To say cancer is a bitch is an understatement. Cancer is that crazy high school principal, that trash talking frenemy you always have to watch out for, and that attention-seeking sibling all wrapped in one. To think you’ll beat cancer with no problem is like little David strutting his stuff before he even sees the wrath of Goliath.
I’m sure cancer is the last thing on anyone’s mind, especially in your 20s. It definitely wasn’t on my mind when I received a call one morning that some test results had come back abnormally and I needed ‘additional lab work.’ Fifty vials of blood and three specialists later, I was diagnosed with stage III stomach cancer. I didn’t know anyone with cancer, specifically anyone my age with cancer. I felt completely alone in an uncertain situation. But after two surgeries, five rounds of chemo and radiation, and a crazy healthy diet, I am reborn. I didn’t want to spend this post wallowing over my journey. I’d rather promote awareness about chronic illness, how you can stay healthy, and how illness can sometimes be a wakeup call for us to stop whining and start living.
What Worked For Me: Legit Cancer Prevention Tips
I’m not going to give you a long list of unrealistic tips or advice. Cancer (and chronic illness) prevention isn’t as difficult as you would think. Here’s what got me through my toughest battle:
I’ve always followed a pretty healthy diet. But after my diagnosis I became more aware of what I was eating. I began starting my days with green smoothies, something I still continue to this day. I read nutritional labels and found myself asking ‘why is there corn syrup in my sausage links?’ Diet is statistically the number one factor in your likelihood of acquiring cancer or other chronic illness. I know it’s difficult, but just do it. Avoid processed food, and if you must eat some other kind of boxed food, opt for an organic item with ingredients you can pronounce. Check out my list of 20 simple meals for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Move Your Body
Natural News stated exercise doesn’t just prevent cancer. It also improves your odds of beating cancer while you’re fighting and prevents relapse. Even during rounds of chemo, I still hit the gym six times a week. Exercises like weight training helped me maintain lean muscle mass, not to mention I got sick less often than other patients I knew. Remember that exercise doesn’t need to be at the gym. Walking around campus can easily rack up a few miles a day.
Do NOT Smoke
I understand if you enjoy the buzz from alcohol or the high from weed. But I will never understand the smokers of this world. Not to hate on you guys, but there’s really no point to smoking cigarettes. You can argue until your blue in the face that it relaxes you or calms you down, but I don’t buy it. And slowly, the rest of the world isn’t buying it either. There are plenty of other ways to calm your nerves. Take the time to quit smoking while you’re young and in your 20s. And if you’re a non-smoker, congrats! Make sure you keep it that way.
We all live hectic lives. But it’s still important to take a few minutes each day to de-stress and unwind. Invest in something that makes you feel good. I lost a lot of my hair when I started treatment for my cancer. It was expensive, but I invested in really nice hair extensions to make me feel semi-normal in a sea of bald heads. So whether it’s splurging on pricey pajamas or a marathon of your favorite show on Netflix, do something that makes you feel good. All work and no play is never any fun, and IMHO we were ultimately put on this earth to enjoy it.
Don’t Just Scream For Cancer: Scream For Life
It’s certainly cliché to say coming so close to death brought me back to life. But the struggle with my illness completely changed my perspective. I learned to truly carpe diem, to not take opportunities for granted. I’ve also learned to be grateful for all that I have—even the problems I have. More importantly, I don’t tolerate the bullshit. I don’t put up with that nice but mooching friend anymore. Why? Because I don’t get anything out of that relationship except an inflated dinner tab. Why waste my time on someone that simply enervates me?
I also don’t deal with someone telling me I’m too young or inexperienced to do something. I make sure my voice is heard. Whether I have to yell, cry, or scream, the world will know that I am alive and well. So scream everyone. Scream for happiness. Scream for sadness. Scream to just scream. Make your intentions loud and clear on this earth. You don’t need to undergo a life altering illness or experience to change your attitude. Just realize it’s essential to have something to say and that it’s heard. Because if it’s one thing generation Y needs, it’s a voice.