How I’m Going to Continue Beating My Cancer in 2021
May 3, 2021, marks the beginning of my 19th 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 knows 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 at the age of 62 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 18+ 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) support both weight control and a healthy immune system, which is the body’s own defense against cancer
- Stress leads to chronic inflammation, which has also been linked to cancer
We have three anti-cancer tools within our personal control . . .
- What we eat (and how much)
- Exercise levels
- Our mental state
My 2021 Cancer Battle Plan
I’m a retired Army guy so I think in terms of beating the enemy. in this case, it’s 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 2021 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.
The movement restrictions during 2020 gave me the opportunity to do a lot more reading over the past year and my 2020 goal is to switch my eating program to include lots more vegetables and beating my sugar cravings. I’ll be posting my results and recipes here on the website.
My 2021 Cancer Exercise Plan
If you have visited this site before, you know I love bicycling and walking. I got back on my bike after my treatment in 2003 and since then I have ridden 36,295.31 miles – an average of just over 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 the world around me. My 2021 goal is 2,500 miles and 360 active* days.
Exercise element number two is yoga. Until COVID-19, My yoga program was one 90-minute class every Saturday morning followed by breakfast with my wife. It was a great routine. COVID19 threw me for a temporary loop until I connected with an Internet program. Now, it’s Saturday morning yoga in the family room. Not quite the same, but good enough until in-person group sessions are safe again.
Finally, my weights routine. I was hitting the gym twice a week but COVID-19 put a halt to that, so I bought a jump rope, an inexpensive weight bench, and pulled out my old dumbells and kettlebell and now my patio is my gym. It’s actually working well and our environment benefits from 40 fewer miles driven per month. There’s almost always a silver lining. Two things I can’t replace are the sauna and the steam room. But those can wait.
My 2021 Cancer Mental Plan
Our mental state is just as important as exercise and good nutrition. COVID-19 has increased dramatically the level of stress individually and in our society overall. The final element of my 2021 Cancer Battle Plan is getting better control of my mental stress. I’m going to focus more on integrating meditation into my schedule. I use the iPhone Muse app and headband but there are much less expensive options, such as Calm, available. Check those options at the following link:
COVID-19 Changes to My Cancer Battle Plan I’ll Continue in 2021
No one expected the Covid-19 virus and the changes it has brought to how we live. I’m in the 60+ category, so my wife and I have been very careful about where we go. Based on the information available in January 2021, it likely will be June or July before most of us are vaccinated so I plan to continue my 2020 plan until then.
My 2020 Covid-19 anti-cancer plan:
- Cycling: 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 is a great help. Unless I’m really trying to kill it for HITT exercise, I simply cruise along and catch up on TED talks on my iPad: Ted.com.
- Yoga: At least twice weekly yoga with my wife with Internet classes from Yoga Studio.
- Meditation: A daily 10-minute morning meditation to ease the stress from watching the news.
- Weight training: Three cross fits sessions each week on the patio.
- At least two four-mile walks each [wearing a mask].
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 2021
Zwift Virtual Cycling
If you’re a “Zwifter,” connect with me @ Robert Hess.
I track my rides and walks 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 2021. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to plan your own 2021 cancer battle plan and then share the results to help others.
Prostate Cancer Survivor, Class of 2003