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The Cancer Journey

An open letter to my wife, family and friends

I start this letter with hesitation. I know that I can be preachy, a know it all and just a general pain in the ass. I can read a book or listen to a podcast and all of sudden I’m expert. In fact I’m pretty sure I could preform open heart surgery if the book had step my step illustrations.

Knowing this about me, know this letter comes from a place of love and concern. Here goes…

First things first. I don’t want you to get cancer. I’m sure you don’t want it either. There are some things that no one wishes for.

Statistically about a third of the population will get cancer. The lucky ones will get it very late in their life and it will have no or very little effect on the quality of their life. I want you to be in the two-thirds group from start to finish.

Here’s a another truth about me. I am a selfish individual. Going through my own cancer treatment has sucked. I’ve been sliced opened, biopsied and radiated until I glowed nuclear green. At the end of the day that’s all temporary and I think I did a pretty good job of sucking it up and muscling through it. They (not sure who they is but they are credible) say that our bodies can’t remember physical pain. I would agreed with that as I can’t actually recall the pain and discomfort I went through.

What I do remember is the pain and sadness on your face when I told you I had cancer.

I remember the look of hopelessness and concern on your face when I came out from under the anesthesia after five hours of surgery.

I remember how you would quickly ask what was wrong when I shifted to get comfortable on the hospital bed or at home on the sofa as I let out a groan.

I remember the guilty look on your face as we ate dinner and you were enjoying your food while I had to use lidocaine to numb my throat just so I could swallow mushy bland foods. Strangely I still love and eat oatmeal for breakfast almost every day.

I don’t want to to be in the position that you have been in for the last six months. I’m not sure I could deomonstrate the type of strength you have shown.

So help me and do a couple of things to take care of yourself and put the odds in your favor that you want get diagnosed with cancer.

Here comes the preachy part. Can I get an amen!

  1. Don’t use a tobacco. That’s a no brainer. We’ve heard it all our lives and the tobacco industry finally came clean, that yes maybe they had been suppressing data for years that using tobacco was bad for you. So don’t start and if you already do use tobacco, stop. And no vape pens are not a healthy alternative. Plus is makes your look like a tool sucking on that glowing electric phallic device.
  2. Exercise. Get outside– walk, run, hike, ride a bike or skip across a meadow. Just move. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it a lot and sometimes do it hard. Your body will thank you for it.
  3. Eat well. Eat more fruits and vegetables than you do meat. Avoid processed meats. Question foods that say ‘fortified’ Why would a company remove all the nutrients just to add them back in? Drink lots of water. Avoid foods with added sugar and artificial sweetners.
  4. Maintain a health weight. See numbers 2 and 3 above to help you with this. There is no magic diet that will help you loose weight and keep it off. Strive for balance and consistentcy
  5. Limit alcohol. Yeah this one kills me too but the data supports it. Less alcohol in your life lessens your chances of having cancer in your life. Following this will help with number 5.
  6. Ensure your kids get immunized. My particular neck/oral cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) also causes cervical cancer. A simple vaccine can greatly reduce your or your child’s risk. While you’re at it practice safe sex and talk to your children about how to practice safe sex. HPV, of which there are over a hundred types, is the most common sexual transmitted disease in the United States . Between the ages of 11-12 is the best time for the vaccine to be administered but can be started as early as age 9 and adminstered up until age 26.
  7. Know your family medical history and follow your doctor’s recommendation for screenings
  8. Avoid long bouts of unprotected time in the sun. Wear sunscreen especially on your face, neck and ears. Don’t ignore that weird growth that seemed to show up overnight on your neck. Get it looked at by a doctor.

So please, love yourself as much as I love you. Take care of yourself. I need you in my life as long as possible.

With heart,

Jay

P.S. Bonus points. Share this with someone you love.

No I am not a doctor but at the same time I did not make up the above advice. No #fakenews was used to write this blog. I write from the heart but the science is real.

There are a lot of great credible sources out there that I have used to educate myself on my cancer journey. Below is a short list.

https://www.mayoclinic.org

https://www.cdc.gov

https://www.cancer.org