A SECOND CHANCE AND NEW PRIORITIES
LIVING IN REMISSION
Remission is when the signs and symptoms of cancer have decreased or disappeared, although cancer may still be in the body. Living in remission can be a source of both relief and anxiety — relief that the tumour is gone and anxiety that it may recur. It is important for you to deal with changes in your attitude to your life, your relationships and yourself. While hoping that the disease stays in remission, it is also important to remember that it can recur. Take the time to maintain your health and follow your physician’s recommendations for follow-up visits.
IF CANCER RETURNS
If you experience a relapse, you may feel even worse psychologically than when you were first diagnosed because you had hoped and believed that the cancer was cured. However, it may actually be easier for you to cope the second time around; you already know what to expect, how to find support and how to manage your disease. Remember, if your cancer was successfully treated once, it may be successfully treated again. Use whatever support you need to get through a relapse.
FIVE WAYS TO STAY HEALTHY
For most people, age and diet contribute to developing colorectal cancer, not the genes they were born with. Your age and family history of the disease are beyond your control, but you can control some risk factors related to lifestyle. Studies indicate that certain lifestyle decisions increase risk factors for colorectal cancer, such as smoking, diet and your alcohol intake.
Alcohol consumption: Alcohol may increase your risk. Lower rates of colorectal cancer have been found in those who drink no alcohol. Although small amounts of alcohol are thought to lower the risk of some types of heart disease, it appears that alcohol, particularly in larger quantities, may contribute to the incidence of colorectal cancer.
Weight: Being overweight (particularly having excess fat in the waist area rather than the hips or thighs) increases your risk, especially for men.
Physical activity: Lack of physical activity has been associated with higher rates of colorectal cancer and can obviously lead to weight gain as well. People who are physically active before a diagnosis of colorectal cancer appear to do better throughout the treatment process. People who take up regular physical activity after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer often have improved outcomes.
Smoking: Long-term, heavy smoking may also increase your risk. Studies indicate that smokers are 2-3 times more likely to develop colorectal polyps.
Diet: Your eating habits may have an effect on your risk of developing colorectal cancer. A lot of research has been conducted, but there are still many unanswered questions. Certain foods seem to be related to the risk of developing colorectal cancer, but not all studies are in agreement.
Fats: Some studies have shown that foods high in fat (fried foods, red meat and junk food such as potato chips and other packaged snacks) may put you at risk. Foods that are low in fat will help you maintain a healthy weight. This will lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Fibre: Some studies suggest that a higher intake of fibre may have a protective effect on the functioning of the colon. Many studies have looked at the benefits of fibre for reducing colorectal cancer risk. Fibre can be obtained by eating lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes (beans, lentils and nuts).
Fruits and vegetables: At least one vegetable or fruit serving per meal and snack may help protect you against this cancer and many other diseases. Your risk may be increased if you do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Meat consumption: Several studies have shown that eating large quantities of red meat or processed meat plays a part in developing colorectal cancer. Cooking meats at high temperatures (frying or barbecuing) may turn harmless substances in the meat into cancer-causing agents or carcinogens.
People who have had similar experiences can often offer support. Ask your oncologist, your cancer nurse or the oncology social worker for information about support groups in your area. In addition, Colorectal Cancer Canada (CCC) manages support groups in several communities across Canada to assist patients and their caregivers throughout their cancer journey.