January 15, 2020

I head into my battle with cancer with a huge advantage. At age 66, I am strong, fit, committed to a plant-based diet, take no medications and live a healthy lifestyle. I could not say any of this prior to June 2nd, 2017 but it is true today and will allow me to better tolerate radiation treatments, chemotherapy and recover more quickly after my surgery.

I believe my cancer is a signal to take on a mission to encourage and inspire others to make life changes with two important outcomes: improved quality of life right now and to physically prepare for any health battle in the future. To be clear, I am not an expert in healthy living but I have spent time sorting through a massive amount of literature and had success for myself.

Here is a list of a number of ways in which the quality of my life improved as a direct result of my weight loss over the last three years:

  • I fit in any restaurant booth.
  • The steering wheel in my car no longer rubs my belly.
  • I walk up and down stairs without pain in my knees including my right knee where half the joint is pretty much bone on bone.
  • I look better in everything I wear. I can borrow clothes from my sons.
  • The options of what I can wear is unlimited.
  • I roll over in bed effortlessly.
  • I don’t get dizzy when tying my shoes.
  • It is easier to reach down and pick things up.
  • I do not get out of breath with minor exertions ever.
  • My blood pressure and resting heart rate are way down.
  • I can comfortably reach and wash everywhere in the shower.
  • I stand straighter and my posture has improved. This happened naturally without the weight of my belly pulling my spine forward.
  • I do have some pretty ugly extra skin around my belly but my face has tightened up. (Given the difference in my appearance, I wonder why the border guards don’t challenge my passport these days.)

More importantly than the improvement in my quality of life right now is the degree to which my good health prepares me for my battle with cancer:

  • I am physically strong. I don’t mean I’m pushing transit buses down the street but overall my muscles are simply capable of more; especially my core strength.
  • My fitness level is high for a man my age according to Fitbit. Using the formula of 220-66 (my age) to calculate my maximum heart rate, the result is 156 bpm. During sustained activity, it now runs around 138 and only approaches the max occasionally. My average resting heart rate is around 65.
  • My blood pressure varies depending on activity but when relaxed is usually around 120/75. That is excellent for my age.
  • I transitioned to a meat-free diet almost two years ago. I no longer have the cravings I did in the beginning and am very comfortable with my food choices.
  • Although it’s virtually impossible to eliminate processed food from a diet, both my wife and I attempt to make more of our food from scratch with more locally sourced products. That is easy to say but very difficult to accomplish.
  • Even prior to my life changes, I had no routine medications I was on. I count myself fortunate in that regard. Recently I was at a presentation titled Deprescibing for Seniors. There is a national initiative to reduce the number of prescriptions routinely taken by people especially seniors. Frequently the problems of the side-effects outweigh the benefit of the drug. It is funny to see the reaction of my health care providers when they ask for my “list of prescriptions” and I respond with the answer “none.” They usually re-ask thinking I didn’t hear it correctly the first time.

It is clear that my good health has me ready for my cancer treatment. It is expected that I will better tolerate the treatments from week to week and I should recover more quickly after both the treatments and surgery. This is yet to be seen but it encouraging to know as we get started that I’m physically ready for what lays ahead.

Here’s hoping I give you cause to think about the state of your health and your readiness should you find yourself in my shoes. My transition started with tiny steps. When I discovered there was a more powerful engine inside me than I ever thought possible, it became apparent that with a little discipline there was a better health picture in my future.

I don’t view my transition as extraordinary, I’m just a regular guy who took control of my health. It was simply a decision that I made, committed to, and continue, to this day.