As many of you know, I’m a bit of a health nut. I haven’t always been this way. In fact, I only made the change in the past two years. Before that I was a fast food munching, junk food junkie who treated myself to cake on a daily basis and spent most of my time on the computer.

Then my dad was diagnosed with cancer.

Now my dad is not and has never been healthy–not as long as I’ve known him. He’s a type 1 juvenile diabetic. Over the years he’s gone into diabetic shock more times than I can count, letting his blood sugar waver from below 30 to well above 200 (ideal range is 80-120). He didn’t exercise, ate horrible food, drank, chewed tobacco, and when he had a sugar low instead of eating healthy to maintain his sugar he would counter with a dozen candy bars.

Overtime he developed acid reflux disease (among other things). Repeatedly it ate away at his esophagus until finally his body couldn’t keep up with the repairs. The cells turned cancerous. They gave him a 20% survival rate because of his diabetes, but even if he survived cancer he wouldn’t be the same because he already had advanced renal disease (a side of effect of his diabetes) and the chemo was sure to accelerate that, meaning he would have to start dialysis.

Family members, including myself,  took turns taking my dad to chemo. I sat in the waiting room, reading all of the literature on cancer and other serious diseases. In the many materials where some consistent statements:

  • 1/3 of all cancers are lifestyle related
  • Healthy diet and exercise can prevent cancer
  • Organic foods are best

My dad’s cancer was a result of acid reflux disease. Like many things, my dad didn’t change his diet or manage the acid reflux. Added to his other heath issues, it was bound to happen.

So I sat there in the recovery room with my dad after chemo as he’s being re-hydrated. He has to get up and vomit several times. He was 6’2″ and 225lb when he was diagnosed with cancer. Now,vomiting what little he was able to swallow, his 160lb frail frame staggers back to his chair to finish with the nurse. I’m holding the informational materials on cancer, trying to be strong because right now I just want to cry. I love my dad, but that stubborn bastard can be a real pain in the ass sometimes. He couldv’e taken better care of himself. It would’ve saved us money (medications, hospital costs, monthly checks with the specialists, etc) and my mom wouldn’t be up half the night, jumping at every weird sound he makes, checking to make sure he’s still breathing.

That was when I decided I’m not putting my daughter through this.

Why am I telling you all this? Because, I want you to understand that your health doesn’t just affect you. It affects everyone around you. The consequences of poor health can take a severe emotional and financial toll on your family and friends. At least once a week I have a nightmare about my father’s health. It’s hardest on my mother of course. I always wish I could do something more.

I decided to set an example.

It was hard at first. I love cake, and I ‘m not keen on cold, hard veggies. I was working 60+ hours a week and going to school full-time and the sole caregiver for my then four-year old daughter. Of course, my siblings and I have all earned my father’s stubborn streak, so I made sure to use it to my advantage. I didn’t see much difference at first. It took time to change all those little bad habits. In October 2009 I made the commitment to go full throttle. I lost 20lbs of pure fat and dropped from a 12 to a 2. Although I look good, I feel even better. I can go with my daughter to the park. I can go on a 4 mile run and come home and paint a room and still have energy to go dancing. Many of my health issues subsided. Best of all, my daughter loves that I don’t tell her I’m too tired and she knows that I’m doing everything in my power to insure I’ll be there for her for a very long time.

My father’s health issues have been hard on my daughter too. She loves my dad. She’s grandpa’s little girl. It only shows how far one impacts people, and how devastating their decisions can be when they choose not to take care of themselves.

My dad survived the cancer, but he did have to start dialysis. He’s getting a transplant for Christmas, courteous of my mother’s donated kidney. So now I have the stress of having both of my parents in the hospital during Christmas–not my idea of a holiday. I try to keep that to myself, don’t talk about it in front of my mom or dad. They don’t read my blog (they’re not tech savvy) so it’s okay. I can let it out here.

So I implore you, take care of yourself. Get healthy. Go exercise. Lay off the junk food. If not for yourself, do it for your children.

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