Tag Archive | lifestyle choices

“Scanxiety”

Most cancer survivors are familiar with the word “scanxiety”; if not the word, then I am certain they can relate to the feelings of anxiety, terror and worry that come with each “scan”. Has the cancer returned? Has it spread?    How will I ever cope with going through chemo again? These are just a few of the questions that were going through my mind as I awaited the results of my recent bone scan.   How did it turn out? Well, they say a picture paints a thousand words, and this one was taken minutes after I got my test results:

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Happy Flo after her good report!

YES! That pesky back pain was not (as I had feared), from metastatic breast cancer, but rather the result of nothing more than some minor arthritis. Not only did my oncologist give me a clean bill of health, but she also discharged me from the cancer clinic! That’s right folks, after three and a half long years, I am no longer considered a “cancer patient”.   You know what that means, right? I am CURED! Enough of this healthy living crap, I can go back to living the way I did BEFORE I had cancer. Hello barbequed steak! Welcome back soft serve ice-cream!! Don’t even bother to re-cork that wine!!! I am CANCER FREE and there is no way that cancer can touch me now!

Well, not exactly, although I do think that some people see it that way. The reality is, I got a good report, THIS TIME. The reality is, there is still no CURE for cancer. The reality is, the very treatments that saved my life, are known to CAUSE cancer. The reality is, for the rest of my life, I will have about a 30% chance of having a cancer RECURRENCE. The reality is, the only way I will ever truly know if I SURVIVED cancer, is if I die from something else.

Don’t get me wrong, I am over the moon with happiness about my good health. I am also overwhelmed by the show of support from my family, friends and colleagues who celebrated this good news with me.

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My wonderful colleagues decorated my office in celebration of my good report.

But don’t fire up the barbeque just yet. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I will repeat what you have probably heard from me many times before: my best defense against cancer is still my lifestyle choices.   If only one good thing could come from me having cancer, then I hope it would be the opportunity to share this message with other survivors.

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Cancer Roulette

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It really saddens me when I hear comments like, “I ate a vegan diet, ran 5 miles a day, was in perfect mental and spiritual health, BUT I STILL GOT CANCER!”  It certainly perpetuates the myth, “There is nothing I can do about cancer”, which is one of the four common myths recognized by World Cancer Day.  (You can read the other myths here.)

A few years ago, I met a middle aged man in a hospital.  He was overweight, a heavy smoker, and had just suffered a near fatal heart attack.  While his doctor and his family pleaded with him to make lifestyle changes, the man refused, saying, “My grandfather was over-weight his whole life and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and he lived to be 93!”

When I mention to people that I eat a mainly plant based diet, I often get comments like, “I don’t believe that diet has anything to do with cancer.  My great-aunt Ellie ate a medium rare steak every day of her life, and she lived to be 100.”

Do you see something wrong with the logic in these three examples?   I am happy for great-aunt Ellie, God bless her, but folks, if you are going to eat a medium rare steak every day of your life, aren’t you begging for a heart attack, stomach cancer, and a host of other illnesses?   I would imagine that chubby great-grandad had great genes, if he lived to be 93 while smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, but would you want to play cancer roulette with your life?  It is a sad fact of life that some people who take excellent care of their bodies get sick anyway, but is that a good reason to “let yourself go” when it comes to healthy living?

Here is what is flawed with the logic:  You cannot take a single case study and use it to justify your opinions when it goes against a multitude of scientific studies which suggest otherwise.  Sure, there are some cases of people who smoked all of their lives and lived to be a ripe old age without major health complications.   However, there are literally millions of cases of people who smoked cigarettes and died from illnesses related to their habit.

I am sure that there is a delicate inter-play of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle choices in the game of cancer roulette.   I am equally sure that by practicing a healthy lifestyle, I am removing some of the bullets from that gun.  That does not guarantee that the cancer bullet won’t get me in the end, but if it does, I will die knowing that I did my best to unload that gun.  What about you?  I would love to hear your opinions!