The holidays have been good to me. I’ve had my family at home, spent time with friends and once the madness leading up to Christmas was past, had a chance for some much-needed rest and relaxation. I’m lucky. Despite some intense challenges in 2010, the year was generally good.
On New Year’s Eve, Sweetie and I drove a few hours out of town to see some close friends. Their year hasn’t been so good. In the spring she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s been through surgery, chemo, lost her hair and is facing radiation therapy later this month. A rough year. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer two days before Christmas. Not the kind of holiday they were hoping for. He is fortunate though. It’s stage one cancer and the expectation is that surgery, planned for April, will take care of it. They have no children and their families are not especially close or close by. Their support comes from each other and from their friends of which they have many.
I couldn’t help but wonder what the odds are for a husband and wife to develop cancer within a year of each other. Statistics from the U.S. National Cancer Institute show that 1 in 6 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime; 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. These are the two most common cancers so it could just be coincidence that my friends are the 1 in 6 and the 1 in 8. Or it could be something else. Diet? Environment? There’s simply no way to know.
With all the money spent on research, there is still no cure. Virtually everyone I know, myself included, has lost someone close to them to cancer. Some years ago I worked on a science program and recall an interview with a researcher who was developing a promising treatment. It wouldn’t cure cancer but it had the potential to keep cancer patients alive, much in the same way that aids patients live longer thanks to maintenance drugs. He was concerned though that even if his treatment proved successful, it wouldn’t be developed because of the cost to the health care system of maintaining people living with cancer. I don’t know what happened to his research. I’ve lost my interview notes and haven’t been able to find anything online. But I suspect if he’d been successful, we’d know.
What seems to be growing conventional wisdom is the role that diet and exercise can play in cancer prevention. Every website I checked suggested that losing weight, a healthy diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, low in fat, sodium, cholesterol and regular physical activity can reduce the risk factors associated with developing cancer. But of course there are no guarantees.
Every year I plan the same resolutions for the coming year. Lose weight, eat better, exercise, spend more time with Sweetie, see my kids and grandkids more often, find ‘me’ time, reduce stress, work fewer weekends, meditate, see my horse Gemini at least once a month… And every year these things never happen. But with Sweetie’s health concerns this past year and each of us inching closer to retirement, this year needs to be different. We need to be as healthy as we can be in mind, body and spirit. Not only for ourselves but so that we can support those we love and care about when they are not as lucky.
Be it resolved then than I find the strength and discipline to do what needs to be done. And to be there for those who need me.
- Blood test to spot cancer gets big boost from J&J (thenewstribune.com)