If you have been alive on this planet for at least 20 years… then I am sure you have in some way been impacted by that horrible little word…. CANCER. Perhaps, a family member? Friend? Mentor? Co-worker? It could be anyone. I can remember two very specific things about hearing that word for the first time…. It seemed very rare…. and very scary.
Well, now that I am older, one of those two things have changed. My journey, or experience, with cancer goes something like this:
My 7th grade Health Teacher – Malignant Melanoma – 7+ surgeries….. Died
My friend’s Father – Pancreatic Cancer….. Died
My co-worker and friend – Ovarian Cancer – surgery….. ???
My co-worker – Renal Cancer….. Died
My Father – Throat Cancer – Surgery and radiation therapy….. Died, lung cancer
My Cousin – Bone Marrow Cancer…. Died (in his 30’s)
My Aunt – Breast Cancer….. Died
My Aunt – Malignant Melanoma – Surgery….. Remission
My Father in law – Throat Cancer – Surgery & Therapy….. Remission
My Mother in law – Malignant Melanoma – Having 5th Surgery….. ???
My Uncle – Lung Cancer….. Died
My Employee – Stage 4 Colon Cancer….. Diagnosis: Fatal
My Co-worker – Pancreatic Cancer – Undergoing Chemotherapy….. ???
ME – Malignant Melanoma – Surgery….. ???
Doesn’t seem to be so rare to me anymore. And scary doesn’t even justify what cancer can do. Because unfortunately, it’s not just a word. It is a living, growing and moving disease, that can literally destroy you.
It brings me sadness to look over this list as I type it….. These are all people who I can recall from memory, there may be more that I can’t think of right now or may not even know about.
My point here is definitely not to be a buzz kill, or to make you overly paranoid. But if you know or have had any experience with cancer…. Early Detection is a Game Changer! You have to be aware of what your risk factors are.
Are there types of cancers that plague your family history? What about your life style? cancerlowdown.com lists these 5 risk factors that increase your odds of getting cancer.
- Poor Eating and Exercise Habits
- Smoking Cigarettes and Alcohol
- Living in an Unhealthy Environment
- Unsafe Sex
- Increased Exposure to Sunlight
So you evaluate your family and social history then….. Be honest about it. Talk to your doctor openly, they can serve you better if they know exactly what they are dealing with and who you are.
I strongly suggest here to be cautious – but not obsessive. I think that stress and negative thinking can affect your health more than anything else. This can be tricky….. I’m right there with you. I’ve had skin cancer. If I went to my dermatologist every time that I noticed a new freckle or spot on my body….. I would never leave her office. But also, better to check than not. If you notice anything that is different, new, changed, or just concerning to you…. get it checked.
Don’t do too much research on the internet. Looking up basic information and treatment options based on a diagnosis is fine – you should be knowledgeable about the situation you are facing. But if you spend too much time looking up worst case scenario type stuff, I can save you the time and energy. You will find it….. and by the millions. People have been there. It is very real, and sad and not motivating, so I couldn’t be more serious when I say this – Don’t Do It.
I wasn’t surprised to find out that I had cancer. However, it came about 25 years earlier than I expected. So the lesson I got out of it was….. I have time to change the game. There is no better time than now to evaluate your life, make the necessary changes, and set yourself up for success. I blog a lot about fitness, adventure, and spending time with my family. And the truth is….. I want to be able to do those things for a long time.
Use a support system and don’t be afraid or ashamed to talk about what you are going through and how you feel. It is a scary, life changing situation to be in. Friends, family, strangers, support group, therapist…. Whatever you need. And most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy your life. Every moment you have. And laugh as much as you can.
If you do end up on my side of the cancer line drawn in the sand…..
Fight that shit with every thing you have!