Twelve years ago, I lost my father to cancer. This week is special to me, because it is the anniversary of his death, and it serves as a powerful reminder as to why I choose to not only invest in my own health, but to encourage and empower others be healthy as well. As individuals, we each have our own unique motivation for taking charge of our health. This is important because real change happens when our motivations are truly meaningful to us, or internalized. I encourage each of you to find your motivation to be healthy, and in honor of my father today, I wanted to share mine.
As a child, I think it’s nearly impossible to grasp the full impact of cancer. I was thirteen when my father passed away, and I’m sure there is much I didn’t, and even still do not understand about my father’s battle with the disease. However, I do remember the pain he was in. I remember how weak and tired he seemed. I remember how the cancer ravaged his body so that even simple tasks like going to the bathroom on his own were impossible.
Cancer, along with the majority of other chronic illnesses prevalent in Western cultures, is a disease that is highly preventable through a healthy lifestyle. My father was a smoker. He loved fast food. I remember how he would take us to McDonalds, and Nutty Bars and Swiss Cake Rolls were a favorite treat. Do I believe that making unhealthy lifestyle choices is an automatic death sentence? No. I’ve had people tell me that they know somebody who smoked well into old age, and perhaps never once ate a vegetable, and miraculously this person had no apparent or bothersome health issues. But this is not common. It is a proven fact that poor health habits cause disease, and disease more likely than not will wreak havoc in the life of each person it touches.
Since my father’s death, I have graduated high school and college. Two of my sisters have gotten married, and one has a baby on the way! We are a close family, sharing new experiences and much love and laughter. It breaks my heart to know that my dad has been absent from so many special moments because of a disease that could perhaps have been prevented. His battle with cancer helped to ignite my passion for health. I wish upon no one the pain of a failing body nor the inability to enjoy life because of physical, mental, or emotional dysfunctions of chronic disease. I take care of myself not only to prevent disease, but also to feel my best and be able to live my life to the fullest. Family, relationships, and experiences matter to me, and I know first-hand how quickly they can slip away when disease takes hold.
Find your reasons, live healthfully, and enjoy life!