How I’m Going to Continue Beating My Cancer in 2020
In just a 2 days (May 3rd), I’ll begin my 17th year as a cancer survivor. It’s been both a short and a long time. Short in the sense that life passes so quickly and long because of the 6-month blood tests looking for possible recurrence: 34 of them so far.
Cancer Defense Tools
Medical science know-how cancer grows and the environment that helps it grow, but not the exact trigger that starts it. My prostate cancer may have come from Agent Orange exposure during my two tours of duty in Vietnam. But I also think that my family is genetically vulnerable. My father and mother died of lung cancer. My oldest sister succumbed to pancreatic cancer and my youngest sister became a Stage 3 breast cancer survivor in 2018.
Causes? My father and mother were both lifelong smokers, as was my older sister. My younger sister, however, has been fit and a vegetarian for the past 20 years.
Here’s what I learned about cancer over the past 16+ years:
- The cause is pretty much unknown
- Factors like smoking and being overweight appear to be contributing factors
- National cancer organization research suggests that one-third of all cancer can be prevented through lifestyle changes
- Exercise and healthy eating habits – those vegetables that our parents tried to get us to eat – control weight and support a healthy immune system, which is the body’s key defense against cancer
- Stress leads to chronic inflammation, which has also been linked to cancer
So, we have three anti-cancer tools within our control are . . .
- What we eat (and how much)
- Exercise levels
- Our mental state
My 2020 Cancer Battle Plan
I’m a retired Army guy so I think in terms of beating the enemy, in this case, cancer. We create battle plans in the Army by first knowing as much as we can about the enemy and then looking for weak spots in their defenses. In cancer’s case, those weak spots are the three points above.
My 2020 Cancer Nutritional Plan
I was really good with my diet in the first 10 years of my cancer survivorship. I dropped my weight to pretty much optimal – about 150 pounds on a 5′ 10″ slender frame. But, in the last two years, I’ve been working more and slipped into some old habits and I’m now at 158 pounds. Way too much. [Maybe I should begin posting my weekly weight as an incentive to stick with a healthy diet. The current COVID-19 pandemic is another strong reason to follow an immune-boosting eating plan.]
I did a lot of reading over the past year and I’m switching my eating program to include lots of vegetables and beating my sugar cravings. I’ll be posting my results and recipes here on the website.
My 2020 Cancer Exercise Plan
I love bicycling and walking. I got back on my bike after my treatment in 2003 and since then I have ridden 32,639.65 miles – roughly 2,000 miles a year.
Many cyclists ride more than that, but those miles have kept me fit and played a key role in calming my mental state.
Riding takes my mind away from cancer and work-related stress and lets me enjoy the scenery and word around me. My 2020 goal was 2,400 miles [I’ll explain the “was” in a minute.]
Exercise element number two is yoga. I’ve been doing one 90-minute class every Saturday morning and it’s fantastic. It’s all about flexibility and bodyweight training in a calm and quiet atmosphere.
Finally, I’m getting back into the gym twice per week, although you can do almost everything I do in the gym at home using bodyweight exercises. I’ll post some of those exercises here on the website as well. I love the gym because it has a sauna and steam room.
My 2020 Cancer Mental Plan
The final element of my 2020 Cancer Battle Plan is getting my mental stress under better control. I’m going to be focusing on integrating meditation into my schedule. I’m not sure how I’ll do it, but I’ll keep you posted here. I use the iPhone Muse app and I’m exploring some others, like Calm.
COVID-19 Changes to My Cancer Battle Plan
Noone expected the Covid-19 virus and the changes it has brought to how we live. I’m in the 60+ category, so I’m being very careful about where I go. Mostly I’m adhering as closely as I can to the “stay at home guidelines” here in California.
My Covid-19 anti-cancer plan:
- Zwift.com instead of outdoor cycling. Staying at home means that I’ve switched to indoor bicycle riding on my trainer and Zwift set up. Riding inside is much different than outdoors but the Zwift community helps a lot. Sometimes if I’m just doing an endurance ride, I watch Ted.com talks on my iPad.
- My wife and I now do yoga in the family room using the Internet. It’s not quite like being in a studio, but it’s actually pretty good.
- I’m adding daily morning meditation to ease the stress from watching the new.
- We’re focusing more on vegetable-rich dishes again and keeping “bad food night” for the weekends.
- We work in a four-mile walk [wearing a mask] daily.
What’s Your 2020 Cancer Battle Plan?
If you’re a cancer survivor like me, cancer recurrence is almost always in the back of your mind. There’s certainly no guarantee that any of the elements of my cancer battle plan will prevent cancer recurrence, but it gives me a sense of control, along with knowing that I’m putting my body in the best possible shape to resist cancer if it shows up again.
I would love to hear about your cancer battle plan and we’ll post it here on the website if you choose to share.
Follow Along With Me In 2020
Connect with me on Zwift if you use the app Zwift.com You can find me there as Robert Hess.
I’m also on Strava.com and I’ll be riding outside again once the stay at home guidelines are lifted. If you can still ride outside where you live, connect with the Cancer Journeys Foundation Around the World Challenge group. Log enough miles and you will be wearing one of our unique Around the World cycling jerseys from Primal.
Best wishes for 2020. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to plan your own 2020 cancer battle plan and then share the results to help others.
Prostate Cancer Survivor, Class of 2003