So You Have Cancer, Eat the Donut


Cancer survivors generally work very hard to be healthy after a diagnosis. This article gives permission to enjoy life and have a balanced attitude toward healthy living.

I have to admit, I am one of those terrible people who never took care of my body very well when I was young. I worked long hours on responsible jobs. I pulled all-nighters getting my dissertation done. I ate way too much fast food and didn’t start exercising on a regular basis until I was in my 40s. Breakfast for me was coffee and a donut at the nearest bakery.

I didn’t get enough sleep and felt guilty of taking time off when sick. I felt that relaxing and watching television was a complete waste of time. I stressed myself out and I worried about everything, especially what people thought of me.

With age came some wisdom. I strove to be healthier. I tried not to worry as much. I began to eat less red meat and more veggies. I joined a local gym to exercise. I no longer was working two jobs and going to school, so I was getting more sleep. I received a beautiful service dog, who forced me to take healthy and wonderful walks.

However, I admit I still loved my donuts. My diet was better, but still did not include enough of the healthy fruits and other good foods. I did not know how to read the labels of grocery products. I drank too much coffee

Then, at age 57, I was diagnosed with a cancer of the bone marrow called myelodysplastic syndrome. My whole attitude toward my body changed. I realized the truth of the Biblical affirmation, “The body is the temple.”

Fortunately, my wonderful oncologist told me that the cancer was not caused by something I did. I am so thankful for her because I would have done the blame game and beat myself up. All the research I have read confirmed that with this type of cancer, one little itty bitty cell went haywire. I did not need to feel guilty on top of the other stresses of dealing with cancer.

I did reform. My refrigerator now has fruits and veggies. I joined the Livestrong program at my local YMCA. In addition to exercising regularly, I pay out of pocket for a personal trainer once a week. She does marvelous things to help me with my balance and has become a wonderful friend!

I also joined the free nutrition classes, and boy did I have a lot to learn! I had no idea how much reading of labels and careful monitoring of foods is necessary. The salt and sugar in packaged and canned foods just shocks me. The nutrition program at my Y is fantastic. Not only do we have a great nutritionist, but go monthly to a local grocery store with another nutritionist who is a cancer survivor. She brings samples for us to eat so we can find food we both like and is healthy.

However, I did not change everything. I still eat out frequently because I am single and eat better with friends. I am careful about what I order, and dessert is not even an option.

I still love my donut! The dietician and I have an ongoing friendly argument. She tells me there is absolutely not one ounce of nutritional value in a donut — none, zero and nada. I have pleaded my case. Isn’t there dairy in the cream? I mention to her tongue in cheek about the protein in the nuts. I told her one time that she was making me feel guilty with every bite I ate and she said she did her job!

See, I blame the whole thing on the American Association of Retired Persons. A member gets a free donut when one orders a large coffee at Dunkin Donuts.

We have laughed and joked about it, but we do agree. Everyone needs to slip something unhealthy into their diet once in a while. Every morning, breakfast is a hardboiled egg and toast. However, once a week I go and get my donut. I savor it. I enjoy it. I love it.

And you know what, gee whiz, I have cancer! We all know that we are going to pass away sometime. Cancer just forces us to face that reality sooner.

Call it rationalization. But when I am on my deathbed, am I going to regret having a donut once a week? Or will I regret that I did not seize the day and spend more time with my loved ones? I think we all know the answer to that question.

So, do not take yourself so seriously. Carpe diem- seize the day! Enjoy life and have that donut! It may not be healthy for your body, but it sure does help your spirit! And that is what counts.

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