Be Well Week

Be-Well-Week

On April 17th 2007, the world as I knew it fell apart. My Dad was unexpectedly diagnosed with bowel cancer. Within one week he underwent surgery to remove 40cm of his bowel and was told that there were traces in his lymph nodes also. Within two weeks he had started a 6-month course of chemotherapy.

After the initial bouts of endless crying, I then became very angry. I was questioning why my Dad had bowel cancer when every time I looked at him he was eating fruit and vegetables, he ate whole grain bread, high fibre cereal and threw psyllium husk on anything that sat still long enough.

I then thought, what is the point of eating all this healthy food if we are going to end up with bowel cancer anyway? The thing is, although bowel cancer does have a strong genetic link, what you eat, how much you move and your general state of health affairs play a big role too.

Each year in Australia, 6,800 Australian women are diagnosed with bowel cancer and it’s the third leading cause of cancer deaths in Australia. Many of us know that cancer does not discriminate and 530 of those women diagnosed with bowel cancer are under the age of 50 years old.

For me, having a direct genetic link means that I need to be vigilant with check-ups including a colonoscopy every five years, not exactly what I would call a fun day out but knowing that it can save my life gets me there every time. If you don’t have that link though, a quicker and simpler way of checking is through a stool sample. Both women and men are advised to start screening for bowel cancer from 50 years of age but despite this, surveys in 2014 showed that only just over a third of women in this age bracket had been tested in the past couple of years. The perception that bowel cancer screening is messy and embarrassing, as well as a fear of receiving bad news are among the top reasons many women put off screening for the disease. It might sound icky but the ickiness factor is really non-existent compared to the reality of enduring cancer and all that it brings.

This week marks the inaugural Bowel Cancer Australia’s Be Well Week, aimed at women.  Don’t worry, men are not being brushed under the carpet, their turn will come later in the year. For this week and of course beyond, the message is simple.  Eat Well. Move Well, Be Well.  For great resources, information and delicious recipes, go here to check them all out.

Opera singer, Beverley Sills once suggested to “Be like a postage stamp, stick to one thing until you get there.” I often remind myself of these words because at times I find myself making the simple things complicated.  Don’t we all do just that with our health and well-being sometimes?

What is the one thing that you can do this week to eat well, move well or be well? Is it eating breakfast to start your day with energy, grabbing a piece of fruit instead of one of those fancy shmanzy doughnuts, taking a walk at lunchtime, being mindful about reducing stress in your life or getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep each night?

Don’t worry about the long list you might have, just tackle one of them. Sometimes we just need to start something.

Bowel cancer kills around 80 Australians each week. Fortunately, my Dad was one of the lucky ones and survived his fight.

What are you going to do in Be Well Week to avoid getting into the fight?

 

Chewing the fat

 

Ros Thomas Chewing the Fat

A clever friend of mine writes a very entertaining column in the West Weekend Magazine each Saturday and a recent edition was too good not to share.  It is below in its entirety but you can also see more of Ros’s insights here.

 

Ros Thomas, The Weekend West Magazine, Published February 2, 2013

A few weekends back a girlfriend and I were at the beach for our first swim of the summer. It was an overcast morning and the water looked dark. We were trying to stave off the inevitable shock of cold water by discussing our chances of getting eaten by a shark. She turned to me and said: “Any self-respecting shark would take one look at me and say: Geez, I’m not that hungry.”

A real friend doesn’t lie about her weight. A real friend understands that a woman’s weight can be central to her mood: thin = happy, not thin = grumpy. My bathroom scales are an electronic slab of nastiness hell-bent on destroying my morning.

A nutritionist once told me: ”Do not weigh yourself every day, it’s bad for your mental health.” But most mornings, I roll out of bed, skip to the loo and then step daintily onto my scales. It takes about three seconds for them to calculate how many squares of cooking chocolate I had the night before and deliver up the numbers that have me inwardly cursing (and outwardly cranky) for the next half hour.

If the figure is really offensive, I move the scales around the bathroom floor, hoping a second (or third) try will give me a more considerate read-out. Sometimes I hold onto the door frame and voila! I weigh the same as I did when I was 18. Self delusion makes me thin.

When I ring a girlfriend to say: “Good morning, I am a circus tent” she doesn’t reply: ‘Hey, I’ve lost three kilos and I’m back to what I weighed on my wedding day.” Instead she sympathises: ”I weigh the same as the day I gave birth to my third child.”

My Adonis does not realise that all nearly all women obsess about their weight, usually to their partner’s detriment. (The fatter we feel, the thinner our libido.)

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not so shallow that our weight is all we care about. We have discussed at length our disappointment that even the head of the CIA can’t have an affair without getting caught. We worry Julia Gillard was talked into becoming a redhead by her hairdresser boyfriend. And then we go back to our weight, because society demands that the female of our species should always be pert and thin. Any woman who has had children or is within fifteen years of menopause knows pert requires surgery and pert andthin is a pipe dream.

I have two lovely pals who meet with me every Friday morning. Our husbands think it’s a weekly discussion to exchange housekeeping tips, and how to serve up more marital happiness. But really those girlfriends come to my house to find out what the scales of injustice say. Having starved ourselves all morning for ‘weigh-in,’ the more sensible one of us records the offensive number of kilos in her diary. Then we put the bad news behind us and get down to the more important business of tea and cake.

I wouldn’t miss those Fridays for quids. They began five years ago when we decided one of us might need a weekly catch-up to help her endure the horrors of chemotherapy. (We didn’t need to weigh her to know she was thin.)

Since then there has been a wonderful survival story, one last baby, two husbands’ vasectomies, two new places to live, one new career and several sets of hateful scales. Cancer free and in perfect nick, the most disciplined of our threesome now sympathises with the two of us whose blasted weight has stayed more or less the same, always five kilos too many.

We still de-brief every Friday, except now we use ‘weigh-in’ as an excuse to check up on each other and restore some girly equilibrium.

What Friday weigh-ins are good for is motivation. The three of us come away hardened with steelier resolve to be Elle McPherson pure about what we eat. (Usually sabotaged by Troy Buswell self-control.) On occasion our iron will has lasted a whole week – the record is three months -but usually we’re texting each other by Friday night: “Do organic brownies count?” (Apparently, if they came from the health food shop, they have no calories.)

For me, trying to lose weight at this time of year is hopeless. And pointless. There are too many good things to eat. So I’m going to move those scales around the house until I find that elusive G-spot  – G for gravity. That’s the spot where a slight incline confuses the scale’s pea-sized brain into thinking I’m three kilos lighter. I have high hopes for that bit of the kitchen floor that dips as it merges with the pantry. If my plan fails, I’ll just use the stupid scales as a step-up to reach the top shelf. I’m sure that’s where I hid the last of the cooking chocolate.