by Judy M McCutcheon
I was reading an article in the Jamaica Observer about a medical doctor who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. As I read the story, it dawned on me what little we do to keep ourselves healthy even in this era of information.
In her story, the doctor related that she discovered the lumps in her breast during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She said that as a medical professional she knew that she should be doing her screenings, but that she had not been consistent. Her story is not very different to most of us, in that we know what we should be doing, but we don’t do it.
From her story, I get the sense that she’s strong, courageous, deeply spiritual, and very determined to win this battle with cancer as it is the only option. Her intentions are to come out of this with her health intact, and even if she must do a double mastectomy, she has come to appreciate that the cancer is a part of her that needs love, care and affection and she appreciates the part it is playing in her life’s journey. I can tell you that with such an attitude, her spirituality at the end of all this would deepen and become very significant to her purpose.
One year ago, I met someone who would later become a dear friend and sister as she visited Grenada for the first time. On her return home, she visited her doctor for her usual annual checks, and a cancerous mass was discovered in her breast. And, as the doctor above, she resolved that losing this battle was not an option, she adjusted her lifestyle, did her rounds of treatments, and she is fine. As I reflect on the similarities of these two women and their attitude towards their health and getting better, I cannot help but wonder if they did not have the financial wherewithal, how very different their situations would have turned out. Ladies, it seems like we are living in a circus, our lives appear to be a constant juggling act of kids, work, taking care of others, doing this and that; a constant never-ending cycle and our health suffers in the process.
One beautiful thing about living in the Caribbean is that eating healthy is very affordable. Many of us are fortunate to have some of the world’s superfoods right in our backyard: moringa, soursop, fresh fruits, and vegetables. The list of healthy foods available to us is endless. We have access to fresh unpolluted air, our beaches are some of the world’s finest; yet still, we suffer from diseases that can be avoided. I saw an article about packaged air for sale, could you imagine that the air in some countries is so polluted that they have to resort to the importation of air?
Let’s make it habit to get ourselves checked annually in addition to adopting a healthy lifestyle. I know that this is easier said than done, as we have everything else to do, plus there is the fear of visiting the doctor. One thing I must discuss at this point is the issue of health insurance. Coming from an insurance background I am fully aware of some of the woes, but I am much more aware of the benefits of having health insurance. Several years ago, I had a serious medical emergency, and I needed to be evacuated to a hospital in Miami, and the last thing on my mind was how this was going to be paid for. The hospital bill was 60 plus thousand US dollars, but I didn’t have to worry about the bills, the only thing I had to concentrate on was getting better. Having the financial resources to take care of your health could mean the difference between life or death. I hear you, medical insurance is too expensive, I can’t afford it, but you cannot afford to be without it. You should make the necessary sacrifice for your health. Sometimes we say that we cannot afford, but if we were to take a conscious look at our spending habits, we would realise that affording health insurance is easier than we think. You can get health insurance for as little as $100 per month; it’s a matter of priority. Let your health become a matter of priority.
The constant cry is that we don’t have the time to eat right or to exercise; take note that you are the only person in total control of your time and what you do with it. Some of us leave our homes each day without having breakfast, and then we buy a pie and a soft drink, we repeat that same behaviour for lunch, and that’s our routine every day. Ladies, it’s about time we start taking our health seriously. The best way to ensure your family’s happiness is to be there for them. We shorten our lives and weaken our bodies by the things we put into it. Get up an hour earlier and go for a swim, a run, or a walk; stop by the vegetable truck at the side of the road on your way home, prepare your meals the night before. Start by cutting out one sugary drink from your diet and replace it with water. You don’t have to make drastic changes, start small. Start incorporating healthy eating and exercise into your day little by little until it becomes your way of living. How you are, is ultimately up to you, make you count, take your health seriously.
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Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net