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How to help people with bowel cancer – a nurse's helping hand

Supporting people recently diagnosed with bowel cancer as well as those long suffering, along with their families/whanau, Victoria Thompson's knowledge comes hand in hand with compassion. Here, we talk to Victoria about why and how she can help.

When did you join BCNZ and what is your role?

I joined BCNZ at the end of January 2021. My role is a newly created one to support patients and their whanau as they journey through their diagnosis, treatment and further. I am also working with a Wellbeing Program to better support patients.

What are the circumstances that someone may contact you?

Any sort of cancer diagnosis is a scary time for people, often they don’t know where to turn. People don’t want to burden their families, and can be uncomfortable speaking to their treating team about what is going on. As an outsider, a neutral person and someone who can advise without getting involved, I can help to provide the much needed support for people. 

How can people contact you?

People don’t necessarily ‘see’ me. I am at the end of a phone, email, chat bot, messenger request, and on the private member’s page. In the future there may be a place for having face-to-face support groups around the country.

What is your experience as a nurse?

My background is in Palliative Care, most recently within the community. I have done this sort of work here in New Zealand, affiliated with various hospices, and in Melbourne. I was also fortunate enough to have two years nursing in Saudi Arabia, which was amazing!!

Why did you join Bowel Cancer New Zealand?

I decided to join BCNZ for a number of reasons, some personal – to be more available for my mum as I am the primary support for her – and others professional. With my background and knowledge, I felt that I would be able to offer an array of support to people from all over, and to encourage the understanding that bowel cancer is something to be taken seriously. It can strike at pretty much ANY age, and that not everyone will have a family connection to bowel cancer. However caught early enough it is treatable!

How can you prevent bowel cancer? 

The usual suspects: A good diet with lots of rainbow coloured vegetables, fruits – current advise is actually x10 servings a day, not the 5+ which has been around – fish, lean meats. Stay away from processed foods, sugar in particular, and any of the ‘inflammatory’ foods such as gluten and too much dairy. And maintain a form of exercise which you enjoy – do it consistently; 30-40mins each day is better than 3 hours once a week!

What are some steps forward for those suffering from bowel cancer?

With access to funded physiotherapy, patients are able to start living their lives again. The support offered through BCNZ’s private FB page also gives people a safe place to ask, comment and share knowledge. We are now offering funded counselling support for patients and this is already being taken up.  

What is community?

Community looks like finding your ‘tribe’. It is a group of people coming together. It’s support. It’s caring. It’s truth with love. It’s practical as well as emotional. It is where life is done.

What’s the best part of living in New Zealand?

I have two grown children and three grandchildren. I love New Zealand for the hard-won freedoms we get to enjoy every day. 

What’s a big life lessoon?

Shit happens, and that this too shall pass (that is a dreadful lot of bad puns all in one sentence huh?)

Who has made a significant impact on your life and why?

My mum has probably made the biggest impact on me, and continues to do this each and every day. She is strong, grace-filled, coped with some incredibly hard stuff and remains the positive, encouraging and determined lady she always is. She taught me that no education is ever wasted and that if I start learning something to carry on until I get it finished. 

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for my faith, my family, my friends and the amazing community I have around me. I’m grateful I am strong and able to do things in life that I otherwise couldn’t without both an inner strength and an outer strength. I’m grateful we have had an incredible summer and that so far autumn has been exceptional. 

I have so much to be grateful for.

How do you practice gratitude?

I have an app on my phone ‘5 minute journal’ I’m not very consistent with it, however, I try to remember regularly to fill it in. I also have a prayer life, and I express my gratitude with encouragement and support to those I come in contact with.

By purchasing a $40 pair of bum huggers you are supporting people who suffer from bowel cancer, as all profits from undies sales goes to Bowel Cancer New Zealand.