A year ago today I emerged from 4 1/2 hours of cancer surgery. I am happy to say that I'm well recovered and free of that threat, subject to the latest test results. I'm fortunate in a couple of ways which might also help you if you're ever facing this juncture in your life. As banal as it seems the first gift you can give yourself - right now - is to get fit. Going from the ridiculous to the sublime my second piece of advice is to view the infliction itself as a gift. I only stumbled upon both of these and I'm advancing these to you not as my prior wisdom but as two important things that I have learnt from my cancer experience.
Committing yourself to get fit is very simple in comparison to the change of mindset needed to see life-threatening cancer as a gift. I believe all adults need to do their best to make this transition for their own sake, which helps everyone else. I'm not sure of any universal HOW to make this transition.
In my case I had an unwitting mentor in my friend Anastasia. Quite frankly many years ago, when I first heard her story, I was shocked - I mean "frightened" shocked. I may have even burst out in sweat thinking about how I would face what she had been through, and suspecting that I wouldn't do too well. For all of its devastating consequences she shocked me again by telling me how she regarded it as a gift, but actually I couldn't take this in because my mind was racing with my own self-centered fears and emotions.
The seed Anastasia planted never left my mind even though it was a purely theoretical concept at that stage. But of course it was about attitude and that was a universal lesson for life. What I saw was how Anastasia lived her positive outlook in everything she did, how she was totally authentic to her crazy theory that cancer was a gift. I have never once seen her let herself down even in the face of more bad news. And that's how Anastasia unwittingly mentored me to see the reality of her life-view which she had explained to me many years earlier. I totally saw the reality of how she lived her outlook. That made a huge difference to me when my time came.
What could be my advice for you? I'm not really sure but most likely you need to be inspired by someone as well. Perhaps a friend, perhaps just a story about someone with this kind of view of the opportunity. You might be surprised to find out which people you know have been through this and you never knew. Share some stories.
Less than 24 hours after my biopsy the Urologist called and told me that I need to organise for surgery as soon as possible. No room for denial there! Twenty one hours after surgery - 4 1/2 hours - I was home. In pain and unable to straighten up but at home. The surgeon had dropped in to see me as I lay plumbed with tubes on the bed and said "I had a good look inside you and you're a very healthy man you can go home now". Subsequently he has told me that my recovery has been twice as fast as normal, at every step of the way. That's because of fitness.
My simplest advice to anyone of my generation that will listen is to get fit and keep yourself fit. Being fit will help you when you really need it, and your family and friends will be grateful for your diligence.
Do I need to say that only YOU can do it for yourself. It sounds bizarre doesn't it - to think that people try to find ways to get fit without doing it? I know it is not easy. I went into denial for TWO years after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 13 years ago. Logically I knew that I needed to exercise. But gyms were "not my thing". I thought they were weird, never been to a gym in my life. I couldn't even relate to people that went to gym, it made no sense to me.
I had a blockage. No, I would be OK, I wouldn't be taken down by this disease, I wouldn't get out of bed early even if it meant saving my life. I all-but fainted after Googling diabetes and seeing and reading of the consequences - I literally had to quickly lie on the floor next to the desk to recover. But I would not act.
Then one morning as I woke up, with the fear hanging over me, my mind snapped into the positive - the acceptance that I was only one that could save me and that I had to act now. I joined the gym. I became a regular. Inadvertently, because of that I was able to face the cancer surgery with high degree of fitness, recover well, and survive the experience far better than those who are unfit. In fact by not being fit you may well limit the choices available to the surgeon and deny yourself the chance of better outcomes.
I'll wrap this up with some fitness advice. Firstly getting fit means sweating. You have to make your heart and lungs work hard and Spin does that, or running if you don't mind the load on your joints and tendons. I'm not a runner. To improve your basic cardio fitness you need interval training. You can do this at gym or just run flat-out 10 seconds walk 20 seconds repeat for as far as you can do until you are doing 2 or 3 kilometers. Climb some steps, run on the beach - anything with bursts which makes you sweat more. Do some functional body classes - BodyPump or BodyAttack or anything which builds your frame and holds you more upright and holds your chest open for easier breathing.
If you want the most effective functional exercise get training in Kettlebells from the most highly qualified KB instructor you can find. "Functional" means that everything you do as exercise will help you carry our your normal daily functional activities such as kneeling, lifting, gardening, climbing, cleaning and getting out of bed. Kettlebells are dangerous in untrained hands - don't be fooled by what you see at the gym and don't do group kettlebell classes. You need personal and serious instruction. At your age kettlebells will rip out your shoulder or tear a tendon or damage your back in an instant. With training they are enormously effective and alone will keep you very fit.
Get medical advice before starting your fitness regime. Do it now. Give yourself the gift of fitness, you deserve it!