As my sister was reaching for a Coke Zero earlier today, I began my well-practiced spiel about the dangers of artificial sweeteners and she gave me a look that said it all. It said, “And why would I listen to you about health advice??” Touché. Here I am at 30 with stage 4 metastatic melanoma (a very aggressive form, no less) and there she stood, the picture of health drinking her diet cola. So I thought to myself, “hmm, maybe it’d be a better service to people to tell them what I did to get cancer and they can try to not make the same mistakes.”
I do lots of research these days and I very much enjoy looking into suggestions people give me, reading articles they send me, or just doing my own digging. In my research, I ran across an article entitled “How to Guarantee You Never Get Cancer”. Wow! Guarantee? NEVER?? I need to share this with people. So I took the list to heart, and here’s how I fared when comparing my life to the list:
When I was diagnosed last year, I was running between 3-5 miles at least 5 times a week. I also was doing yoga and walking the kids and dog around the neighborhood as often as possible. We enjoyed a very active lifestyle.
2. Don’t go tanning.
Have you seen me? I could make Casper jealous! I take porcelain to a whole new level. Tanning has never really been my thing, although I will admit I did visit a tanning bed a few times a week for a month before our wedding. But besides a few burns here and there, I definitely would not have been one that would be at the top of the list to get skin cancer. Go figure! But even if mine wasn’t necessarily from sun exposure, most is, and I’m glad that people can see how dangerous and awful this cancer is based on my experiences. But I digress.
3. Don’t smoke.
4. Increase intake of vegetables and fruit.
I’m not perfect in this department, but I’ve tended in recent years to start opting for raw, fresh, and organic over processed and refined. I’ve started most days in the last two years with a smoothie made from organic spinach, almonds, flax powder, and whatever fruit we had on hand. That being said, I’m self-aware enough to admit that there are very few baked goods that I’d turn my nose up at. Whatever, I’m only human.
5. Don’t eat processed meats.
I can honestly say I’ve never bought lunch meat or hot dogs or ham in our 6 years of marriage. Not that we don’t eat them occasionally at other places. And bacon is a rarity. Like maybe once every few months?? Our meat, if not straight from the source (venison or duck that my husband hunts), we get the steroid, hormone, and antibiotic free stuff, the free-range eggs and all that jazz.
6. Avoid artificial sweeteners
Besides a few years in college when I had diabetic roommates (who I miss so much!) who only drank sugar-free beverages (and I was too much of a mooch to buy my own), I’ve never been one for artificial sweeteners. I don’t chew gum or eat sugar-free candy and I put real dark brown sugar in my coffee every day (seriously, try it. It’s amazing).
So after reading this article, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “How in the world did I get cancer??”
And now I’m gonna hit you with some knowledge. Ready? You could do everything right (everything!) and still be told one day that you have cancer.
There is a huge element of unfairness to this disease. Of course, some cancers are lifestyle based and sun safety and awareness are so important for preventing melanoma and stopping the use of tanning beds immediately and altogether is in everyone’s best interest. But truthfully, my experience with this turd is probably more an unfortunate mix of genetics and bad luck than sun damage. Or maybe it was this:
Haha, but in all seriousness, I’m not saying don’t research healthy living, or supplements, or antioxidants, because I believe that those things (and all of the tips listed above) really can help us live longer, healthier lives. But where exactly, besides feeling angry and cheated, does that leave us once we hear the bad news that we too are affected by cancer? No one is immune and no one can guarantee that it can’t happen to you.
But we are guaranteed strength for each day, peace in the hard moments, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ. As my three year old told me the other night, “God won’t let us go as long as we let Him hold us”. Pretty profound for someone who still eats his boogers, right? God never promises us that life will be fair, not ever. All of our struggles are different, and I truly believe that that makes it so that we can effectively minister to different people. We would be completely ineffective at reaching people if we didn’t struggle. And that’s the beauty in this journey. There are no guarantees in life besides the fact that there is a God who loves us and a savior who died for us, and just knowing that should bring so much joy and gratitude into our hearts that our struggles can be seen only as opportunities to minister to the very much real and hurting people all around us.