Reacting with Action
When faced with a problem, I deal by making a plan and figuring out a solution. Just starting the process of planning relieves anxiety and makes me feel optimistic. With a cancer diagnosis, the questions started immediately. What have I done? What should I do? What the fuck?
I thought about these questions and immediately dismissed them. Why? Because there are so few ways for me to change my life to feel like I'm combatting cancer with healthy living. I made a few small changes, but if growing up with healthy, home grown foods and taking those habits into adulthood didn't work, there's no sense in stressing about it now. As a result, I don't get mad at myself for wanting to treat myself with a handful of chocolate chips when I'm feeling down. No judgements, no justifying. I listen to my cravings. Sometimes I NEED a spoonful of peanut butter or a bowl of sauerkraut. What?
The solutions I could provide were immediate; I got busy researching hospitals, figuring out where we'd be moving to, looked at flights and schedules. Staying busy with things that had to happen was a way to relieve the pressure of not knowing what to do about the cancer.
My dad bought me immune boosting supplements, my mom sent me stories of other women diagnosed with cancer who have grown and embraced life in a new and exciting way. I looked for (and didn't find) information on vaginal cancer online.
I've always been conscious of the fact that one day I'm going to die. Everybody dies! Accepting that one day it's gonna happen can make you less afraid of everything. I was not afraid to enjoy the exquisite fun that is riding a bicycle in Los Angeles (such great weather! mostly flat! so many small streets with very few cars!). This awareness of impending doom probably influenced the decision my husband and I made to get out of LA, bicycle tour up and down Europe, and build online careers that allow us to live where and how we want to. It's empowering to realize that life is fleeting.
Cancer can be a wake-up call, a reminder that you just get to live once and that is happening right now. It can also be the wake-up call that says 'stop eating all that junk! get more exercise!'
Now, I'm not perfect, but I do not eat a lot of junk and I am physically active. The one big vice that I've enjoyed to excess is alcohol. We've been drinking wine with dinner for a number of years now, although we took a break for those 5 months in expensive Switzerland. Is that so bad? (Did wine give me cancer!? No.)
As for physical activity, I ride a bicycle. A lot. Last year Joshua and I started running, too. It became normal to run 5kms every other day. We were aiming for 10kms and got pretty close before we took a break to ride our bikes over the Alps. We eat vegetables and whole grains for lunch and dinner every day. We eat eggs. Sometimes fruit. Fresh bread. Yogurt. Not much milk, but there's a lot of cheese eating during the bike riding summers. Sometimes coffee, other times no coffee. We eat foods that are organic when possible, and certain foods (like cheese) we get only if it's made by people who take good care of their animals and make small batches. We don't buy pre-cooked or prepared meals or processed food that lasts on the shelf forever. Cooking is cheaper, besides being more delicious.
It's not possible to cut out the bad stuff if you're not consuming it in the first place. You can't start exercising for health if exercise is already part of life on a day-to-day basis. By looking at my diet, I was looking for a solution to cancer that I could make happen. I still haven't found that solution.
Of course, I want to believe that there are things I can do that will kill cancer cells. I know my body is working on that problem right now, thank goodness. There are things I can do, eat, and drink that promote good immune function, and I'm doing those things. But then there's the fact that cancer cells are just regular cells that are on hyperdrive. I'm not supposed to take supplements of vitamins C, A, or E, or selenium while I'm having radiation and chemotherapy because they not only protect healthy cells and reduce side effects, they protect cancer cells. Fuck! Really!?
Does it matters whether we eat healthily, exercise regularly, and pay attention to what the body needs? Even though that hasn't protected me from getting cancer, yes of course it matters.
I'm pretty sure that if I had grown up differently or developed a taste for all the poison being marketed as food, I'd be dead already. Cancer was always coming for me, but fortunately I've been prepared.