No need for red faces in bowel cancer talk 

UNSUNG HERO:  Lesley Jenkins     Picture by Peter Stoop
UNSUNG HERO: Lesley Jenkins Picture by Peter Stoop

LESLEY Jenkins knows that "nobody wants to talk about poo", but that is exactly what she is encouraging people to do with her cancer support group.

After being diagnosed with, and undergoing treatment for, bowel cancer, Mrs Jenkins noticed there was a severe lack of support for those going through it.

"A friend and myself were in the treatment room and we realised there was so much support for breast cancer and nothing for bowel cancer," she said.

Mrs Jenkins and her friend, Martina, sought to fill the void for people like themselves, and went to the Cancer Council NSW for help.

With assistance, Mrs Jenkins was able to start the Newcastle Bowel Cancer Support Group.

"They [the Cancer Council] were absolutely marvellous in helping us get going . . . It was very slow to start with. But they provided us a meeting room and we have a small group who organise things," she said.

At 71, not many people can say that they are battling cancer and still playing the same sport they did as a teenager.

With a love and passion for hockey, Mrs Jenkins was not prepared to let her diagnosis stop her from getting back to the sport.

Only months after a third cancer operation, she was out on the courts playing for her team, Novos.

Mrs Jenkins, who has played hockey since she was 13, is believed to be the oldest player in the Newcastle competition.

"If you get a good group of people who are fun to play with, you keep doing it," she said.

"I get great companionship and support from the ladies I play with."

Mrs Jenkins registered her interest to play with the club again this year.

Unlike sports, people are less likely to speak out about bowel cancer.

"Everyone agrees with me when I say that breast cancer and prostate cancer are the sexy diseases," Mrs Jenkins said.

She believes people feel as if it is easier to talk about other types of cancer and that more awareness needs to be raised for bowel cancer support.

"Hardly anyone comes to the meetings. Sometimes there is no one, other times one or two people," she said.

Mrs Jenkins remains committed to the group and is there to support anybody who needs it.

"You can't force anybody. If they don't want to talk about it, then you can't force them," she said.

"I just want everyone to know we are there to help anybody get through their treatments, the side-effects or anything else they need help with."

The support group meets at the Cancer Council's Charlestown office at 9.30am on the second Thursday of each month. Phone 4928 1402.

In the meantime, Mrs Jenkins is set on fighting the cancer every step of the way.

"I aim to get back to a life of full activity. This has urged me to live as full a life as possible," she said.


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