Be Well Week


On April 17th 2007, the world as I knew it fell apart. My Dad was unexpectedly diagnosed with bowel cancer. Within one week he underwent surgery to remove 40cm of his bowel and was told that there were traces in his lymph nodes also. Within two weeks he had started a 6-month course of chemotherapy.

After the initial bouts of endless crying, I then became very angry. I was questioning why my Dad had bowel cancer when every time I looked at him he was eating fruit and vegetables, he ate whole grain bread, high fibre cereal and threw psyllium husk on anything that sat still long enough.

I then thought, what is the point of eating all this healthy food if we are going to end up with bowel cancer anyway? The thing is, although bowel cancer does have a strong genetic link, what you eat, how much you move and your general state of health affairs play a big role too.

Each year in Australia, 6,800 Australian women are diagnosed with bowel cancer and it’s the third leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia. Many of us know that cancer does not discriminate and 530 of those women diagnosed with bowel cancer are under the age of 50 years old.

For me, having a direct genetic link means that I need to be vigilant with check-ups including a colonoscopy every five years, not exactly what I would call a fun day out but knowing that it can save my life gets me there every time. If you don’t have that link though, a quicker and simpler way of checking is through a stool sample. Both women and men are advised to start screening for bowel cancer from 50 years of age but despite this, surveys in 2014 showed that only just over a third of women in this age bracket had been tested in the past couple of years. The perception that bowel cancer screening is messy and embarrassing, as well as a fear of receiving bad news are among the top reasons many women put off screening for the disease. It might sound icky but the ickiness factor is really non-existent compared to the reality of enduring cancer and all that it brings.

This week marks the inaugural Bowel Cancer Australia’s Be Well Week, aimed at women.  Don’t worry, men are not being brushed under the carpet, their turn will come later in the year. For this week and of course beyond, the message is simple.  Eat Well. Move Well, Be Well.  For great resources, information and delicious recipes, go here to check them all out.

Opera singer, Beverley Sills once suggested to “Be like a postage stamp, stick to one thing until you get there.” I often remind myself of these words because at times I find myself making the simple things complicated.  Don’t we all do just that with our health and well-being sometimes?

What is the one thing that you can do this week to eat well, move well or be well? Is it eating breakfast to start your day with energy, grabbing a piece of fruit instead of one of those fancy shmanzy doughnuts, taking a walk at lunchtime, being mindful about reducing stress in your life or getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep each night?

Don’t worry about the long list you might have, just tackle one of them. Sometimes we just need to start something.

Bowel cancer kills around 80 Australians each week. Fortunately, my Dad was one of the lucky ones and survived his fight.

What are you going to do in Be Well Week to avoid getting into the fight?


The State of Happy = Health

With our lives conducted at a fast and furious pace these days, have you noticed that the pursuit of happiness now seems to be an Olympic event? It seems there are so many hoops to jump through to achieve this nirvana state rather than it just finding you. There is much made of the eternal search for happiness across all media modes perhaps indicating our interest in the subject and the desire to get some. Various dictionaries define happiness as “the state of well-being that is characterized by contentment through to intense joy.” Of course, this will differ between individuals. It is possible that the pursuit of happiness is fraught with danger, as results are never guaranteed and you never know what will be found along the way or at the end of the journey. There are always classic times in life that we remember and feel clear moments of happiness like finishing high school, earning your first dollar, doing fun stuff with your friends, getting married or the birth of children.  For me, some of my happiest moments include sitting on the back lawn as a kid with my parents and siblings in summer eating watermelon with the juice running down my chin; riding the waves on my first surf mat and spotting a dolphin when running along the river. Being happy doesn’t need to be complicated, achieved or completed. Very often it can be found hiding in the simplest things. There are a number of global ‘experts’ on happiness and, while there are various schools of thought, most agree that the following aspects can significantly influence our happiness.

The Life Juggle  – for most of us, having many balls in the air including work, home, play and relationships, is a relentless challenge. It can be difficult to feel happy and at peace when you are stressed and trying to keep a balance in your life. It is often difficult to say no to others but before you say yes to someone else, check first that you are not saying no to yourself. Kicking Goals – to give yourself direction, regularly set goals or plan things to look forward to. This gives your life meaning and a sense of purpose. It could be something as simple as making plans for the weekend or organizing your next holiday. Health and Performance- there is no doubt that your health and well-being is key to your overall happiness. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the most basic of needs have to be met before other aspects of your life can be addressed. If you are suffering from poor health, the issues causing this should be tackled first. Networked: research shows that those people with a strong support and social network are happier and healthier. A sense of community and belonging is essential to our well-being. Inner peace: reducing stress in your life is a bit like decluttering your home. Some items need kicking to the kerb, some need regifting and others remain cherished. Sometimes the same type of spring-cleaning is necessary in your own life. This may mean clearing space to do the things you truly enjoy, learning to relax through meditation or music or finding some ‘me’ time.

I recently interviewed my very own 91 year old Nan in the pursuit of uncovering her secrets to happiness. I figured she may have gathered at least a couple over the past nine decades.  Growing up in the UK during World War II and wife of a career military man has meant that she has experienced some tough times in her life but she is a tough one my Nan. Although at 91 years she now lives with heart issues, Nan is still an avid reader (without glasses) and sharp as a tack.  This nonagenarian has lived independently until only a few months ago and has only just entered a new phase in her life, moving into a low care aged facility where she enjoys plenty of visits from her extended family of nine grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. I have often wondered about the secret to Nan’s longevity, health and happiness. She believes it is due to her placid and calm nature. I think it is because she has never gone looking for happiness, it found her while she was content to be in the moment.

Nan -Happy Nonagenarian
Nan – Happy Nonagenarian