July 4, 2012

Get Healthy Now...Tomorrow May be Too Late!

Today I am attending a memorial service for a colleague.  To me, he was a role model for goal achievement and doing what makes you happy at any age. He did what many do not. He went back to school later in life, got his PhD., and worked as a psychologist (albeit briefly) until he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

I knew him as a happy, chuckling, smiley person who had a passion for the same type of research as me. In fact, as I type this, I have a box of his papers used for his dissertation sitting in the corner of my office. All his work, all his knowledge, and all his expertise....gone. I am sure that box is going to sit there as a memorial for him for a long time.

My colleague was a smoker (no...I'm not going down the judgement road, I'm just sayin') and because of this, he developed lung cancer. What breaks my heart is what happened after his diagnosis. He quit smoking, he focused on eating well, he exercised, and he managed his stress. He basically wittled himself down to half the man he was.....but why couldn't he have done this before the diagnosis?

I have another colleague (and fabulous friend) who has recently turned 60. After hearing of a number of friends of his getting cancer, having heart attacks, and the like, he called me up in a panic ranting about his fear of dying; of getting cancer. He stated that "you" basically have 10 years of life left after you hit 60. So I asked him....(as I tend to do..which is probably why I don't have many friends)...what are you doing to change this? Are you becoming physically active? ..."I've been meaning to"....Are you eating a balanced diet with a focus on veggies..."I've been really busy lately"....Are you considering a stress management program?..."I know...I should" (you get the idea).

Did you know that approximately 70% (I have heard other stats but this one appears to be the most prevalent in the research) of cancers can be attributable to lifestyle factors? That is a huge percentage. I'm definitely not THAT health promoter who will blame the victim; I understand that our environment plays a huge role in cancer. BUT...if you can make a difference with lifestyle (and you are worried about your health) why would you not? I'm truly stumped. I have no idea why people wait until the day they get "the diagnosis" before making health changes.

I'm not talking eating grass and selling the car, but making small changes here and there can make a huge difference to health. Did you know that people who start walking 30 minutes a day show the greatest benefits (over those who already exercise)? Did you know getting 7 hours of sleep a night can slow down the aging process, reduce stress, and help manage your weight? It doesn't take much to get healthy now....all it takes is a plan of action.

I remember pulling a nasty trick on a weight loss program I was teaching a couple of years ago (I'm not saying it was right...I'm just sayin'). I was frustrated with their lack of interest (they weren't doing any of the assigned homework and making no efforts to make small changes). So I talked them through a visualization exercise; asking them to close their eyes, take a deep breath and imagine they have just retired. It went something like this...

You have just celebrated your retirement...finally! The kids have left the house, you have saved up for the retirement of your dreams; your spouse by your side. Life is great....except for this pesky cough. You finally see the Dr. about it; go through a series of tests and are sitting in her office waiting for the results. She comes in and proceeds to tell you you have stage two lung cancer...............

Pretty mean, eh? Although I felt bad, I also felt it could be the reality of many 10 - 20 years from now.  It may not be cancer of the lung, it could be breast cancer or prostate cancer. It could be MS or ALS (these are the chronic diseases that shut the body down and have been linked to chronic stress).

All I'm asking is why not invest in your (the global "your") health so you may enjoy it through your retirement? My colleague didn't and he paid the ultimate price. He was just starting his second career as a psychologist. His life was just opening up to new possibilities.

There is no positive affirmation, quote, or pretty picture to set this straight.  It is very sad and very real.



  1. Thanks for that, Camille;

    You are soooo supportive!

    Hope you are well.