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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Avoid the Suck: Public Service Announcement

Cancer sucks.

Other things suck worse, I'm sure. It's all in your perspective, but cancer must be in the Top 10 of suck.

And here's the thing: no matter what you do or don't do, you can't prevent cancer from happening.

Sure, you can decrease your risk. And there are behaviors that clearly increase your risk. But you can't stop it.

With the exception of a few specific cancers, family history also is no guarantee or protection. Nor is it, again with the exception of a few specific cancers, a guarantee you will get cancer...even if every person in your family has died of cancer for the last three generations.

Let's face it, we live in a toxic environment. We live toxic lives. Humans have not evolved to be as sedentary as we are. I was mulling this over this morning when I was walking home from Kroger. At one point in history, not too long ago, it wouldn't have crossed people's minds to drive from my house to Kroger. According to Mapquest, it's about a .7 mile walk, but I'm thinking it's more like .5 mi if you cut through parking lots. As much as I love my computer, I really think computers and our attraction to them are killing us by keeping us on our butts.

I won't even begin to discuss fast food and other food atrocities and how those are killing us. In general, the average USAmerican diet, on top of our sedentary lives, is contributing to the death knell in the US.

By 2020, global cancer rates are projected to increase by 50%. For some, just living in the USA increases their rate of cancer. According to a NYTimes article, Hispanics who move to the USA get more of certain cancers than those who don't.

However, there is good news. We know certain behaviors decrease the risk of cancer. They don't guarantee anything, but they do make the odds better. Also, if you do happen to get cancer, these behaviors increase your chances of survival. Plus, as I'm learning, they also make the "Cancer Suck" less sucky. And, they aren't that big of a deal to do, although they are easy to whine about and make excuses for.

1) Get more exercise. Anything is better than nothing. I'm not talking here to the people who already go and flail about in the gym on a regular basis. I'm talking to the rest of us. Some of us whom hate exercise on principle. It does seem like a worthless endeavor to drive somewhere to trot on a treadmill. I've tried that...joined gyms, Curves (what a fiasco that was), the Student Rec Center. It was all wasted money. I'm good for about three months. Then I'm good at making excuses for about 9 months, until my membership lapses.

The current anti-cancer lifestyle recommendation for excercise is one hour, five times a week. Uh, yeh. I work. I have kids. I don't have time. I have papers to grade. I have a house to clean. I have to get kids to activities. I don't have, in essence, an hour a day to devote to exercise. I've said it all. I've honestly believed it all. Until I started spending 5 hours at the infusion center getting chemo. And then 10 days after that feeling like crap. And I'll be spending at least an hour a day, for eight weeks, getting radiation. I spend many, many hours going to doctor appointments, and even more hours wiped out and sitting on the couch or lying in bed most days.

So, really, I do have an hour a day to exercise, especially since it doesn't all have to be done at the same time. If I would work exercise into my daily life activities, it would be less than an hour a day. I got, what, 20 minutes in walking to Kroger? I could get 20 minutes in walking to work? If I move my butt while vaccuming, I could get time in? Vigorous mopping? I can at least knock out 10 minutes. A leisurly stroll to campus won't do a whole lot, but if I hoof's all about getting the arms and heart going. The time I spend in waiting rooms alone has shown me I really do have time to exercise. So, today, I finally broke out the pedometer I bought a while back. I'm devoted to getting 10,000 steps a day. I'm fortunate in that a pedometer really motivates me. So did gold stars and charts in school.

Won't you join me? Maybe 10,000 is too much to start. Try wearing a pedometer for a week or so. Don't make any other changes. Daily, record the number of steps you take. Find the average. Try adding 1,000 to that at first. Or 500. And then increase the number weekly. I'm telling you, walking, even in circles around an indoor track or on a treadmill, as boring and pointless as that seems, is no where near as boring and pointless as sitting in an infusion center for hours on end. I promise you that.

2) Most people...not all...but most people in the USA could stand to improve their diets. I happen to have an odd demographic of friends who tend to be more diet conscious than most, but still, I would guess that most of my friends don't get 10 servings of vegetables a day. Yes, you read that correctly: 10 servings. Five is the current "healthy" recommendations. But 10 or more is ideal.


However, all is not lost. These are ten healthy size portions, not USAmerican fast food size portions. When I make a salad for lunch, I get 3-5 servings of leafy greens, depending on how hungry I am. A cup of greens isn't much. A cup of broccoli added to it isn't that much. The secret, I'm finding, is to eat the vegetables first, while I'm hungry. Calling the boys to the table before the main course was out of the oven and letting them sit there with veggies on the table always ensured that they would at least pick at the veggies. Why I've never thought about that for me is something else.

The reason fast food is so appealing is because it is there, ready, fast and requires no work on our part, right? Now, I know this isn't rocket science and it's also part of every diet book and article out there, but having fruits and veggies fixed and prepared in the house at all times increases how much I eat. Duh. If there is fruit on the table, I'm less likely to grab something refined and carby, as well. Having veggies that are tastey and ready to eat in the fridge means I'll take them to school to snack on between classes. Once again, duh. Why it took my current situation to actually act on this is beyond me. Oh, yeh, I have to do this to save my life. Amazing what I'll actually do to increase my chances of living to see my youngest get a driver's license.

Once again, I really don't have time for this. I have to do school work, beat down the weekly laundry monster, do stuff with the kids and my husband.

Today, as I was working on this blog entry, I was also roasting a ridiculous amount of vegetables. I also did 3 loads of laundry and spent quite a bit of time working on school stuff. So, I do have the time. I just have to make it a priority. Not to mention, that going out to buy the ridiculous amount of veggies resulted in a mile of walking, not counting the steps while in the store shopping! Double whammy.

So, if I can do this, others out there can. I really love you all too much to think of you going through what I'm going through right now. If you don't do it for yourself, do it for your family and friends, because cancer doesn't just affect you. It affects everyone around you.

3) While you are thinking about vegetables, let's talk about color. Most of us eat what we like. And when it comes to veggies, we don't stray far from our comfort zones. While we are thinking about ways to get 10 servings of mostly veggies into our days, let's also work on making those servings colorful. Colorful fruits and veggies contain more antioxidents. Anti-oxidents fight cancer. Variety is the spice of life, and variety can help protect my life, so my family is making that stretch. Plus, it is just easy to think "colorful" veggies instead of "what" veggies and fruit.

4) While I am striving to be more mindful of many things in life right now, sometimes life itself is overwhelming. Whether it is thinking about my students or my children, feeling like crap, worrying about blood counts, having the energy to do what needs to be done, or seeing the bills starting to come in, life is overwhelming for my entire family. It's not going to be much better in the near future, either. So, in some areas, the less I have to think about, the better. That's why I'm falling in love with the concept of the New American Plate. It's so easy. It's practically mindless. Fill 2/3 or more of your plate with healthy veggies. 1/3 or less with animal protein. An alternative, for people like me who feel better if they reduce (processed) carbs: 1/2 or more veggies, 1/4 or less carbs, 1/4 or less animal protein. Add 1 serving of fruit on the side, and you have an awesom meal. To make it even more mindless for my family, I'm buying special (yet not expensive) plates we can all use as reminders. I can get five plates for less than the cost of feeding my family fast food twice. I don't need to serve my guests on these plates. I just need to train my family to use the plates. Easier said than done, but right now, even my carb-o-holic-anti-anything-that-grows-in-the-ground child is willing to alter his diet. He sort of likes his hair, you know?

So think about it, 1/2-2/3 plant-based, which isn't that hard if you are eating 10 servings of fruits and veggies each day.

So, what are you doing to improve your lifestyle? Who's up the the challenge with me?

There was a lot of my previous lifestyle that was less than ideal. In fact, some might say that I brought this on myself. And to a certain degree, that is probably accurate.

But since I've already taken the hit and am spending a year in suck, I'd like the rest of you to do what you can to avoid the suck.


grilledcheesegoddess said...

Oops! Didn't proofread as well as I'd thought...will do so later and I apologize.

*~Diana~* said...

I started this very thing a couple months ago, and coming home from vacation, with all the house stuff and kid stuff and holidays looming and the excuses I've been formulating... well, what a timely post. I think I'm going to vigorously scrub the bathtub tonight.