So it was World Cancer Day yesterday.
And my reaction is summed up by the title.
You might be a little taken aback. You might think that’s a bit OTT. You might even reckon who am I to be so flippant.
Well, to quote the great organisation who go by the name fuckcancer.org:
WE ARE SORRY IF YOU ARE OFFENDED OR HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE WORD
WE ARE OFFENDED & HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE WORD
My life was irrevocably FU*KED up by a cancer diagnosis in the late Spring of 2008. There are very few people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer who would claim otherwise.
But I am not dwelling today on my story or my ‘journey’ (yawn); I’d rather dwell on the alarming statistic that by 2020, 1 in every 2 of us will face a cancer diagnosis.
Yes, some of this is down to all of us living longer; with increased longevity comes increased likelihood of the diseases associated with old(er) age. And yes, some of this is (& will be) down to better detection rates due to the improvement in & wider availability of screening programmes.
BUT not ALL of it will be. If, like me, someone is diagnosed in their early 30’s, when they feel like they’re in the fullest of health, not overweight, don’t smoke, lead a full active & generally healthy life & generally were feeling well tickety-boo; well then something has got to give.
I can’t give you the answers. There is a plethora of advice out there on cancer prevention (& preventing recurrence - they are much of a muchness). But you know, it’s all kind of dull & un-sexy & everyone always thinks it’s going to happen to someone else. So we ignore it. Because you know, Not YOU. Not me.
So, we have to grab ourselves by the scruff of our head-in-sand collars. Do not be fooled into complacency; that old chestnut of ‘oh well, it’s all GENETIC’. NO, it really isn’t. Gene inheritance does not equate to gene expression. There is NO inevitability about it, with the possible exception of some cancers & even then, it’s not all bad news. For example, with the BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 genes - early preventative action can greatly affect lifespan - this is the reason Angelina Jolie opted for prophaylitc mastectomy & later also, risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy. In Jolie’s rare case, she had a 87 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer & a 50 percent lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer.
Only c. 5-10% of all cancers are a result of genetic components.
Yes, that leaves c. between 90-95% of ALL cancers being attributable to other causes - environmental, nutritional, alcohol-related, smoking-related, excess sun-exposure-related, work & lifestyle habits & so on. Causes that are, to some extent, manageable & perhaps mitigable by us all.
No, there are sadly no ‘Silver Bullets’ but trust me, cancer is FU*K all fun so anything we can do, in general, everyday healthy ways, to reduce our risk, is worth it.
I am not going to detail what worked or works for me or what I think will work for you. Frankly, I don’t know why I am still here - the cancer I was diagnosed with wasn’t early stage & the treatment was no picnic.
Likely it’s down to pure obstinacy (as many of my family, friends & colleagues would happily agree with!). And luck. And as a result of the many great people, the doctors, the nurses, the orderlies, the medical & radiation oncologists, haematologists, general surgeons, gynaecologists, phlebotomists, plastic surgeons, physiotherapists & so on who looked after me so well & continue to monitor me & look after me several times throughout the year to this day & many days onwards (hopefully). Thank you St Vincents Private Hospital, the Mater Public, the Mater Private, the Beacon, Holles St & St James hospitals.
But I do also know what generally makes me feel good & well & alive & healthy. So I try & do more of those things & less of what doesn’t contribute to my overall wellbeing. I am no ‘hair-shirt’ wearer (fu*k that too!). I didn’t suddenly look back & lay blame to everything I ever ate & drank & did (what a colossal & pointless waste of time & frankly, it smacks too much of bollocksy Catholic-type guilt).
We are all different. Find what works for you. Inform yourself. Be well. Be happy. Be active. Stress less. Work less. Sit less. Yoga more. Exercise more. Laugh more. Balance the chocolate with broccoli (I LOVE BOTH!). Give up the smokes. Lay off the ‘sauce’ (occasionally or permanently, whichever works best for you - try embracing early Saturday & Sunday mornings!).
Turn off the TV, laptop, iPad & pick up a book or play some Thin Lizzy on Vinyl. Basically you can’t have too much fun & downtime rocking out to Lizzy at full volume in your kitchen or your life in my opinion! Oh & 'Lizzy' is one of my family’s pet names for me to boot. Coincidence? I think not ;-).
For actual expert advice, check out the Irish Cancer Society’s great risk-reducing infographic:
Never, ever delay going to see your GP or medical centre - don't dwell, don't bury your head in the sand & just think 'wait & see' - if in doubt, (get it) checked out.
And enjoy that beautiful sunshine that has just come out in Dublin - get that happy Vitamin D boost into your body right now (another cancer-buster).
Let’s FU*K cancer together.
Yoga Lili x