For some, sticking to healthy habits can be difficult, but when I was going through cancer, I felt that my life depended on it.
Over the past few months, I’ve been informally guiding a friend who’s dealing with health issues on how they can improve their diet.
They’d seen firsthand how the changes I personally implemented helped improve my health after cancer, and my friend welcomed my advice. (Back in late 2017, doctors gave me less than 10% to live battling metastatic osteosarcoma, and I spent the next few years learning all that I could about healing the body. Eventually, with a great deal of luck, discipline and hard work, I managed to turn the situation around and defy the statistics.)
Right away, my friend reported feeling great after swapping for the healthier options I had suggested. But once life grew hectic and the initial glow of novelty wore off, they admitted resorting to shortcuts like processed and fast food. They kept voicing their struggle against all the “restrictions.”
It made me so frustrated; I was worried and felt helpless that their body was literally begging for change and my friend was seemingly brushing aside all the signs. It got me thinking about how I had approached my own dietary makeover differently…
First off, I can acknowledge that after the trauma I’ve endured with cancer, I’m a tad bit more emotionally charged about health concerns than the average person. Also, I recognize that food is comforting, as well as both a source of joy and connection for many, and everyone has different values.
But the reality is that when I made such a strict commitment to wellness, I didn’t have much choice. Doctors could only offer a clinical trial that caused unbearable physical agony and had a 30% success rate. I wasn’t comfortable with that option, and from then on felt like I was on my own.
Driven by fear, I obsessively researched best practices related to health and wellness, and any time I learned a new benefit or inspiring tidbit, I felt a quick shot of dopamine as if I’d just gained new offensive firepower against cancer. This seemed like one of the few areas where I had control.
Meanwhile, whereas my friend voiced that they would struggle with feeling restricted, I was scared straight to eat anything other than what offered high nutritional content because I feared that my life literally depended on it. My mentality was to give my body and immune system every edge possible so that at least I could say that I left nothing on the table.
Rather than limitations, I focused on all the motivating benefits like these were my healing superpowers. Pop a few pills of zinc, vitamin D and ascorbic acid (under the oversight of my functional medicine doctor) — BAM! That’s gotta be doing something for the ol’ immune system. Then, hop in the infrared sauna for a half hour and feel that detox magic!
(Just a few quick examples to get the point across. Also, please note that I’m not claiming these to be cures for cancer, just sharing my personal story.)
Focusing on health-boosting benefits motivated me to keep pushing ahead. And while each cancer situation is unique and everyone has different resources available in terms of time, money and energy, looking back, I think this sense of empowerment played a key role in helping me adopt a more wellness-oriented lifestyle.
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