A New Perspective
- Dame Julie Walters says she plans to quit acting after her 2018 colorectal cancer diagnosis gave her new perspective on life.
- Colorectal cancer is also known as bowel cancer in some countries outside of the United States.
- Treatment options include a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, but if a patient is not eligible for surgery then chemotherapy will be administered alone.
Walters, 70, was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, in 2018, while filming fantasy film The Secret Garden. Although her first response was, understandably, severe anxiety and fear, she took stock of her life and non-stop acting career and decided a change was in order.Read More
“There was also an element of going, ‘I don’t have to do any more work. I can actually get off this treadmill,'” Walters tells The Times. “Because I had been working really hard and it seemed like a big excuse not to do anything. Cancer trumps everything. So there was a huge relief in it, which is strange. But I needed something to stop me…I thought, ‘I don’t want to work again unless it’s another Mamma Mia.'”
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Bowel cancer refers to any type of cancer that starts in the large bowels, such as the colon. Depending on where it begins, patients may be diagnosed with either colon cancer or rectal cancer, seeing as cancer of the small bowel is very rare. The disease begins when polyps grow from the inner lining of the bowel. Usually these polyps are harmless, but if left untreated, they can become cancerous.
Walters says that her health took a backseat during her acting career, and, in fact, that’s one of the reasons she made the ultimate decision to leave the big screen. It can be difficult prioritizing your health while juggling a demanding career, but Walters refuses to take that chance again.
“Acting caused it,” Walters says. “Because of the way that I approach it I have to be totally in it. Everything has to be just so. It’s very stressful. You’re immediately above the parapet. You’re being judged. It’s a stressful job and I don’t sleep when I’m working. It’s not good for me.”
Treatment For Colorectal Cancer
For her stage 3 cancer diagnosis, Walters had surgery to remove the tumor from her lower intestine, and underwent chemotherapy after. She was declared in remission in 2018. However, for more advanced cases of the disease, surgery isn’t always a possibility since it wouldn’t be able to successfully remove all the tumors. In these circumstances, patients are often administered chemotherapy which can manage the cancer and make sure it doesn’t continue to spread.
Evaluating whether patients can qualify for surgery depends largely on the age of the patient, size of the tumor, and preexisting medical conditions. Like any surgery, there is a higher risk of complications from surgery if the patient is elderly and has health issues.
Cancer Puts Life In Perspective
After a cancer diagnosis, survivors say it allowed them to slow down and reevaluate what’s important in their lives — whether it’s about your career, health, or family life. For CC Webster, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma at just 29-years-old, she realized she didn’t feel gratified with her current life. After being declared in remission, she decided to make some serious changes concerning her career.
“You don’t have to go back to that same job, and you don’t have to sit at the same desk and be who you were before you got really sick and your life changed,” Webster tells SurvivorNet. “I was sitting at my desk about two months into being back at work, and we got another pitch proposal in. These were the moments that we lived for in the advertising world. But the worst thing was that I was staring at that proposal, and I thought, this wasn’t what the last six months was for. This wasn’t why I sat through 14 drips.”
Webster ultimately decided her outlook on life after cancer didn’t fit into her life pre-diagnosis, and quit her job despite having no backup plan in motion. She only knew she wanted to share her story with the world, and started working on a book.