“Just face the fear of knowing: the sooner you do, the greater the hope.”
Breakfast presenter and ex-Silver Fern, Jenny-May Clarkson, is encouraging Kiwis to get involved with the Move your Butt challenge in June to help more Kiwis beat bowel cancer.
Jenny-May lost her brother to bowel cancer at age 54, so she knows first hand how important it is to seek help early. “Cancer is such as hideous thing, no matter what kind of cancer it is. But because my brother died of bowel cancer, I’m acutely aware of it.”
Jenny-May’s brother had many of the classic symptoms of bowel cancer – he couldn’t sleep and was tired all the time, had a sore back and stomach pains. By the time he was diagnosed, it was already advanced and he spent two years undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy before finally succumbing to the disease.
Understandably, Jenny-May is passionate about encouraging New Zealanders to seek help or at the very least, have a conversation with someone about it.
“It’s about encouraging people to seek help when they know something isn’t quite right and to overcome that fear of not knowing, or of dying,” she explains. “If you do find out you have cancer, you won’t necessarily die of it – if you get help early enough.
“And if you know something isn’t right, and you’re scared of getting checked, think about those who love you – think about your kids and your partner and the love they have for you. Bowel cancer has a ripple effect on everyone who is close to you. So if you have any symptoms, get them checked early – for their sake.
“When I talk to kids about their sporting goals, I tell them to ‘face the fear and do it anyway’. With cancer, it’s about flipping that. Just face the fear of knowing: the sooner you do, the greater the hope.”
Jenny-May has done the Move Your Butt challenge for two years, including last year when she did 54 ‘wall balls’ a day this June in memory of her late brother – a strenuous exercise that was “tough, but manageable” during her busy schedule.
“I wanted to do something that’s a real challenge, but is realistic for my timeframe and energy levels,” she explains. “Because I give so much energy on air in the morning, when I get home, there’s not much left. I work out in my garage so I don’t have to leave the house – exercise is so important to me and my mental health.”
“Sometimes pushing yourself to move isn’t all that comfortable, but neither is bowel cancer. We’re all going through tough times right now, but those with cancer are doing it tougher.”
Many people are doing chemo on their own right now because of lockdowns, and they can’t be with family to help spread that load. “Doing the Move your Butt challenge is just one thing we can all do to raise awareness of bowel cancer – and to acknowledge that it is hard for patients and their families, especially in a COVID environment.”
“We all know someone touched by cancer – doing just a small challenge for one month, every single day, tells them we care and we understand that it’s tough – and in current environment, it’s even tougher.”