Freya Pickard: my journey through cancer and beyond
In 2014 I was admitted to hospital with a swollen abdomen, high temperature and vomiting. I was diagnosed with a malignant tumour in my bowel. Before the tumour could be removed, I had to get rid of the waste products building up in my intestines. The only way to do this was to have a colostomy. When I came round, I had to come to terms with the fact that I had cancer, as well as dealing with a stoma.
A month later I returned to hospital to have the malignant tumour removed and the colostomy reversed. Due to complications during surgery, my uterus, along with a 10cm diameter fibroid was removed, with the tumour. 24 hours after surgery, I was back in theatre again to have a pint of blood drained from my pelvis.
The histology report on my tumour gave me the welcome news that the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. However, they had found microscopic traces of cancer in the blood vessels supplying the section of my bowel that had been removed. To be on the safe side, I was offered chemotherapy.
In 2015 I returned home to begin the long, slow process of recovery. Losing the excess weight took months and rebuilding my muscles was a painfully gradual process. Even though I had coped with cancer, surgery and chemotherapy, I hadn't realised recovery would affect me so badly emotionally and mentally. I had no resistance to stress and cried for apparently no reason at all. The worst thing was realising that I wasn't going to get the “all clear” from cancer for another 4 years …
All the way through my experiences, I was surrounded by an incredibly supportive network of nurses, surgeons, doctors, friends and family. Because my case was so unusual no one could really tell me what to expect. The nurses could tell me how to look after my wound and why I would feel strange for a while having lost both some of my intestines and my uterus. The chemotherapy nurses could tell me what to expect from the chemo. But no one could really tell me what to expect having had all the surgery first, followed by chemotherapy.
I thought I was being really pathetic when I discovered that some chemo patients who had a severe dose of chemo once every 3 weeks were so full of energy! I understood that they literally slept for a week after the chemotherapy, felt a bit better the next week and then felt normal on week 3. My dose of chemo was so light, I had a dose every 2 weeks. Sometimes I would feel kind of normal on days 13 and 14. But the rest of the time I felt dreadful; exhausted, sleepy, weary, queasy, no energy and no inclination to do anything. I was being encouraged to do gentle exercise, but in the end, a 20 minute walk on a flat path was all I could manage. Due to the stitches inside me and the trauma of 3 operations, my body could not do much at all. I tried some gentle yoga and Pilates, but again 20 minutes was the maximum I could manage.
I now realise in hindsight, that the chemo patients having the severe doses of chemotherapy, had very rarely had an operation. The chemo was being used to reduce the size of the tumour so it could be operated on. I now understand that due to the 3 operations, my body found chemo the last straw. I was not being lazy or pathetic. My lack of energy was completely natural due to the traumas of surgery and chemo.
What kept me going? My faith. Encouraging cards and emails from friends and family. And my writing. Throughout the entire process I wrote poetry. I wrote to come to terms with what was happening to me. I wrote to express how I felt; sometimes it was too hard to verbalise. I wrote in order to have something positive to focus on whilst going through the worst period of my life.
The result? My first poetry collection, Insides, was released in October 2016. It is a journey through suffering and beyond. My hope is that it will provide comfort and insight to others.
The video about Insides can be viewed at:
Freya Pickard currently blogs at
She has written 4 books in addition to Insides and can be contacted on social media at: -