The Lessons  I Learned From Stage-Four Cancer



On November 7 2019, a specialist broke the news that I had stage-four bowel cancer.

I was told, matter-of-factly, that I had a large primary tumour in my colon, and that it had spread to my liver. Now, as I mark three years since my initial diagnosis—a milestone I only had  a 45% chance of reaching—I’ve taken time to reflect on the many lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Our bodies are fragile.

Before I was diagnosed I thought I’d been relatively healthy. I drank very little alcohol, I often cycled and swam, and ate fruit, salad and vegetables as much as possible. But I wasn’t consistent enough.

“I’m now much more focused on including superfoods and whole foods in my daily regime: berries, citrus fruits,  leafy greens, oats, legumes, and nuts.  I’ve completely eliminated processed meats like sausages, bacon and salami since learning about the established link with bowel cancer.”

Cherish friends and the (un) kindness of strangers.

When I was diagnosed, some friends seemed to ‘freeze’ and seemed unsure how to help, while others came rushing to the door with care packages. I felt the support and generosity of some, and also learnt to smile and move on when cousins or friends said the wrong thing.

“Everyone cares, but not everyone has the same personality, life experience and wisdom to know what you might need and want.”

Being confident in  saying no.

Before my diagnosis I occasionally found myself spending time with people I found draining or difficult because I didn’t want to be rude. Once I started cancer treatment, I realised that I couldn’t afford to waste strength or inner resources on people who steal my energy.

Regular health checks  and tests are vital.

Early detection can save a lot of very aggressive treatment and also save lives, so regular health checks, including mammograms, cholesterol checks, and blood tests are vital.

“I’ve become unusually firm about who I choose to spend time with and how I use my time. I also say no to tight work deadlines or social events that will tire me and leave me unable to balance my life as a patient with my role as  a mother.”

Appreciate nature and  the ordinary wonders of daily life.

When faced with a life-threatening diagnosis, you are sometimes so far down a deep, dark well of emotions and pain that the simple act of planting a seedling and seeing it grow or a neighbour dropping off homegrown lemons makes your heart sing.

Since my diagnosis, we’ve rescued a cat, I try to attend every school event or special activity I can with my kids, and we upgraded our tent for a caravan so we could do more family camping trips.

“I became a  tree-hugging hippie and proudly so; nature is a healer. Even just a walk down the road helps when times are tough.”

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Read more about  Lucie Morris Marr’s life lessons at PRIMER.


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