Navigating the Colon Cancer Treatment Maze – The New Culture of Survivorship

Cancer Solutions – the New Culture of Survivorship:

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navigating the colon cancer treatment maze








Navigating the Bowel Cancer Maze Prevention and Management with Grace Gawler Voice America

What does it mean to be diagnosed with familial polyposis? The condition involves the growth of numerous polyps that form mainly in the epithelium of the large intestine. While these polyps start out benign, malignant transformation into colon cancer occurs when left untreated. Listen to an interview with recovered patient Angela on Voice America’s Navigating the Cancer Maze hosted by Grace Gawler.

Part ONE:
Why I am Passionate about Prevention of Colon Cancer:

The subject of colon cancer is not ‘everyone’s cup of tea’ as they say! However I have a distinct and very personal interest in colon cancer and colon health. My early work with cancer patients activated my interest and concern for this group of patients who in those days seemed to left in a no-mans land to cope with a horrendous change to their bodily function as well as the psychological challenges that go with such a life-changing trauma. Assisting bowel cancer patients soon took over from my work with women with breast cancer. “Women of Silence – the Emotional Healing of Breast Cancer” was based on the unspoken issues that affected a woman’s self esteem, body image, psychology, lifestyle and relations to name but a few. However I was so awe-struck by the plight of patients with colon cancer; both men and women who had ileostomies or colostomies, that I was compelled to research more on how I could assist them with diet, lifestyle, adaptation, reclaiming their lives and dealing with the consequences of uninvited life change. Eventually this area became a speciality part of my Naturopathic Practice. Not only cancer patients, but those dealing with IBS and all varieties of colon issues began to consult with me. I studied the anatomy & physiology of the colon in depth and helped thousand of patients.

But….little did I know what the future had in store!

Ironically I had been well prepared for the next stage of my life when after a routine gynaecological surgery in 1997; I was unable to do what most of us do every day – that is go to the loo! My husband had just left the family, I was financially and physically compromised and I had 4 teenage children at home. So began my annus horribilis.

Me after 1st ileostomy and colectomy in 2000
Me after 1st ileostomy and colectomy in 2000

 It is a good thing we cannot see into the future as I did not know there would be 13 more similar years ahead. All tolled I had 21 surgical procedures and ileostomies and colostomies! Five feet of large Colon was removed and 5 feet of small bowel due to massive faecal impaction. The stomas leaked causing severe burns on my belly. Each time I had a surgical reversal (the bowel was re-joined); what remained of my colon would violently and unsuccessfully; try to push material through my paralysed rectum. Many times what was supposed to come out one end – came up via the other end. It was a debilitating, socially difficult and the most challenging thing I have ever experienced. The stoma area herniated due to strain. At times it was hard to see a way through but despite the down times, I was committed to finding solutions.

I travelled to Holland and underwent experimental surgery and basically became a world first for a bionic implant surgically placed in my buttock with wires and electrodes implanted through my spinal foramina. This device (like a heart pacemaker) worked successfully at 6volts to give me enough stimulus to empty my what remains of my colon. It works by mimicking the nerves that allowed rectal emptying. That was in 2012-2003. Suddenly my empathy ran deeper for my past patients; for as well as managing stomas – they were also dealing with cancer.

But regardless of the cause – like my patients, I was also now dealing with a life-threatening situation.

I learned a lot first hand from my experience to apply in my cancer work-more than I could possible have learned during my many training courses. My issue had been a ‘post surgical complication’ & maybe unavoidable. But I reasoned that if patients with known bowel conditions could do something to avoid what I had been through – then I could have a valuable contribution.  I knew that early diagnosis of bowel cancer and & subsequent intervention could save a life. In particular I knew there were approaches reported in medical literature about the value of High EPA Fish oils and anti-inflammatory complementary medicines in helping those afflicted with the precancerous condition known as FAP.
So when patient “Angela” came to me in 2011 diagnosed with Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and facing a permanent ileostomy I knew what we could try safely while her situation was monitored medically.

Her grandfather had FAP, her mother had it and died at 58……her uncle has it and it is known that one of her adult sons has it. Her other 2 children as yet have not been investigated.

So …. what does it mean to be diagnosed with familial polyposis?  The condition involves the growth of numerous polyps that  form mainly in the epithelium of the large intestine. While these polyps start out benign, malignant transformation into colon cancer occurs when left untreated.
(The medical solution is usually  a colectomy – a surgical resection of any extent of the large intestine (colon) and a colostomy bag or in some cases an ileostomy, when the polyps invade the colon tissue changing it’s structure and causing fragility).

Angela asked me what could be tried as she like myself had already had some colon section removed and had endured the failure of a temporary ileostomy. Listen to my interview with Angela and learn what she decided to do about regaining bowel health. Still clear of polyps (Dec 2013) and with a regenerated colon (confirmed with colonoscopy) she has successfully navigated the maze, using the best of conventional diagnostic medicine in combination with targeted complementary and lifestyle medicine. Her entire case (complete with medical data) will be published in a Journal in 2014. More info: email:

Select the image below to be redirected to Voice America and my interview with Angela on Navigating the Cancer Maze. Or… click here. More about colon cancer in my next blog.

Navigating the Cancer Maze Grace Gawler Voice America