My name is Linda Burnett Bowdler and I am a 44-year-old mother of five. Up until June 28th 2021, we led a normal busy life. I worked as a social worker in Tusla and parented my children.
On the day of my colonoscopy, the doctors informed me they had found a 5cm tumour on my rectum. The consultant was suspicious and further tests were needed. Ten days later on the 9th of July, I was unfortunately diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer. They had found four tumours on my liver. My oncologist advised us to tell the children. Everyone was devastated. Jayden (age 10) completely shut down from me. This I struggled with, however I understood it was his way of coping.
Cancer has such a heart-breaking ripple effect on an entire family. Sometimes as an adult, I find it hard to accept that I have cancer. When I was diagnosed, I set up an Instagram page called “When you have hope”. It helps me talk about cancer - the good, bad and ugly sides to it.
Chemo started straight away; a gruelling 48 hours every second Friday, attached to a chemo pump at home. The impact was massive on the children. When I was poorly after chemotherapy, they witnessed this and would worry. It impacted my family massively as I felt like the rug was pulled from under us. The impact is emotionally, physically and financially draining.
A friend recommended ARC cancer support centres, who were so compassionate and helpful.
I signed up for one-to-one counselling for support.. I signed Jayden (9) and Lola (age 7) up for play therapy with ARC. This has helped us in so many ways. Jayden has completely opened up again and our relationship is growing every day. He is happier and talkative. Lola is very sociable and more recently had stopped playing out with friends. We were able to explore this through play therapy and her worries about me were revealed. As a family we could then explore this further with Lola and support her.
The volunteers in ARC are so kind and friendly. They make great cups of tea! ARC is such a nice, calm environment when you visit. There are lots of services ARC provide that I plan on engaging with. The service is paramount for the families of someone with cancer, not just the person who is diagnosed. When we look at the difference in Lola and Jayden through the work of ARC and their play therapy, we will be forever grateful.