Beating bowel cancer together

Top tips on keeping positive during this winter lockdown

Thursday 28 January 2021

To help you during these challenging times, we asked people affected by bowel cancer how they’re keeping positive during a winter lockdown.

Sophie Hughes from Brighton living with stage 4 bowel cancer

I am lucky I live with my mum and we hug and say we love each other even more than we did, even before the pandemic. Make the most of the human contact you are able to. Be mushy with friends and family over Zoom and don't worry about kissing a phone screen (as long as it’s sanitized of course!).

I was the typical sceptic but I enjoy 'Yoga with Adriene'; this woman sings in her classes but she also guides you body part by body part into the right alignment, and gets you breathing properly to support your body with breath at the same time as exercising. I feel calmer after about 10 minutes and you don't have to be fully focused to get that effect, which is handy right now.

We are in the middle of a storm, it is raging around us but it is external and it will pass. Let's try and stop the storm from raging inside us; give yourself space to sit in stillness, listen to emotional music or do a puzzle or knitting which keeps your hands busy but lets your mind wander. Let yourself laugh too. Look for the ridiculous. I find the animal kingdom useful for this; watching the birds outside our window or our very greedy guinea pigs searching endlessly for yet more kale.

We are resilient, strong and brave; we have to be as cancer patients or those in remission, but that doesn't make it less admirable. Give yourself credit for just getting through this time.

Sophie Hughes at home wearing a brightly coloured yellow knitted scarf to keep warm this winter

Linda Studd from Peterborough lost her younger brother to the disease in 2018

If you have a fitness tracker use that irritating buzz that reminds you that you haven't done your steps in the hour to your advantage. When you feel it, put on a happy song, any of your favourites, and dance for the last few minutes of the hour like nobody's watching. They're actually not at the moment. It's great for your mental and physical wellbeing.

Linda studd wearing her fitness track and noise cancelling headphones

James Amos from Cornwall living with stage 4 bowel cancer

To keep myself mentally well I write in my journal every day, practice the Wim Hof method breathing exercises and meditate. I find this really helps with any anxiety I may be experiencing. I have always enjoyed the gym and I miss not going, but during the first lockdown I bought some heavy-duty exercise bands and created my own portable gym with some other items bought off e-bay. It's not got the feel of the gym but it's a decent substitute.

I am reminded of a quote from Gloria Vanderbilt: "I like the idea of showing that you can go through a lot and still be on your feet, still be working, and still be positive about life. And that you can still think that the best thing is around the corner." However, I do not like to see other people struggle or go through difficult experiences alone and am always willing to help others or chat to someone if they felt it would benefit them. Don't be afraid to reach out.

Copy of the daily stoic journal on the ground 366 days of writing and reflection on the art of living

Ron Kerr from Angus has recovered from stage 1 bowel cancer

When the first lockdown started in March 2020 I realised that the rug would be pulled from under me... Between then, and during these present restrictions, I think I have created an alternative routine to protect myself. My walking group and my employers have regular Zoom meetings which I find supportive. Myself and two colleagues in the latter have managed to produce and distribute regular monthly newsletters to 270, mostly elderly, members in Dundee and Angus. A small group of us also make a point of phoning at least one other every day.

We are fortunate enough to have a picturesque loch, with much bird life, inside the Forfar town boundary and there is a new service area for the A90 at one end of it. I buy my Guardian, drive out to the Starbucks there, buy a coffee, read my paper, listen to the Archers (how sad is that), then have a walk round the Loch. I try to do five miles per day but only manage it 5 days per week.

Scottish loch in the snow with swans and ducks

Sophie Umhofer 39 from Warwickshire living with stage 4 bowel cancer

I know how important it is for me to get some alone time and do things to de-stress, but so far it has not really worked out. I am now starting to schedule time in at the weekend, where my husband will take the kids out for a walk so I can have the house to myself for a bit.

Since last lockdown, I have been exercising online with various classes, so this has continued for me. I make sure I do something every day to keep me moving, which helps my mood too! I've found it important to find an exercise you enjoy, otherwise you won't stick to it. It can be anything, so long as you move and it makes you feel good.

Another thing I do for me is daily breathing techniques and meditation. These both help me mentally, I find them challenging to do but feel so much better after it's done. I am also carving out time now to do some writing, reading, and studying of subjects I enjoy. Last lockdown I took an online course and it really helped me feel productive, and kept my brain going.

Lastly, I am making sure I take time out to contact friends and actually call people. So far I have made a call every day to a friend or family member, instead of just a text. Talking to other humans is really important and I forget that, as I have almost got used to this more reclusive way of life.

This is a really difficult time for us all, but I always think of the positives to keep me going. Spring is on its way, the vaccine is being rolled out and hopefully soon, things will start going back to normal. For now we have to stay safe and look after each other as best we can.
Visit the coronavirus section on our website for the latest guidance on how to stay safe, and what we’re doing to support you during these difficult times.

Sophie Umhofer pictured in a field with her child

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