Staff Spotlight Series: Every now and then we spice up our typical posts on HSAs, health insurance & wellness to offer up a better opportunity for all of you out there to get to know all of us here at American Health Value on a more personal level. To that end, we’ve created a series of blog posts called our “Staff Spotlight Series”.
In this installment, Fran, our Director of Operations wanted to write a post about cancer and how it has directly impacted her life through the recent loss of her sister. We hope you all enjoy what she has been so gracious to share as much as we did.
Is it just my imagination or are occurrences of cancer on the rise? Sometimes when something touches your life you become more sensitive to it, and that may well be the case for me in this instance.
I lost my sister to cancer in 2012. It’s amazing how many lives one person can touch. She was someone’s daughter, sister, aunt, mother, grandmother, and friend. She was an exceptional nurse and mentor. The impact her life (and death) had on each of us cannot be measured. No one can fill the roles she embraced in her 56 years of living.
According to a February 2012 press release from the American Institute for Cancer Research:
“The number of new cancer cases that occur in the US each year is expected to surge as the population grows and ages; by the year 2030, that number will be over 50 percent higher than it is now.”
However, a March 2012 article by CBS News states
“….. the latest report that looked at three decades worth of U.S. cancer rates…….found the overall cancer death rate has dropped by 1.5 percent annually in adults and 1.7 percent in children.”
The statistics and reports don’t matter much to those who have lost someone to cancer. My sister is more than a statistic. The reports mentioned above really mean nothing to me in the overall scheme of things. Believe me, watching someone you love die will quickly bring clarity to your own life.
I recently asked my daughter what profound things her 18 years of living had taught her, she responded:
1. Confidence is key
2. Flawless means embracing your flaws
3. Have a cat, love a cat, be a cat (okay, you’ve got to remember she’s 18)
When I asked her what her Aunt Elaine’s life and death had taught her, she said to embrace life and embrace death.
Elaine definitely embraced every moment of her life! When it was her time to die, she embraced it with dignity and style, causing us to laugh and cry right along side her.
She often started a conversation with the phrase “here’s the deal”. So I’m going to say to you…..
“The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about one-quarter to one-third of the new cancer cases expected to occur in the US in 2013 will be related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition, and thus could also be prevented”.
So, here’s the deal, it is very apparent there are things you can do now to reduce your cancer risk due to environmental factors. Recommendations for individual choices are outlined as follows in the Cancer Facts & Figures 2013:
1. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight through life.
- Be as lean as possible throughout life without being underweight.
- Avoid excess weight gain at all ages. For those who are currently overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start.
- Engage in regular physical activity and limit consumption of high-calorie foods and beverages as key strategies for maintaining a healthy weight.
2. Adopt a physically active lifestyle.
- Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week, or an equivalent combination, preferably spread throughout the week.
- Children and adolescents should engage in at least 1 hour of moderate- or vigorous-intensity activity each day, with vigorous-intensity activity at least three days each week.
- Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, and watching television and other forms of screen-based entertainment.
- Doing any intentional physical activity above usual activities, even if currently inactive, can have many health benefits.
3. Consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods.
- Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit consumption of processed meat and red meat.
- Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
- Choose whole grains instead of refined-grain products.
4. If you drink alcoholic beverages, limit consumption. People who drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. For certain cancers, the risk increases substantially with the intake of more than two drinks per day.
Could Elaine have benefited from some of the advice in Cancer Facts & Figures 2013? Perhaps. My family and I are not inclined to live with “what if’s”. It doesn’t change the reality of “what is”. I will tell you the reality of watching someone die of cancer is harsh, and the reality of loving them through the process is indescribable.
My sister Laura recently wrote some thoughts about Elaine and I would like to share a few of them with you.
- My breath of fresh air.
- The cold in the winter that takes your breath away.
- A quiet soul at times.
- A waterfall of suspense and laughter.
She did everything with great gusto, relishing every moment. Shopping for shoes with her once was enough; she was a crazy shoe shopper!
Elaine, who was happy to spend hours alone just walking, or reading, or fishing, suddenly needed us by her side even when she was sleeping. The “Laura are you there?”, the countless falls, and the “What are you doing in there?”. The wanting to help but not being able to.
It is just as crazy and scary and loving to bring someone into the world as it is to give them back to God…
There was one more thing Laura said that we can all practice now…..”I would have hugged her again and said I love you!”
Here’s the deal, who are you going to do that to today?
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