She had just returned home from one of her twice-weekly runs, and she was shocked to read that the results of her recent postal bowel screening were “inconclusive and needed further investigation”.
A couple weeks later, she underwent a major operation to remove a polyp from the base of her bowel. Even though the operation went well, she soon learned that the polyp was cancerous and she would need to undergo six months of chemotherapy.
Babs knew that the next six months wouldn’t be easy – nobody ever wants to hear the words “cancer” or “chemotherapy”. But equipped with a positive attitude, supportive friends and family, and some practical self-care strategies, Babs managed to make it through the ups and downs of her treatment – all whilst proactively managing her mental health.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Babs for our International Weekend of Self-Care campaign – here are her thoughts on the role that self-care continues to play in her cancer journey.
An Interview With Babs Bray
Undergoing chemotherapy is certainly a period of stress – what specific self-care strategies did you utilize to actively protect your wellbeing and happiness through this experience?
“First of all – being nice and kind to myself!”
“In the early days, I was constantly thinking of what I should be doing, rather than sitting/lying in bed! This was not the time to be ‘beating myself up’ because I had no energy to run to the shops, wash dishes, iron, hoover, do any household chores…there will be plenty of time after treatment when I am well to resume all of the above!”
“I also found exercise to be helpful, and I tried to do as much as I could. This was quite a change for me as I was previously in a routine of running twice a week, pilates, school runs, generally active lifestyle and suddenly, I have no energy to even walk halfway down my road! I chose different locations, too, a short drive followed by a stroll in the country was ideal and I was quick to let my hubby know when I was getting tired!”
“This was also an ideal time for me to explore new hobbies or find a new interest, something that I had never done before! The book, ‘The Happiness Journal’ was a great gift from my family as it contained thought-provoking wordsearches and questions to complete, with a ‘gratitude’ theme throughout.”
“I spent many hours in the hospital filling these in and later decided to begin blogging. With help from a lovely friend, I set up a blog through BLOGGER, which helped me think of the positive side of this along with helping others who are going through Chemo, too!”
What was the most difficult part of this experience, and how did you overcome that?
“The most difficult part of this experience was not being in my usual routine. I had no energy to perform the smallest tasks, but overcame this by looking at the bigger ‘picture’ in all this. “I won’t always be like this” was my favourite quote I think!”
Looking back, has this experience shaped your approach to self-care today?
“Yes, I think this experience has shaped my approach to self-care as I now ‘pace’ myself a little better. If I am not feeling like doing a certain task, there is always another day!”
If you could give one piece of advice to someone at the beginning of their chemo journey, what would it be?
“I would say, ask for what you need. People do not know your needs unless you ask! I remember being offered a meal one day from a friend, but mentioned that I had my husband to cook and what I really needed right then was company! She visited the same day and it was nice to see a friendly face and enjoy her chat for a couple of hours. Don’t be afraid to ask!”
In your view, what is the best way to support someone who is going through chemo?
“The best way to support others is to simply ‘be there’ for them. I found people are genuinely interested in you, despite you feeling otherwise! By asking ‘how can I help you right now?’ makes you feel cared for and is the right ‘open’ question for the answer.”
Any other thoughts or advice that you’d like our readers to know about?
“I think it is important to do something new during this time. I heard of a lady doing a knitted blanket, others have done painting/ drawing as a new hobby. It’s a time that we can make good use of our spare time and feel useful.”
About The Lily-Jo Project’s International Weekend of Self-Care
Further Resources on Self-Care and Cancer
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources and support.
- Macmillan Cancer Support article, Cancer and your emotions
- Cancer Research UK article, How do I mentally prepare for cancer treatment?
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, How to Self-Care: Lily-Jo’s Story
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, How to Self-Care When Battling Anxiety: Mari’s Story
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, How to Self-Care When Battling Depression: Alexis’ Story
About Babs Bray
To follow her cancer journey, check out her blog here: https://babsbray.blogspot.com/