Beating cancer: We can do it

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A subject near and dear to my heart as I am sure it is for a huge percentage of not only everyone reading this, but everyone in the entire world. I lost my mom, father-in-law, grandpa, grandma, uncle, and more recently, a close friend. I am sure you can come up with your own list of lost relatives. It is just devastating and cancer deaths are going to swell 57 percent in the next twenty years.  I don’t want this future for my children and grandchildren. It’s not how I had planned to go either. I always imagined I would be mowing the lawn or hiking in the mountains and just keel over. Poof, gone. My chances are not good that I can be so lucky. You don’t need me to tell you that cancer is the number one leading cause of death in the world.

Cancer Mortality Rates (Photo via Wiki COmmons)
Cancer Mortality Rates
(Photo via Wiki COmmons)

It broke my heart to lose my friend to cancer. This strong woman fought and won against uterine cancer years ago. She was declared cancer free. Then a few years ago she found a lump in her breast that quickly became red and painful. Tests determined that she was genetically predisposed to cancer and she was given a double mastectomy.

After a few months of healing they began the breast reconstruction. Such hope built for this family. There was no time for celebration because fatigue and headaches began to trouble her. A tumor was diagnosed and brain surgery, followed by meningitis. Everything went downhill so fast after that.

Every day something new progressed, pneumonia, unable to breathe on her own, confusion, not recognizing family members until inescapably, her heart stopped. Cancer kills and I tear up to write this because I miss her so much. I know it’s inevitable but I don’t want to lose anyone else to cancer.

Cancer is a disease of abnormal gene function called a mutation. There are two mutations: Inherited and Acquired.  Inherited is passed through family members and can cause cancer at an earlier age. Acquired mutations are occur because of our environment and they build up as we age when occurring in one cell and then are passed on when new cells are generated creating a higher risk.

The World Health Organization says the spiraling costs of cancer burden and damage the economy. Medical costs aren’t something you can budget in so they can quickly cripple the family finances even with full medical coverage.

Photo provided by Terri Underwood
Photo provided by Terri Underwood

Every time I read something this morning about cancer that interested, excited or angered me, I turned to tell my daughter and she laughed at my focus. OK, I realize it might be challenging to stop doing what we’ve been doing our entire lives, but I think if we want to bad enough, we’ll try. It’s just habits and we’ve all stopped a habit or two in our lifetime. I am going to climb up on my pedestal now and yell to the world, “Don’t just accept that you might get cancer someday! It doesn’t have to be that way. Not at all.” 

Look at it differently. It’s important to know that the medical world can treat and hopefully cure cancer when it’s diagnosed, but is it even possible to prevent getting cancer in the first place? I want to know what I can do to lower my chances.

Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, told CNN. “More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally.”

Lifestyle choices need to become lifestyle changes. It’s not really that bad. We can do it. Make it fun and include the whole family. Teach the children young so it becomes their lifestyle. The alternative is absolutely unacceptable. One third of cancers are preventable. If that’s the least we can do, let’s lower that number.

  1. Early Detection: This is so important because with our busy lives we tend to put things off or deny that it could possibly be what we think it could be. The sooner it is detected, the sooner treatment can begin.
  2. Genetic Testing: Only 5 percent of cancers are hereditary. If several blood- related members of your family are diagnosed with cancer, it might be a reasonably good idea to be tested. Good Morning America says Angelina Jolie raised global awareness of breast cancer, genetic testing and pre-emptive medical procedures when she announced her decision to have a double mastectomy. Genetic testing can help you to make important decisions about you and your families’ future.
  3. Sun Exposure: There are lotions and moisturizers for men and women to protect the parts of our bodies that are regularly exposed to the sun. Even make-up has SPF. Look online for SPF clothing. It’s a great business for entrepreneurs because I predict the need will grow. My niece has fair skin and covers up wearing a sun hat and SPF.  Not only for herself but she protects her young daughter from sun exposure as well. This is teaching her daughter a lifelong habit that she will do naturally for the rest of her life. Starting young is a great start to preventing cancer.
  4. Surfing is a good physical activity. Just be sure to use sunscreen. (Photo by Tim Forkes)
    Surfing is a good physical activity. Just be sure to use sunscreen.
    (Photo by Tim Forkes)

    Physical Activity:  I am not a gym person although I used to love jazzercise. I know, I know, I should start doing that again. Anyway, if the gym is asking too much to start with, you can start with a daily stroll. Take your honey and hold hands. Half an hour, thirty little minutes is all you need. Plan your walk right before the sun goes down in the evening so you can watch it together as you arrive back home. Or make the dishes wait and go after dinner with the whole family, start a trend and ask the neighbors to join you. Take your sweet puppy. It will get easier. Starting out small will increase your energy and you will naturally increase your activity. Pretty soon you will want to race the kids to the corner or dust off the old Schwinn. When you feel better, you’ll want to be more active. You won’t know how bad you’ve felt until you start to feel good. Cancer treatments are grueling; I’d rather ride my bike. When I first got my beach cruiser, one of the kids made the sound from the Wizard of OZ when the witch rides by on her bike. You know who you are. But I don’t care, I love my bike. What other fun ideas can you come up with?  Leave your great ideas in the comments below to offer encouragement to those die-hards who come up with all the reasons why they can’t.  ; )

  5. Diet.  Now we get into the tough choices. I will make it short but sweet. If it will go bad, it is good for you. Fresh fruit and vegetables. People used to shop daily for their food and eat fresh, and then we got refrigerators and preservatives. Cut down on red meat. I like a good steak but I don’t really get it all the time and I doubt that it will leave my diet permanently. Too much red meat equals colon cancer. Processed meats. Fast foods. (Remember when they had that cheeseburger that looked exactly the same a year later?)
  6. Alcohol:  Another tough choice for some. Cut down on your alcohol consumption for so many reasons. 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths are alcohol-related. Head and neck cancer, larynx, esophageal, liver and breast, colorectal, pancreas, ovary, prostrate, stomach, uterus and bladder cancers are associated with large quantities of alcohol over a period of time. says during fermentation and production, a variety of carcinogenic contaminants are added to alcohol. Alcohol increases the risk of cancer by impairing the body’s ability to break down and absorb certain nutrients that may be associated with cancer risk. Our body also breaks down the ethanol in alcoholic drinks to acetaldehyde which can be toxic and damage our DNA.
  7. Smoking can lead to this type of cancer. (Photo provided by Terri Underwood)
    Smoking can lead to this type of cancer.
    (Photo provided by Terri Underwood)

    Smoking: The toughest for my family. I grew up in a smoking family. We all smoked and quite a few are still smoking with the idea that it’s too late and they are probably going to die anyway from all the smoking so why bother with the torture of quitting? So many young people are smoking too. I remember when my kids asked me to quit and I believe I remember feeling anger. Now because of me, one of my daughter’s smoke. Look at the timetable in, it is worth it to quit. You are worth it. Let me appeal to your heart. You are worth it to see your grandchildren and for your grandchildren and possibly your great-grandchildren to know you, to save your families hard earned finances and most importantly, for you to feel better. My neighbor quit a couple months ago. It was tough but she was determined. I quit in 2006. It is tough but if you want to bad enough, you can do it. Be a quitter, just this once.

Back on my pedestal again, “Don’t just accept that you might get cancer someday! It doesn’t have to be that way.”  Prevent Cancer.

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