“O” is for Only

Only what?

This is going to sound like a no-brainer…but here it is, anyway:

Only eat, drink, think and do what is healthy and positive to do for your body, such as it is.

Most people will probably say “duh” to this.  Obviously, we all know that to achieve optimal health, we have to eat healthy food and drink healthy fluids.  We all know we need to do health promoting  things like exercise and get enough sleep.  We are learning from the field of positive psychology that our thoughts have a very profound impact on our health and wellness.

But what I have noticed both in my own life and in the lives of many of my clients is that often, when someone is living with an illness that is life-long, they may feel an unspoken “permission” to get away with a few things.

A perfect example of this is that when I was a kid, and even well into my adult years, I ignored warnings about the evils of tanning.  As a kid, I would lay out for hours…even though all that ever happened is that I would burn.  Then, I’d peel.  Then, I’d start all over again.

Later, when I learned what the dangers were, I’d think to myself,
“I’m not going to live long enough to get a melanoma…besides that would just be cruel…CF and melanoma…no way.  I would then proceed up to the roof of the Theta house with my friends and burn some more.

Then I went to medical school, trained in pathology, then sub-specialized in dermatopathology, where I looked at microscopic slides of sun-damaged skin and diagnosed melanomas as my specialty!  You would think at this point that I would lather up in sunscreen daily, wear hats and gloves in the summer, and carry an umbrella to shield myself from the sun.  But, no, I still harbored this strange belief that my fate was sealed…I was going to die from CF.   All the books and doctors said so.  Sun-related pathology was irrelevant.

The result is that now I have extremely sun damaged skin, occasionally have to get pre-cancerous lesions on my face burned off with liquid nitrogen, and am alive and well with death quite likely a long way off.

I’ve coined this the “why bother” mindset, and it definitely does not fit into the Sick and Happy way living!

How can you be happy if you know you are sabotaging your health?  How can you relax and be fully enjoying and engaging in life, when you harbor secret worries about lifestyle issues over which you have control, in addition to the ones that are out of your hands?

So, I am as guilty as everyone else, but at least I now catch myself when I do it.  A disease or a disability is not an excuse to ignore other aspects of our health.  A no-brainer?  Yes.  A common but  rarely discussed attitude?  I think so.

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2 Responses to ““O” is for Only”
  1. Will says:

    I have always had the same attitude toward the possibility of skin cancer (although I’ll wear concealing clothes for comfort and coolness, I despise sunscreen and have never worn it). I was born in 1968 (no cares about the sun in those sun-sensitive formative years of life), and have CF. After a transplant in 2001, I was warned about the increased possibility of cancers, particularly skin cancers (up to or greater than 65x normal risk). I got PTLD, recovered, Hodgkins, recovered, and was again warned about further increased sun risk. What have I been doing in the meantime? Coaching rowing, in a small boat, sometimes six hours at a time at the sun’s height, rowing in skimpy outfits for a few hours at a time, spending entire days outdoors. This is on top of very high previous exposure from days spent outdoors on the water as a teen, crabbing and fishing, running, skating, and then rowing in college. Probably at the high end of sun exposure. I’m not especially fair, and tan quickly, but that’s a lot of exposure. I’ve never seen a dermotologist.

    It’s always seemed like something else was likely to get me first. But nothing has. I’m slightly more careful than I was, but not much. Did I mention that I take three medications (sometimes more) that synergistically make me more vulnerable to sun damage? On a conscious level, this registers, but on another level, the one that would make me take action, it’s “why bother”.

  2. Julie says:

    Hi Will. Well, at least you are doing what you love as you damage your collagen! I understand the sunscreen thing…but how about a hat?

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