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A PASSION FOR CARE – by Robert Hamilton

A PASSION FOR CARE – by Robert Hamilton

The colonoscopy room seemed small when filled with bizarre equipment. My gastroenterologist was cheerful, and his assisting nurse knew exactly what she was doing. In short order, I was lying on the table while looking at a computer screen along with my doctor. I had scheduled a simple sigmoidoscopy, avoiding the full colonoscopy preparations that I felt were unnecessary given that I thought the examination would likely find some sort of hemorrhoid condition.

“Well, there’s your problem right there.” said my doctor looking at the screen, “I’ve seen things like this before and I think I know what it is.” The dark blob in a red background looked unremarkable.

“Yeah? What is it?” I said calmly.

“Well, I don’t want to alarm you without full testing. I’ll take a biopsy and we can schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the results. Or I could tell you what I think it is right now. What do you want?”

“If you’ve seen things like this before, what does your experience tell you that it is?”

“It’s a tumour. That’s what a cancer tumour looks like.” I was stunned into a long silent pause. “Do you have any questions?”

I peered more closely at the screen. I had no sense of how magnified the video image was. “In your view “, I asked, “would you describe what we’re seeing as small, medium, or large?”

“I’d say it’s medium size”, he replied. And with that, my cancer journey had begun.

As a coincidence of timing, five days later my partner and I found ourselves attending our first Colorectal Cancer Support Group meeting.

In the years that have followed, I’ve come to appreciate how critically important the support of peers can be. What I’ve learned about colorectal cancer from other patients, survivors, caregivers, and Colorectal Cancer Canada has made all the difference.

For example, having been through cancer treatments first hand, patients can quickly tell when support materials, albeit factually correct, have been written by those who really don’t know what it’s like:

– What it’s like to face the real prospect of your own mortality
– What it’s like to see your previous hopes and dreams vanish into impossibility
– What it’s like to lose sight of yourself as someone in good health
– What it’s like to muster the courage to face yet another cancer treatment session

The Colorectal Cancer Support Group is a special place of friendship, compassion, courage, empathy, unvarnished information and deep understanding. Within the complex spectrum of medical care options, there’s nothing like hearing it from the authentic lived experience of those who can tell it like it is — those who’ve been there and done that.

This equally applies to caregivers: spouses, partners, and friends who in their own way, travel the cancer journey along with the cancer patient. All too often the caregiver’s difficult experience is underappreciated. Yet so often we’ve seen how a strong, engaged and positive caregiver can dramatically influence treatment outcomes. These experiences too have found a home amid the discussions at our Colorectal Cancer Support Group.

Today, Kim Anne as caregiver and I as survivor, have stepped forward to share a passion for helping others, in our volunteer role as Cancer Support Group Co-facilitators. We collaborate to gently guide the discussion, encourage frank sharing amongst participants, as well as offer useful reference information, research news and reliable referral sources such as Colorectal Cancer Canada. Sometimes emotional, sometimes light-hearted, the tone of the conversation ranges from free-wheeling to seriously focussed. Yet always there’s a firm context of compassionate care.

It’s through the much-appreciated work of Colorectal Cancer Canada, that local peer support groups can reach out to provide practical information and empathetic help to others at any point along the cancer pathway.

Robert Hamilton

Posted on Facebook the February 7, 2020

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