Sally Kriel’s two young boys were by her side when she was delivered the news, “I’m sorry you have cancer”. The bowel cancer diagnosis came when Ms Kriel was just 38.
As part of the month-long Be There for Bloomhill campaign, and to coincide with Red Apple Day (bowel cancer awareness day) on June 16, Ms Kriel is sharing her story in the hope of inspiring other young parents facing a cancer diagnosis.
Thankfully for the Sunshine Coast nurse of 18 years, the cancer was caught early and after major surgery she did not require chemotherapy.
“When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I had an 18-month-old and three-year-old,” she says.
“My greatest drive for recovery and ultimately survival was my wish to be the mum that I had always wanted to be. I wanted to be there for my children and
for my husband.”
With no guide on how to parent while she was unwell, Ms Kriel had to navigate her way through parenting during her 12-month recovery.
“Through my diagnosis, I have discovered that the resources and support services for younger parents are lacking. A lot of patient information and funding is targeted at older adults.
“I didn’t have a guide to ‘parent from the lounge’. On a day-to-day basis I learned from trial and error.”
A few weeks post-surgery, Ms Kriel reached out to Bloomhill Cancer Care to receive the support she and her family needed.
“I had heard from colleagues that Bloomhill was a fantastic organisation that supports cancer patients and their families, of all ages. I needed to connect with a team who really understood the emotional and physical needs of a cancer patients at home.
“I needed advice on how to make my recovery easier so that I could get back to my life.”
Ms Kriel has no family history of bowel cancer and says her only symptoms were bloating and intermittent stomach pain for a month before deciding to visit her GP.
Her boys, now six and four, have come to enjoy visiting Bloomhill with their mother. “My boys absolutely love the Bloomhill volunteers who look after them during my appointments,” Ms Kriel says.
“I don’t have to organise or pay for babysitting; they just come with me and we all have an outing.”
To support the Bloomhill campaign, visit www.bloomhill.com.au.
Ms Kriel’s tips for dealing with a cancer diagnosis
- Link in with a good GP who understands you and your needs.
- Ask your questions: Ask lots of questions until you have all the facts and understand your condition, the treatments, and recovery times.
- Nourish your mind: Make a point of surrounding yourself with positive stories. Develop a daily practice to nourish your mind – meditation, gratitude, journalling (whatever resonates with you).
- Accept support: Delegate anything you can. If you have anyone in your circle who is putting their hand up and saying “can I help you?” Say, “yes, fantastic”.
- Be kind and gentle on yourself.
- Get help from Bloomhill: You won’t be asked how you are, you’ll be asked, ‘what can we do for you?’.