Cancer is the second most common cause of death in females in Ireland after circulatory problems. The incidence of cancer has been increasing: 16.8% since 2008.
It is becoming very clear that the so called fight against cancer is a failure (we cannot make it disappear). Cancer is here to stay, it is hoped that with new advances, it will become a chronic disease, in which patients will have increased survival rates and better quality of life. So what it is left if this is the case?
I believe that faced with this situation we have three options:
1.- Accept this is the case, and hope that if one of us gets cancer, the best treatment will be available when we go through it. Certainly the earlier it is detected the better, because more options would be available to treat it, and even might be possible to have it removed completely with surgery, before secondaries have developed. (Some cancers cannot be treated with surgery because of its location. In these cases removal could cause more harm than benefit).
There are cancers that are more difficult to diagnose than others, because they are hidden and give tell-tale signs too late (ie.: pancreatic cancer). There are others easier to identify: skin cancers (because we can see them) and others in between. Whatever the case, the individual person is in the best position to say: there is something wrong with my body.
However, sometimes we are so busy with our jobs, family, business, that we do not listen to our bodies. We are afraid (it is normal to be afraid of the unknown), or we do not want to know (what we do not know cannot harm us, because we do not think about it).
But can we do anything to avoid going through the emotionally draining, family straining, diagnoses of cancer?
The answer is yes.
2.- Do not catch it. It is not impossible.
3.- If we are unlucky, and have to go through the diagnoses we could work hard to try and avoid getting it back.
How is this possible?
Well, as usual the answer is not 100%, but what is 100%?. There are only two things in life that are 100%. Yes, you know them: We are going to die someday, and we have to pay taxes.
So, how can we decrease the chances of getting cancer?
We already know the answer, but in this world we live, we do not believe unless it is proved. However science is getting there. Science is beginning to prove, that what our grandparents told us, and we did not believe is TRUE.
LIFESTYLE MAKES A DIFFERENCE.
For a moment think about the life we live.
1 - We get up early after 5 or six hours sleep. Last night we “shared” some time with the wife, and saw a nice program on TV (ha!). Or we had some unfinished job from work we brought home. Maybe, we went to bed late and angry because we had a problem at work; we brought it home with us, had an argument with the wife, shouted at our children because there were annoying us when we were finishing the job from work. Does this sounds familiar? Perhaps if you are single you went to the pub for one, or two, or three drinks and spoke about your boss, an annoying mate, or how hard we work and the money we get for it.
2 - Perhaps we stayed in bed another twenty minutes and got up late. We got into the car or bus without breakfast (we will have a coffee at work).
3 - We commute to work: 30, 45 minutes. One hour or more. I know people who travel 90 minutes daily in both directions. Three hours altogether.
4 - We arrive to work, say hello to the pals. Have the coffee break. Speak a bit more about last night program, the boss, the work, the children, the girl/boyfriend. Back to work. Have some kind of food at work, or go out and eat at a nearby restaurant. Same type of conversation. Back to work. Look at the watch. Time to go home. Get into the car, bus, get home. If you are a working housewife, you may have done the shopping late last night, or go shopping now before getting home. If you are a male, you may get to the pub for a drink before going home for dinner, or perhaps you would have it after dinner.
If you are married with children, you may sit in the sofa and see a program of some kind. And the cycle starts again.
If you are unemployed, perhaps you got involved in some community project. Or you spent hours on Facebook talking to your pals. Or spend some time looking for a job, or spend time with a group of friends planning to get a VISA and get out of the country that is not able to provide a job for you.
5 - At the weekends, you may have some time to spend with your family. Bring the children to some sport activity or match. Spend some time with your pals if there is no time during the week.
6 - Monday morning is a challenging time for some. You got up late, had a few more drinks than usual. You drive the car with the alcohol on board from the previous night, you overtake cars in bends and continuous lines because you will be late for work. Some may not have been so lucky, and finished in the ED department the night before.
7 - I remember meeting a lady once who was complaining of having pains in her chest. She was a married mother of three children. She had a full time job, was studying in the evenings to get a Diploma; her husband was not working, recovering from an injury. I am sure you can get the diagnoses without my help.
Is this a clear picture of what we do? Am I inventing the above? Perhaps I forgot to mention that when we eat we do not stop to look at our beautiful smart phones (latest one in the market) to check our mail, Facebook, mail, or texts.
Fifty percent of cancers are preventable (1). Yes, it is an incredible number but it is true.
So What do we need to do?
1 -Healthy eating. Make sure you start your day with a good breakfast. More vegetables and less meat (three times a week sufficient). Regular fruit intake. Whole grains…. I will not extend myself into it. It would be a whole article. There are web sites that you can check, starting with the Irish Cancer Society.
2 - Follow the rhythm of day and night (sleep 7-8 hours day).
3 - Exercise regularly. Thirty minutes a day makes a difference. Sitting for more than six hours daily harms your plumbing system. Exercise is a good way of burning “bad temper”.
4 -Unload your worries; discuss your problems. Do not leave them under the carpet. You need a support group: family, friends, club. Your work mates are not the ones to shout at. Remember, they are there all the time and you need a working relationship.If there are issues you cannot deal with, ASK: do not be afraid to talk to counsellors. They are just people trained to show you better coping skills. Forget your “ego”. In these occasions it only gets in the way.
5 - Get involved in your community: Do something you do not get paid for. It makes you feel good, recharges the batteries and makes you feel useful. Feeling Useful is VERY IMPORTANT. ALL OF US ARE ABLE TO DO THINGS. ALL OF US HAVE SOME SKILL. USE IT. YOU WILL FEEL BETTER FOR IT AND HEALTHIER. It is proven.
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