Colon Cancer Survivor Now Works as a Cat Tribe Manager

Colon Cancer Survivor Now Works as a Cat Tribe Manager

“This too shall pass”

Lana Bauwens was diagnosed with colon cancer when she was 29 years old. She has successfully defeated her disease. She works as a Cat Tribe Manager.

The Diagnosis

“When I was 29 years old. The diagnosis was weird. It wasn’t like in the movies. A moment with dramatic music where you could see me crying and processing the news. It came in bits and pieces. The doctor never said the word cancer. He talked about the tumor and it being big. He talked about it being benign and that it hadn’t spread. So it was only later that I started to realize that it was cancer.”

The Journey

Colon Cancer Survivor Journey

“For about 6 months I was in pain. I was tired and lost an extreme amount of weight, although I didn’t realize that at the time. I went to see several doctors, but they all said it was stress. So I didn’t worry. When the pain became too much, that’s when they noticed something weird. But nobody was really worried including myself. I even went to work that day, thinking it was something minor. A weekend passed when my doctor called on Monday to tell to go straight to the ER.

The doctor in the ER was amazed that I was still standing. But I was used to the pain and how I felt, so it didn’t feel so abnormal at the time. It was only when the doctor weighed me that I was shocked: 45kg (I’m 1m75). I got admitted and the planned the surgery, but we’re afraid that my body was too weak to handle the surgery. So they gave me an IV with food and fluids to get my body stronger.

A week went by with more complications before they operated. When I came out of surgery I knew it was bad. My body was way too weak. For 2 whole days I was convinced I was going to die. They told me it was a tumor of 10 cm and that it hadn’t spread. They had taken out most of my colon, but I had enough left for my body to function and heal. My luck was that the tumor had grown so fast. That’s why it hadn’t spread through the colon wall. The doctor decided not to do chemo and radiation. I was so happy about that, but the recovery from the surgery wasn’t easy. My body had trouble healing.

I stayed in the hospital for another week. When I finally got home, things went wrong. I got a fever and the worst pain I’ve ever had in my life. An ambulance brought me back to the hospital. I had a complication and had to stay in the hospital for another week. The recovery went really slow. And I had another complication a few months later.”

Motivation to fight cancer

“Those days after the surgery I could feel life slipping out of me. There were moments I really believed that that was it. So when I started to heal I remembered my dream to start a non-profit to help cats. I started to work on what later would become “DreamCATchers” and it gave me a goal. A purpose. That was what got me through.”

Biggest hindrance

“Accepting that my body would never be the same again. I kept believing for a year that my body would return to “normal”, only after a year did I realize that my body would never be like before. Once I accepted that, things started to pick up. 2 years after the surgery I was diagnosed with BRCA. So I decided that children wouldn’t be an option. Saying goodbye to my dream of having a biological child was hard. I grieved a lot and felt broken for a long time.”

Message to other cancer patients

“Picture yourself in the future, doing the thing you love. That’s what kept me going. Imagine yourself being everything you want to be and hang onto that image. It will make you feel better, give you something to fight for and help you set your mind to something. And trust your body. Even though it has let you down right now, it will protect and carry you through. It has an amazing power to heal.

I might be slow, but it will heal. And once you stop holding on to what you believe is healthy and strong, your body finds great ways to make you healthy and strong again. There are many things that my body can no longer do, but each time I do yoga, I’m amazed at what my body can do. How strong it is and how well it recovered. It just takes time.

Give it time and don’t hang onto expectations. Except what is in front of you and enjoy the moments that you have right then and there. And have faith. Above all believe that everything will be alright, even when things might not look that way. Just believe.”


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