"If you have had cancer…" sounds like a bad way to begin a positive and helpful suggestion for a healthful lifestyle, doesn't it? The truth is, if you have had cancer, you are like everyone who has had some type of life-changing health problem – a heart attack, a kidney stone, or an ulcer. You are no longer like everyone else. You must now address your uniqueness and take appropriate action to offset the risks that you have – risks which others do not have. If you have had cancer, you should address your unique risks by adopting appropriate behaviors.
What are the areas of increased risk?
- The body’s immune system is attuned to recognizing “foreign” proteins and other molecules that are not normally found in the body. These invaders include cells that your body might make, but which do not look like normal cells (i.e., cancer cells). Everyone makes occasional cancer cells, which the immune system detects and kills. Having one cancer is a warning shot across the bow that your immune system needs some help to work more effectively.
- The extremely effective – and toxic – chemicals and radiation used to destroy cancers can also destroy the ability of your body's immune system to detect more cancers – whether of the same type or different types. Therefore, the risk of getting a different type of cancer is higher after chemotherapy or radiation.
- Like any other traumatic life experience, cancer has the possibility of causing post-traumatic stress disorder – increased anxiety, nightmares, flashes of anger, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and withdrawal from social interactions.
- We never say that cancer is cured. We say that we are in remission – 5 years or 10 years or 15 years. Cancer is a chronic disease with the danger – like other chronic diseases – of allowing the cancer to govern your life choices and lifestyle.
If you have had cancer, offset these increased risks:
- make good lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, weight control, and regular and adequate sleep
- faithfully get or do all the recommended cancer screenings
- offset psychological risks with exercise, engaging socially, talking to significant others – increase your Faith Factor by seeking a relationship with God, personally and corporately
If you have had cancer, don’t assume that everything will go on normally. You are now different. Take control. Live life to the fullest, but do it thoughtfully and purposefully