Once every quarter, the company I work for in Miami (remotely from my home in Chicago) has a company meeting, and when it’s over I get to watch the video of it before I close up shop for the day.
To give you a bit of background, I work as a copy editor, writing and editing text and graphics for print and on-line “journals” for oncologists — doctors who treat breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, you name it. It’s hard work — you don’t want to screw anything up, but at the same time, how involved are you, really, in the care of Joe Smith, a patient who’s suffering in a small town in Idaho? It’s hard sometimes to feel the tug of pressing deadlines and turning in a perfect assignment and at the same time remember what’s really at the heart (or should be) of all your efforts, your long hours, “putting in your dues” — that 80% of oncologists in the country do actually use our research and translate it into their daily community practices, caring for a patient who could be your mom, your brother, your friend, your uncle.
This week’s company meeting was an intense reminder, and I’ll explain to you why it also ties in, of course, to diet and fitness.
A slide was shown during the meeting of one of the nation’s top cancer researchers about becoming an organ donor. Although, of course, some patients with cancer do rely on transplant at times, it’s never been a main focus, per se, of our business — so when this slide popped up, originally at a major scientific breast cancer meeting in Texas last year, the owner of the company I work for was taken aback, asked the doctor what the story was behind it and is actually going to run the same photo in a book we publish this year.
The story, of course, is surprising. The marathon-running, always-healthy cancer doc was shocked to find out he had a fatal heart condition, and save a transplant, he was quickly running out of options to literally live out the rest of his young life. Without a heart transplant, he had no hope. (He underwent the transplant, obviously, and is thriving now and spreading the word as often as he can.)
The other slide from our meeting that undoubtedly caught everyone’s attention was just a number: 2021. Five years from now. And the question was, Where do you want to be? In your personal life, in your work life, within the spectrum of your family, your community. Our fearless leader encouraged us all to turn off our phones for two minutes; he dimmed the lights, put on some music and suggested we all just relax for a bit and really try to focus on that. He admitted, also, that part of his little 5-year fantasy involved reflecting on the state of affairs we’re in right now when it comes to cancer, where some 500,000 Americans are dying each year of the disease, and what it would be like if we were coming from a place in 2021 when the disease was eradicated — no matter how possible or impossible that may seem.
The point of all of this is that what I’ve been remembering lately and trying to keep top of mind — and it’s moments like these that help — is that it really all does come down to health, not how I look in my cutoff jean shorts or the bathing suit I rarely put on. Whether you want to lose weight to lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of heart disease or diabetes, or whether your weight is fine and you just want to boost your immunity, lower your risk for cancer and other diseases, it is possible — and among other things, you can do your part by voting with your fork.
Go to the store and try kale for the first time; make it into kale chips, if you must (they’re delicious!). Incorporate broccoli into your daily diet regimen. Take a walk, or two — morning and night. Think about where you want to be in 5 years — okay, have kids, move to a bigger house, whatever, but you. Really think about you. Give yourself two minutes, or five, and think about what you want to feel like, be doing, what you want to change. And know that this is just the start — because after that, you have to figure out how to get there, and you ACTUALLY have to take the steps to do so, if you’re sincere about all this!
If this has inspired you in any way just like it inspired me, let me know. Or if there’s anyone in your life who could use a lift, a focus on health and wellness rather than dress or pant size, forward them a link to this page with whatever message you choose — it doesn’t have to be awkward or strange, just tell them you love this site (wink, wink!). You never know who will read it and really decide it’s time for a change, time to take that first step. Switch from white pasta to whole wheat to potentially lower your cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Add a fruit or vegetable to every meal to boost your immunity and lower your risk for cancer and all other kinds of illnesses. Drink water instead of soda and decrease your risk for high blood pressure and hypertension. The links between food and these illnesses are not fuzzy or weak science. It is absolutely true that you can change your health destiny by changing what you eat. I’m hoping to find some organic salad greens on sale at Target this afternoon instead of putting a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner tonight. What choice will you make today to better your health and that of your family? Leave me a comment and keep inspiring me more every day. Thanks!