Watching Chicago Cubs games, playing rounds of golf, tossing the ball in the yard…these are some of my favorite memories I shared with my dad.
Getting my driver’s license, high school and college graduations, getting engaged and later married, buying a home, job promotions, watching a Chicago Cubs playoff game in person against their long-time rival, going to the Masters, tossing the ball in the yard with my nieces and nephews…these are some of my favorite memories that I did not get to share with my dad.
It was the spring of 1997 and my dad, usually upbeat and positive, was not feeling well. He was not able to make it outside of the house for nearly two days. We knew something was abnormal, so he scheduled an appointment with his doctor and, before we knew it, he was undergoing surgery. I was only 14 years old, so I didn’t think too much of the situation…I figured it was serious, but cancer was not in my realm of possibilities; when we received the diagnosis it was as if the life was completely sucked out of our family. Sure we were hopeful, but to learn as a teenager that your biggest role model and best friend has been diagnosed with cancer changes things…big time! My mom was my dad’s biggest fighter – she would have to help change his ileostomy bag, take him to chemotherapy treatments, follow up appointments and help him get around from one trial treatment to the next. As hard as it was on me and my siblings, it had to have been 100 times more difficult for my mom who had spent over half of her life with my dad. He fought and remained positive and optimistic throughout his battle with colon cancer which did have a lasting impact on our family, but he lost his battle on June 8, 1999.
I would give it all to have him back with me to share all of the great experiences life has to offer…if I could have only influenced the nutritional and physical habits of my family by knowing what I know now, I strongly believe my dad would be here to share in those experiences I listed above and so many of the great experiences that lie ahead.
However, there is some good in all of this. I used the experience that me and my family went through with my dad to take the steps necessary to get ahead of cancer and you will find advice on how to eat clean and how to get and stay active throughout our site, but we’ve put together a 5-step checklist here to help you and your family “get ahead of cancer” because we want you and your family to maximize and share all of life’s amazing experiences.
5 Ways to “Get Ahead of Cancer”
1. Eat healthy
Opt for clean proteins like all-natural or organic chicken, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, organic eggs/egg whites and protein powders that are either plant-based or use milk derived from grass-fed cows. Most importantly, make sure you balance your diet with fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Ideally, base at least 50% of your diet on plant-based foods. Avoid highly-inflammatory foods like processed foods (deli meat, snack foods, bread, etc.) and foods high in refined sugars (soda, breakfast cereals, ice cream, etc.). A diet that leads to low inflammation will go a long way to get ahead of cancer.
Tip: Try doing food prep or just make extras each time you cook! In order to stay on track with healthy eating we make time each week to prep our food in advance (you can see many examples of our food prep here). This ensures that we have healthy food to grab and helps us stay on track. It only takes a few hours each weekend and is worth every second! We always have a combination of lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, and lots of vegetables to choose from.
2. Stay active
Staying active can reduce the risk for chronic diseases that can ultimately lead to cancer and help fend off the negative impacts from those less than ideal foods we mentioned before.
Shoot for 30 minutes of daily activity and work your way up toward a more vigorous exercise routine if you aren’t able to do so now. Any little bit counts…take the stairs at the office, switch to a standing desk, take walking breaks a couple of times a day and go for a hike on the weekends. Anything that gets the blood pumping will help you get ahead of cancer! Explore the free fitness resources we have on our site and choose a workout plan that is right for you.
3. Limit exposure to toxins/carcinogens
Limit your consumption of alcohol, avoid tobacco, use green household cleaning products (instead of strong solvents), drink spring water (or filtered and purified water if spring water isn’t available), use organic (or all-natural) personal hygiene products and consider your impact on the environment and your community by reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides, being cognizant of what you put down the drain and in your trash and avoid extended idling in your vehicle.
4. Protect your skin
This one is easy – use sunscreen (all-natural or organic) and apply frequently, limit exposure during the peak UV hours (11 am to 5 pm) and by covering your skin with light and loose-fitting clothing. Also, try to seek shade as much as possible!
5. Proactive testing
One of the biggest steps you and your family can take to get ahead of cancer is to test early and often. It is always prudent to have ongoing self-examinations for some types of cancer, but there are other proactive steps you can take to understand your risk for cancer.3