“I Would Hate For Anyone To Feel Like They Are Alone” ‘Cancer Quips’ Contributor Patrick Reeve On Sharing His Story

photo: Olin Sherwood

‘Cancer Quips’ is a collection of stories covering every step in a person’s cancer journey, contributed by real men and women from across the UK. Patrick Reeve is one such contributor. Sharing his story of living with bowel cancer and having a permanent stoma, something that can be perceived as “one of the more unpleasant cancers “unpleasant”, Patrick’s purpose was to shed light on the condition and help to support those who may have otherwise felt alone.

Curated by author Brenda Burling, ‘Cancer Quips’ serves as a companion to those who may feel isolated during one of the hardest periods of their life. The book is published on March 14th 2024 and is available to order here.

Can you share with us why you chose to contribute your story to this book?

As I was diagnosed with bowel cancer which resulted in having a permanent stoma I wanted to get more people talking about and be aware of bowel cancer and stomas.  Bowel cancer is perceived as one of the more unpleasant cancers that people don’t like to talk about as it involves poo but that reticence undoubtedly costs lives as people (particularly men!) don’t like going to their GP as it is embarrassing. 

What benefits do you believe come from sharing your experiences with others who may be going through a similar journey?

I would hope that it helps to illustrate that there is life after a cancer diagnosis and having a stoma is not the end of your ‘normal’ life.  As above, bowel cancer is still a little stigmatised and I would hate for anyone to feel like they are alone but that there are plenty of us out there that are living normal lives.

Looking back, do you wish there had been a similar resource available to you when you were first diagnosed with cancer?

I think for some people that would help.  I knew somebody with a stoma and so I was able to talk to them about it which helped to deal with any concerns I had.

How has sharing your story impacted your mental health and emotional well-being?

When I was first diagnosed I decided that I would write a daily blog so that I could leave my cancer life in a separate place.  When you are first diagnosed, cancer is all you talk about and my wife & I decided that we would try to not let it take over our lives as we still had living to do.  Writing the blog daily helped me to purge any negative thoughts I had (I often cried whilst writing my daily entry) from my mind but also humorous thoughts as well which left my mind able to cope with the everyday stuff.

In what ways do you think hearing the stories of other cancer survivors can positively influence those currently battling cancer?

Firstly, I have an issue with words like ‘battling’ or ‘fighting’ when talking about cancer.  We don’t use those terms for any other disease.  The issue is that if somebody dies from cancer they are thought to have lost the battle or hadn’t fought hard enough.  As I used to say to anyone that would listen, “I have cancer, but I am still the same person as I was before. I am not fighting cancer, I am living with it or I have it and hopefully I will be cured of it”.  If I had died from it, I wouldn’t want people saying that I lost the battle as I was never in a battle in the first place!

But I digress.  I think learning about other people’s stories, good or bad, can help those undergoing treatment or coming out of treatment to see what the outcomes might be. When the treatment is hard and making you feel really unwell it can only help to see how others have coped with the myriad side effects on your body and mind.  It can also help to discuss other treatments or therapies with your medical team that may not have been mentioned. 

Can you provide an update on how you are doing now in terms of your physical health and overall well-being?

I am now seven years post-treatment and feeling well.  I am scheduled to have another colonoscopy in January 2025 as part of my ongoing cancer surveillance. 

What advice would you offer to other cancer survivors who may be hesitant to share their stories or seek support?

Don’t hesitate!  The more people that talk about their cancers the more awareness is spread.  Cancer is still a very impactful word and people do not like talking about it.  It’s as if they will get it if they talk about it.  I believe it’s the not talking that is the issue.  People are embarrassed about certain types of cancer, particularly bowel cancer as it involves words like poo, rectum & anus.  But, that few minutes of embarrassment could save your life.

My advice to everyone is, if your body is doing something it doesn’t normally do, seek advice, and get it checked, that visit could save your life, it did mine!

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