According to Bowel Cancer Australia, “Bowel cancer risk increases significantly when two or more alcoholic drinks are consumed per day.” Good to know.

Could those of you who currently drink more than two drinks per day please raise your hand? C’mon. It’s just you and me. I’m not your GP. You can be honest. Lockdown was tough. Covid is a bitch that just seems to linger – a permanent cold sore on the face of the planet. Zoom meetings and working remotely ensure that your home-life and work-life are now non-delineated zones of confusion and inspiration-sapping mundanity. The news is predictable and depressing. The world seems to be stuck in a holding pattern that may or may not end in the near or painfully distant future.

Where does one find pleasure these days? If I’m honest, and let’s face it, I’ve got nothing to lose, for the last two years or so, the sight of a chilled, crisp riesling in an elegant wine glass was as close as I came to feeling joy and excitement at the end of a workday. It symbolised the closure of my day, the permission to relax, some semblance of socialisation, and just the deliciousness of a lovely glass of wine.

But I struggled to stop at one glass. I would plan to but found myself pouring another because…why the fuck not. Don’t get me wrong. I hate the feeling of being drunk. I rarely allow myself to get drunk. The hangovers are just too brutal past 40. But two glasses? Most nights I would have at least two. Maybe three. Maybe four. Ok, stop gasping you Judgy McJudgersons! I wasn’t necking the bottle or anything. Four wines in as many or more hours.

However, it occurs to me now that whilst I was busy justifying the fact that I wasn’t quite an alcoholic during the lockdown, I may have given myself bowel cancer. Shit.

But let’s not blame the victim too much. I still fall well within the ‘surprisingly young to have bowel cancer’ category – according to almost every doctor I come across. And also…I didn’t know alcohol could cause bowel cancer. If I had to guess at the causes of bowel cancer I’d probably put smoking before alcohol, alongside…I dunno…eating too much steak?? (Sidebar: both of these are also really significant risk factors for bowel cancer. Just saying.)

And look, I know not all of you drink alcohol, and some of you really are telling the GP the truth when you say it’s just a glass with dinner a couple of times a week, but even ruling all three of you out of the group, the rest of us don’t ALL have bowel cancer.

Here’s the thing though. I already have bowel cancer. And I STILL love wine. Will sipping from the poison chalice really have that much impact now? According to the oncologist I need to go easy. And I am. Just prior to diagnosis, my liver sent my brain a strong “Lay off it, bitch” message and the sight of alcohol instantly repelled me. I was feeling so sick and the thought of a drink made me feel even sicker.

With treatment, gradually I started to feel better. I still wanted to enjoy the social side of an evening drink so I tried alcohol-free wine. The people who tell you some of these wines are really lovely are flat-out lying. They suck. And I’ve tried quite a range.

Now I am drinking reduced alcohol wines in smaller amounts. And it works for me. Am I making my cancer worse? I don’t know. Probably. Are you shaking your heads in horror at the negligence I show for my own health? I don’t know. Probably. Do I give a shit what you think? I don’t know. Probably. Will I be having a half-strength Pinot Gris at 6pm tonight? Yes, definitely.

Public Service Announcement: Bowel cancer risk increases significantly when two or more alcoholic drinks are consumed per day.

There. You’ve all been warned. Now…who fancies a G&T?

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6 thoughts on “To Drink or Not to Drink

  1. I do not believe for once second that you have caused your bowel cancer. I know a few who have been in your spot and who do not drink so although it is a warning from the various cancer associations it is a little generalised.
    I myself am a teatoller ( no judging thank you) and have tried the alcohol free wines and ales, hmmmm! the jury is still out on them so i understand that you would find them almost offensive in the eye of a true enjoyer of a fine white. I say go ahead and get the small amount of pleasure you derive from those one or two glasses you have and on the days you arent able to have them for what ever reason take out the F…K cards and read a few of them.
    sending love
    you stay safe and be as well as you can be
    Nic xx

  2. Michael Jenkins says:

    If two drinks per night give you bowel cancer then I should be dead!! I have at least 6-8 drinks per night, not because I’m an alcoholic and I need to, but because I enjoy drinking and the more I drink the happier I get, not a bad thing I feel :). I’m so sorry for what you are going through, can’t imagine how you are feeling or what you and your family are going through at the moment. As an older person (well over 50), I thank my lucky stars that I am relatively healthy (at the moment), I will continue to drink and eat whenever and whatever I want, as I want to enjoy myself no matter how much time I have left, no-one knows when they will leave this earth, I might get hit by a bus tomorrow (note to self – make sure I have clean underwear on 🙂 ) I figure I have had a happy life, been around the block a few times, had my ups and downs, now I’m trying to enjoy life to the fullest. A wise man once told me that no one on their death bed has ever complained about the times they have drunk/eaten/partied too much they only regret the things they didn’t do enough of, so I say, drink and eat what you want today as you may not get to them tomorrow and I don’t want to have any regrets. I wish you all the best in the future, will pray for you and your family, cheers xxx

  3. Some people follow every bit of guidance their whole lives and get a cancer diagnosis, some eat and drink what they like and remain cancer free. It’s just shitty luck. Please try not to beat yourself up about whether you caused it or what you could have done differently. These things are so random and why Alan chose your bowel and not someone else’s is because he is a wanker and no other reason.
    Honestly Kristie you need to experience some pleasure in amongst the shit! Your mental health is as important as your physical health; if a couple of glasses of wine bring you some joy and relaxation then go for it. You’re not overdoing it, you’re listening to your body, you’ll know if and when you need to take another break and in the meantime you’re finding some moments of happiness. I look forward to sharing a glass with you my dear friend. Xx

    • Oh Sian, how beautifully said. KG, with your brains, beauty, and brashness, you are well equipped to navigate this jungle you are in. I’d back your decisions. And, I do miss our chats over a chilled glass. X

  4. Meredith Sheldon says:

    Well written as usual. I will be honest with you. I drink too much but I do enjoy the light at the end of each day with a G & T followed by a wine or 2. I try to have a couple of AFN but sometimes I fail. Alcohol free wines taste like crap and I have only tried 1 or 2 low Alcohol wines non of which were amazing. I would struggle to stop completely but the bottom line is I don’t won’t too. Thanks for keeping us posted on your journey. Xxx

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