Staying Motivated: National Cancer Prevention Month

A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.
– Hippocrates

As you may or may not know, February is National Cancer Prevention Month. What I like about this particular campaign, is that it focuses on prevention in addition to awareness.

Keeping in mind that cancer prevention is possible by making simple lifestyle adjustments, I’ve thankfully been able to gain focus on getting my health in check for February and for the rest of the year.

Here are 3 things I would recommend to do to create good exercise habits for the rest of 2017 in honor of Cancer Prevention month:

Challenge Yourself to Daily 30 Min Exercise
Take 30 minutes each day to get the body moving and blood pumping. It doesn’t have to be extreme and there’s no need for a gym membership. You just need to get up and get outside for some physical activity. On the days when you are not feeling up to a challenge, step it up with some bike riding, running or weights. The important part is to just keep your body in motion.

Evaluating and Optimizing your Diet:
The key here is balance. So, plan on incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet and limit processed foods and red meats. With the reports linking red meat consumption to colon cancer, this should be a no-brainer. Boosting your nutrition habits will help fortify your immune system and cut the risk of cancer.

Maintain a Healthy Weight.
Carrying around excess weight is not only bad for your joints and can place strain on your cardiovascular system; it has also been linked to different types of cancers. Keeping your weight at a solid and steady level will not only prevent chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, it can also help prevent against types of cancer. As a bonus, if you follow the first two steps, maintaining a good weight shouldn’t be hard.

The American Institute for Cancer Research has estimated that about one-third of the most common cancers in the US could be prevented by simply exercising, eating better and keeping your weight in check. Read more at American Cancer Society: Weight and Cancer .

For those of us who have made resolutions for 2017 to get healthy, this is great source of motivation to keep going. And for those of us who have had trouble keeping our resolutions, this is the perfect time to give ourselves a second chance.

Just remember, it’s never too late to change your habits and yourself for the better.

Please feel free to share your own story or leave some kind words of encouragement in the comments section below.

I hope the rest of 2017 and beyond, finds you healthy and happy.

The Pitfalls of Self Diagnosis on the Internet

As any doctor can tell you, the most crucial step toward healing is having the right diagnosis. If the disease is precisely identified, a good resolution is far more likely. Conversely, a bad diagnosis usually means a bad outcome, no matter how skilled the physician.
Andrew Weil

Self Diagnosis: The Hows, The Whys and the Why Nots

The Internet is an incredibly great resource for accessing information and has become increasingly embedded into daily life as the “go-to” for any questions we don’t have answers to.However, when it comes to researching potential health problems or symptoms, it can sometimes lead to worry and confusion, ending up doing more harm than good. In certain cases, self-diagnosis online can be a catalyst for unleashing someone’s worst fears about their health.

With the millions of online medical resources, including health apps and sites, it’s easy to self-diagnose and self-treat. But self-diagnosis can be dangerous, as Dr. Weil alludes to in his quote above.

We’re all guilty of googling symptoms or health concerns we are having and thinking the worst after reading through bulletpointed lists of related symptoms and rare conditions. But before hitting the panic button, just remind yourself that out of all of the readily available medical content online, a significant portion can be confusing and misleading; and there are a number of health conditions that overlap and share an array of symptoms.

So What Should We Do?

Although the Internet is a logical first step in trying to determine what could be wrong with your health, it should not be a substitute for a consultation with your physician. For some of us with time and financial constraints, I understand how difficult it can be to schedule a doctor’s appointment. But for the sake of your health, don’t solely rely on what the Internet tells you.

After reading an article about the “Key signs of cancer” I thought to myself, I have experienced almost every single one of the symptoms listed (fatigue, pain, weight loss, changes in bowel activity) at one time or another. I was falling into the self-diagnosis trap. Thankfully, my symptoms were caused by something much less severe.

It’s important to remember that we are not experts. And with something as serious as cancer, getting treatment and catching the initial symptoms is critical. This is why if you’re feeling ill and or believe you have any symptoms of cancer, I urge you to see a doctor before self-diagnosis.

Tips for Online Research

If you are intent about searching online, keep in mind that some sites that are more credible sources of information than others. For example, look for sites that end with the following suffixes, as they would be considered more trustworthy:

“.gov” which means the site is sponsored by the federal government

“.edu” which means the site is run by medical schools or universities

“.org” which means they’re maintained by not-for-profit organizations

Also scientific journals or medical journals can provide credible studies and information.

The bottom line is, if you’re not feeling well, for the sake of your health and sanity, get offline and go see a doctor. You’ll be much better off in the long run. You don’t want to risk getting delayed treatment, especially with cancer. Don’t fall into the self-diagnosis trap. Seeing a doctor can (literally) be a life saver.

A New Way of Thinking for the New Year

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
–Winston Churchill

Each New Year brings new opportunities to change and improve how we choose to live our lives.

Aside from the standard resolutions many of us make (and often break) such as “I’m going to eat better, exercise more, quit smoking, etc.” what’s helped me is to focus more on changing the way I think and cope when dealing with what life has thrown at me, as in my case, dealing with cancer.

For 2017, I plan on not letting negative thoughts and fears overtake me. I’m not going to let myself worry more than I have to.

Something I’ve found myself grappling with over the past few years is the fear of recurrence. This started after a loved one completed treatment and received news that the cancer was in remission. Initially, this gave me strong feelings of relief and gratitude.

However, not long after the good news arrived, feelings of anxiety and fear started to creep in. I kept constantly thinking to myself “what if it comes back” and “what if they didn’t find it all”. I eventually started to dreadfully anticipate hearing the words “the cancer is back”, even though everything was going great.

In a lot of ways, this fear negated the positivity and hope I worked to achieve throughout the treatment process.

So basically this New Year, I’m going to let go of my fears of the things that haven’t happened yet.

Life isn’t predictable and doesn’t come with any guarantees. I’m a firm believer of rolling with the punches, and when a real challenge arrives, that’s when I’ll fight back.

I’m going to keep reminding myself that fear really doesn’t help in the fight against cancer. Instead, I’ll let my strength guide me and get me through it. I’d rather focus on what I still have, versus thinking about what may be lost.

This year I also plan to connect with other survivors of cancer. Hopefully I can do this with this blog. If you would like to share your own experiences, thoughts or have questions, I encourage you to leave a comment or send me a message.

Coping with Grief During the Holidays

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
–Vicki Harrison

The holiday season is often viewed as a wonderful time of the year, filled with much joy and happiness.  It is generally marked with people reflecting on their year and celebrating with family and friends.  However, when faced with the recent loss of a loved one, the holidays can be very challenging and stressful.  My experience has been no different.

The first holiday on your own is often, but not always the toughest to get through. For me, it brought me face-to-face with the cold and stark reality that my life had changed and would never be the same. I felt a deep sadness and emotional void from this tremendous personal loss but I never looked back or lost a sense of hope for the future.

Well, here are a few tips that helped me handle the holidays with a brave face.

First off, it is ok to acknowledge your sadness over the loss of a loved one with family and friends. Just try not to let this dominate your conversations with others. In my case, I tried to focus on the joy and happiness others were experiencing as a distraction and mood changer.

Next, some of us find comfort in being alone, while others enjoy the social interaction with friends and family. For me, I found both comfort and strength from participating in the family activities of my friends. They made me feel welcome and included in the holidays.  We are all different and the important part is to let the healing process take its natural course.

I also needed to give myself some time to rest, as this process can be physically and mentally exhausting. During gatherings with family and  friends, I would find myself feeling overwhelmed and unprepared for connections. Over time, I learned that it was ok for me to take some time to care for myself. But, like everything during this period, it’s been a process.

Adjusting some of my holiday traditions has also proved to be helpful. In time, I would even create some new ones. Instead of asking myself “How will I get through this”, over time my mantra became “I will get through this.”

Writing has always been a helpful activity for me, and has allowed me to clarify my feelings and ideas. I hope that sharing this helps you find your own way to cope with loss and grief you may be experiencing this holiday.