Facing a Cancer Diagnosis as a Family
- Reality TV star Liberty Poole, 23, “struggled to cope” with her grandfather’s bowel cancer while she was training for another reality TV show.
- Poole has always had a “very, very close” relationship with her grandfather, so the news was scary for her.
- But she’s glad she knew about his health struggles because it reminded her of what’s really important in life.
- Today, Poole says her grandfather is doing well and cancer-free.
- A cancer diagnosis is life-changing and it can be overwhelming – for both patients and their families. And this is especially true at the beginning of your journey.
- If a stressful event is affecting how you think and feel, it may be time to seek some sort of mental health treatment.
Poole, 23, rose to fame after her 2021 appearance on the hit reality dating show, but it was during training for another reality show called “Dancing On Ice” in 2022 that the young starlet discovered her grandfather had bowel cancer.Read More
How the “Love Island” Star Coped With the Harrowing NewsRaised by a single mother, Poole admitted that her grandfather filled a loving, fatherly role in her childhood. “My grandad and I are very, very close,” she said. “I come from a very female-dominated family, and he’s the main male role model in my life and like a dad figure to me so the thought of losing him, I struggled to cope with it at the time and even the thought now gets me a bit teary, it scares me.”
Being There: When the Person You Love is Facing Cancer
Her mother and grandmother were hesitant to tell Poole about the cancer diagnosis at first, but she was happy they eventually did.
“My family didn’t want the news to affect me, but I’m so glad they told me because when your life is so busy and things are going 100mph and something like that happens it really makes you realize what’s important and puts things into perspective,” she said.
RELATED: Ovarian Cancer Survivor Nancy Iverson On the Important Role Family Played In Her Early Stages of Treatment
Giving an update on his health, Poole was excited to report her grandfather was cancer-free. Although he has lost a lot of weight, he is reportedly “back to his normal and cheeky self, cracking grandad jokes.”
All of us at SurvivorNet are rooting for his continued recovery.
What Is Bowel Cancer?
The term bowel cancer generally refers to cancer that begins in the large bowel. In the United States, we usually use the term colorectal cancer – or colon cancer and rectal cancer, depending on the location of the disease.
Colon Cancer Screening is Extremely Important; Guidelines Now Say to Start at Age 45 if There Is No Family History
According to the American Cancer Society, 68 is the average age at the time of diagnosis for colon cancer for men and 72 is the average age for women. Both men and women have an average age of 63 for rectal cancer. This tells us that colorectal cancer is usually diagnosed in older adults, but it’s important to note that the patient population is shifting younger.
To illustrate, one recently published report in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians outlining up-to-date colorectal cancer statistics says “one in five new cases” are now occurring in people in their early 50s or younger.
RELATED: The Rate of Colon Cancer is Increasing in Those Under 50
“Early-onset colorectal cancers seem to be more aggressive, and found at later stages in younger adults, but they are not necessarily more fatal if they are caught early,” colorectal surgeon and surgical oncologist Dr. Heather Yeo said.
“You Shouldn’t Die From Embarrassment”: Colon Cancer Can Be Prevented
That’s why, on top of following recommended screening protocols, everyone should be aware of bowel (colorectal) cancer symptoms to look out for.
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), people with colorectal cancer may develop the following signs or symptoms:
- A change in your bowel habits
- Diarrhea, constipation or feeling like your bowel is not completely emptying
- Bright red or very dark blood in the stool (feces)
- Stools that appear narrower or thinner than usual
- Abdominal discomfort such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness and cramps
- Unexplained weight loss
- Persistent fatigue or tiredness
- Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia – a type of anemia that occurs when you do not have enough iron in your body
If you ever develop any of the above symptoms, talk to your doctor promptly. In addition, make sure you’ve had a conversation about what colorectal cancer screening should look like for you based on your individual risk level for the disease.
When it comes to treating colon cancer, your doctor has many ways, including:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy
Generally, surgery is recommended for anyone with stage 1, 2 or 3 colon cancer – though stage 2 and 3 may require both surgery and chemotherapy.
Even if surgery is successful at removing your cancer, there are always risks to surgery. If you hear the term “complications,” that can mean anything from an infection that is treated with antibiotics to a problem with the surgery itself that requires another operation.
It’s important to know that the risk of complications is higher for elderly people and those who have a lot of other medical problems (like heart and lung issues). In these situations, your surgeon can help you decide whether surgery is the right decision for you and what other options there might be to maintain your quality of life.
Managing Emotions After a Cancer Diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis is life-changing and it can be overwhelming – for both patients and their families. And this is especially true at the beginning of your journey.
Licensed clinical social worker Sarah Stapleton tells SurvivorNet that you should be “patient with your emotions” and communicate what you need from those around you as you process the news.
“The way people respond is very variable,” adds psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik. “Very much consistent with how they respond to stresses and challenges in their life in general.”
Plutchik stresses that your emotions are valid during this journey.
“People have a range of emotions when they’re diagnosed with cancer,” Dr. Plutchik explains. “And they can include fear, anger … and these emotions tend to be fluid. They can recede and return based on where someone is in the process. Going through a cancer diagnosis is just the beginning of a complicated, complicated process.”
Dr. Plutchik explains that the patient and their family members should accept that they may feel fine one day and then feel a massive wave of stress the next. It’s also important for those you look to for support — whether that’s a therapist, friends and family, or both — to understand the fluidity of stress-related emotions.
If a stressful event is affecting how you think and feel, it may be time to seek some sort of mental health treatment. This could mean traditional talk therapy, medication, changing lifestyle habits (like exercise and diet), seeking out a support group, or many other approaches.
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