studies which I have been learning since 2005. This music program is called Simply Music. Its approach is completely different from the traditional teachings. It makes you think outside the square. Whenever I was in pain, I found by playing the piano it took me to another level where I could will away some of the pain. I found it relaxed and gave me so much pleasure.

I love the beach but because I didn’t have the strength to walk far I enjoyed just sitting in my lounge room with a cup of tea gazing out to sea. I found this very therapeutic and relaxing. Another wonderful way of relaxing was sitting in a boat with friends as we headed off to find great fishing spots. I enjoyed the feel as we flew across the water. I loved watching the sea birds flying over head waiting for tip bits from us. I even enjoyed catching a few fish however, I needed my hubby to help me reel them in as I didn’t have the strength.

Two of my girlfriends would take me on picnics around the various gardens in Hobart. This was another delight as I love gardening. Even at home when I felt a little stronger, I would love to walk around my garden trying to smell the flowers and pulling a weed out here and there.

My very favourite form of relaxing was playing with my gorgeous cat. It’s amazing how animals are so receptive. I loved her snuggling up against me purring quietly and gentle kneading me as I slowly drifted of to sleep.

We all need to find our own coping skills in relaxing. I found that by snuggling down with my cat or having a good read, enjoying arts and crafts with my two friends. Fishing, gazing out to sea, walking around my garden and playing my piano. Even cooking a cake for my hubby and enjoying his cuddles. This was my way of relaxing while going through the toughest time of my life.

6: Laughter

I remember when I was so unwell and very weak, the pain was so unbearable. I could actually feel my life ebb slowly flowing away from me and yet, I could still find humour in my darkest painful times. I remember looking upward and saying. “You can beam me up now Scottie” A few days later feeling a little better. I decided I was not ready to go. So I looked upwards again and said “You can now delete that message Scottie”:)

My family and friends were never morbid in fact, like me we were all very positive in how we dealt with my illness. We could make light of many situations.

For instant my wig used to always give me grief. After having my head shaved after the first bout of chemo the remainder of my hair fell out a few days later in the shower. Being bald is one thing trying to keep a wig on a bald head was another thing. You are given a small net stocking to go over the shiny bald head and there is nothing for the stocking to cling to. Then you place the wig on top of this netting. My embarrassing but funny moments occurred when I was out shopping. I would feel the netting riding up on my bald head then my wig would fly off my head. Shocking me and the other shoppers. Hence, I commenced to wear hats.

Another time I was on an outing with some friends at Port Arthur. We were being driven around the site. I had forgotten to bring a hat to secure my wig. It had become windy and my wig took off down the lane way. I had to quickly ask the driver to stop and allow me to retrieve my wig. I am not sure who was more embarrassed. I had a good hearty laugh that night when I relayed my story to my husband.

In the book “Staying Alive! Cookbook for Cancer free living. by Sally Errey. In the Chapter on Healing, Mind, Body and Spirit there is a section on “laughter” It says:

“Humour researchers have shown that laughter has regenerative powers, lowers blood pressure, increases sense of well-being, increases natural killer cells and enhances the immune response”.

I enjoy life by maintaining a positive attitude with plenty of laughter. In David Baird’s book there is a phrase that said it all for me:

“A good laugh is like sunshine. It can drive away the darkness.”

and....

“laughter is the best medicine.”

Please support the Australian Cancer Research Foundation by buying my song. Thank you.

Keep well and enjoy life

Rosie :)