Beating bowel cancer together

Top tips on staying safe and keeping positive

We know that you may feel anxious and worried about coronavirus. To help you during these challenging times, we asked our people affected by bowel cancer what they’re doing to keep themselves safe from infections and how they’re keeping positive.

Max Hill: A simple flower image can bring a smile and at this moment anything that can give a smile is worth doing. So do you have a Twitter account? Do you have a camera and do you have flowers or plants that make you smile, then take a quick photo and share on twitter adding the hashtag #NHSthisflowerisforyou and help give a smile to your followers.

I’m sharing photos of the flowers in my garden during my treatment for stage 3 bowel cancer. Have a look on @maxbhill.

Carl Difford: I am concerned about my elderly father, who lives alone and is relatively independent but for whom I still need to do housework, shopping, etc. But he seems fine as long as I keep phoning or texting.

Housework is keeping me and my wife active for now, with our new cat making lots of mess to ensure we get enough exercise. I feel really lucky that I’ve not been directly affected so far, but anxious that health resources are having to be diluted – particularly for friends and relatives with cancer and other life-threatening conditions. We need to all keep doing what we can to keep safe as long as possible so the care is available when we need it.

Andrea Robson: I’d like to think my chemo and recovery days have prepped me for lockdown. So here’s my tips:

  • Keep connected: text, call or video at least one person a day. No matter what, you'll get a smile even just at the "hello"
  • Breathe in the outside: lean out of a window, stand at your front door or if you haven’t had “the text” have a walk (two metres people) and if there is a blue sky always look up
  • Music: it’s a distraction, makes you dance or calms you. Stick on the radio or a playlist and let the music do its thing
  • Read a book or listen to podcasts: have some escapism, whether fiction or not your mind will be grateful to be taken away from the news
  • TV: it’s company, though something not too heavy, I mean you can’t go wrong with Friends
  • Have a cup of tea: its comfort in a cup
  • Wash your hair: it does wonders
  • Cry - it's ok, let the tears flow, it’s a release

And always remember we’re in this together.

Craig Allen: I am using this time to step back from a hectic work life to enjoy reading and listening to music. I can contact friends and family via social media, so I don’t feel isolated at all. I am also using this time to exercise in different ways. I am a keen runner, but this has been a time when I have had to vary my training and this has offered interesting diversity.

My message to anyone regarding this outbreak, would be that I have recently seen different sides to humanity. Some instances are less than pleasing, however, by and large much of it is very gracious and positive. I firmly believe that when this is over, we will emerge as better, more caring individuals. Stay safe.

Rob Moffatt: This is a crazy time but we are lucky to live in a small community. We tend to look after each other. Our local shops are doing a fantastic job and fit people like me can help them with deliveries and generally checking on all the elderly and vulnerable.

What we can do just now is follow guidelines and stay healthy in order that we can help others. We are lucky here because we have access to the countryside where we can safely walk, cycle and run. I feel it is very important to do this at this time.

If you are going through recovery at this time just follow the advice you are given and you will get there - all the best.

Olivia Rowlands: I was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer when I was 29. I’m glad to say that nearly two years later, I am still all clear. Treatment left me infertile and unable to carry a baby, however I’m very happy to say that my cousin is currently six months pregnant with our baby! So, when it comes to the coronavirus, I am more concerned about her and our little girl than myself.

I was never an anxious person before cancer, however I’ve found myself getting upset and frustrated at this situation as we are unable to see my cousin or attend any midwife appointments. With regards to worrying about getting this virus, I’m not any more worried about that than I am with my cancer returning. In my head, if we stick to the rules and stay inside, we’re as safe as we can be.

My husband and I are making the most of spending this quality time together, we find ourselves very lucky that we get to do that. I’m keeping him busy with house chores which he isn’t so keen on, however he is rewarded with a beer in the garden at the end of the day. We all know that life can throw anything at you, but what I’ve learnt is how you react to these episodes is really what defines you as a human.

Craig Wheatley: With all this newly discovered time on my hands, I have found it vital to stick to some form of routine to help me stay healthy in mind and body. I got diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer just over four years ago and am now nearing the end of an immunotherapy trial. This has proven very successful but I've always been passionate about taking positives from any situation.

There is no denying that Covid-19 is terrifying for our families and our beloved NHS but we all have our job to do, even if that means staying at home! I am no expert but my number one piece of advice is to put time aside to exercise. Doing whatever level of exercise you are comfortable with will keep you active and healthy as well as releasing important endorphins which lift your mood and wellbeing. It will even help you have a better sleep at night!

Barbara Moss: It’s so difficult when everything looks the same around you but you know that it isn’t! Having come through bowel cancer, I have found that thinking positively, being at peace with the people you love and telling them you love them actually makes the world of difference to yourself.

In addition to our advocacy work, Mark and I have been tidying the garden, sorting our cupboards, cooking and trying new recipes. We have been making music on the doorstep instead of the campsite in France where we had planned to be. It all seems strange but we just think ourselves lucky.

Matthew Wiltshire: I was in hospital two weeks ago having my fifth procedure to remove more metastasised bowel cancer nodules in my lungs. I finally got discharged after six days (normally three) and I came home to a very strange environment.

My wife was insisting on self-isolation AND social distancing, even inside the house. Everyone seemed very worried about me. More worried than I was. I have two boys aged 22 and 18, also taking it very seriously. No hugging, eating dinner two meters apart, no watching telly in the same room. News on TV 24/7, phones pinging each time the death toll rises! None of us has any symptoms. Is this over kill?

Trying to stay sane is not easy; I will only watch Boris and the gang deliver their daily update and I try to avoid the doom on social media, preferring to seek out reputable articles that deliver a proper perspective on the situation. I’m recovering still so can’t go crazy on the exercise at the moment; a short dog walk suffices. I keep busy writing, and working on a few fundraising ideas, interspersed with watching a movie or two, reading a book, and playing some PlayStation games (my boys find this highly amusing – I’m really bad).

It’s slightly odd that it seems that the whole world is now in the same boat, and everyone is suffering in one way or another. We are not alone, let’s support each other in whatever way we can, as we make our way through this difficult situation. Now is the time to show strength and resilience, kindness and compassion, to maintain a positive attitude, and to hold onto a sense of humour. We will get through this.

Tasha Thor-Straten: I think I've actually already had COVID-19 - if I have, that's great news because I survived.  So, how do I use my neuro linguistic programming coaching skills to enable me to thrive, bearing in mind I could quite easily send myself into a downward spiral of panic and uncertainty?  Well, the answer is simple, I keep things simple by following the things that make me happy:-

  • I avoid too much news consumption, choosing only to read a quick update in the morning and evening
  • I write a few words in my morning diary and express any unhelpful thoughts, fears and anxieties.  Once they're out, I feel better
  • I write a list of achievable things to do - always including some exercise (current hobby is skipping) and fun stuff
  • I video-call my mum and other friends to stay 'in touch' visually
  • I take every day as it comes, focusing on nurturing my family
  • I share my coaching skills online and help others find ways to cope
  • I listen to podcasts
  • Eat well - I have a home delivery of fruit and veg
  • If I'm feeling sad, I accept those feelings, but if they hang around too long, I shift them along
  • Focus on what makes you happy - this will pass.

Steve Clark: I take my dog, Pippa, out for a long walk first thing in the morning while it’s quiet. It’s actually been lovely to do that in this fab spring weather we’ve been having. Other than that I’m pretty much sticking to my house and little garden.

I work from home anyway so I’m used to that and my work is able to continue, just with lots more video conference meetings. I’m keeping myself occupied by practicing more yoga (I’ve been profiling my favourite teachers on my social media feeds), I used to be a yoga teacher so this is great fun.

My family have set up a WhatsApp group and we also chat live via the House party app. In fact, thanks to this situation we’re chatting way more than normal!

Alistair Forsyth: My wife and I went into a state of self-isolation a few days before most of the population and we are getting used to it. Fortunately we live in a seaside village with lovely views and have a large garden, where I spend a lot of time. And I’m delighted to say that the garden is looking better and more interesting than ever. But there’s still lots to do! I never forget my vulnerability but I am confident that I will get through it.

Sima Davarian: My daughter is four and a half and I'm a teacher, so I'm working from home and will have the occasional day at school. Preschool is shut and although I'm technically a key worker we are managing without using preschool. Our days are falling into a nice routine: PE with Joe Wicks followed by phonics for Mathilda; snack time; some creative time and then fresh air.

I've been trying to go running and a lot of my day is orientated around Mathilda. Baking, reading and gardening are things we've been doing together. We are hoping that lots of wildflower seeds put on a lovely display in the summer! Staying in contact with friends and family via social media and video calls has become so important: it really is crucial to 'see' other people. We are all experiencing this difficult time together. It you or a loved one have had cancer then you're made of strong stuff already. We can do this!

John Withers: I was very concerned about I how I might be affected particularly given the fact that I was over 70 with a weakened immune system and obviously in a group of people considered to be at risk from this disease.

This has resulted in a huge impact on my daily life that I took for granted, having to avoid as much social contact as possible over a period of several months or longer whilst residing in a small village community. In addition, I had concerns over my general wellbeing with my physical fitness and mental health being uppermost in my mind. I decided to address both issues by embarking on a programme of house redecorating something that had not been done since moving into my house some 22 years ago.

This particular epidemic has not only reminded me of my own vulnerability as someone living with cancer but has also served to demonstrate that in times like this there is always an opportunity to do something positive in life.

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.

Thanks supporter

Thanks for signing up for this great campaign. To complete the setup of your JustGiving page you need to first create an account for myemail@domain.tld, please enter a new password to use below. Alternatively if you already have an account and would like to use it just click here.

Thanks supporter

Thanks for signing up for this great campaign. To complete the setup of your JustGiving page you need to login to your myemail@domain.tld account, please enter the password for that account below. Alternatively if you have a different account you would like to use just click here.

Forgotten password

Hi supporter, do you want to send a password reminder?.

JustGiving Login

Hi supporter, please enter your JustGiving login details below and we'll handle the rest.