By Nick Matheson, Owner
It was eleven years ago; a birthday truly worth celebrating. My oldest daughter, Maryn, had reached a milestone. Three years old and she was cancer free. Born with a rare tumour in her liver, the disease had progressed to her lungs, reaching stage 4, before we had the good fortune of an accidental discovery. A fall on her belly a few months previous ruptured the tumour, threw her into shock, and propelled our family into a 4-month sprint to conquer this disease.
On this particular day, she raced all over the playground, climbing, swinging, and jumping. Not a big deal for most three year olds, but quite a feat for a kid who was only three weeks post liver transplant! Having donated a significant chunk of my liver to the effort, I was quite the contrast as I winced with pain and hobbled lethargically around the park trying in vain to keep up. At only 31 I was already envious of the energy and recovery potential of youth! My family’s brush with cancer taught me that there are many things in life that I cannot control. It was in that moment, full of joy in Maryn’s victory and facing struggle in my recovery, that I vowed to control those things I could. Until that point, health was something I took for granted. It’s easy to do that until you start to lose it. So many people spend so much time and energy focused on things that do not matter at all when their own health or the health of those they love is at risk. Illness can be an important wake up call.
I’m sure my family has claimed more than our share of Nova Scotia’s health care dollars. We are very grateful that the stress of coping with a kid facing a serious illness was not compounded by wondering how we would pay for her care. We are incredibly thankful for the exceptional care that was provided and, of course, for a miraculous outcome. I realize that it is not without problems; however, the system was there for us when we needed it. For the most part, health care in Nova Scotia works when you are sick. The challenge is that it does very little to keep us well. And, frankly, I don’t think there is much it can do. The population of Nova Scotia is aging rapidly, chronic disease continues to increase, and unhealthy lifestyle habits are among the highest in the country. Illness places a growing burden on health care budgets and personnel. I understand fully that there are many things we cannot control. I invite every Nova Scotian to accept responsibility for controlling those they can.
Wellness is too often sacrificed to denial or lack of awareness. Every choice takes one closer to or farther from a state of good health. The scientific literature is full of results demonstrating the positive impact that diet and exercise have on chronic disease. And yet many continue to rely instead on taking a few pills or being caught by the health care system once they’ve fallen. As I’ve said, I’m as appreciative as anyone for that safety net. I’m also determined to strengthen my health and give those around me every opportunity to thrive.
Thriving comes from attention to 3 main areas:
Mind: The first step toward change is awareness. The second is acceptance. In words from those far wiser, all suffering comes from wanting things to be other than they are. Learning to be aware of my ability to respond rather than react has brought great freedom. Practices like meditation and yoga can bring focus, clarity, and relaxation. Becoming more awake means recognizing that I always have choice.
Muscle: As the engine that makes us go, muscle must be maintained in order to do the things we want to do. Loss of muscle begins as soon as we stop naturally growing unless something is done to stimulate strength. Being stronger makes everything you want to do easier. Body composition, which provides an indication of muscle mass, is actually one of the most important measures of overall health and one of the most significant determinants of an active lifestyle.
Movement: Our bodies are meant to move. From a young age, we learn that we are our thoughts and we become somewhat disconnected from our bodies. Sedentary lifestyles contribute to tightness, stiffness, and weakness. Pain can cause further restriction and avoidance. Crappy weather can make us cocoon in front of the TV instead of embracing the great outdoors. There are lots of excuses and all must be overcome. Quite simply, movement is the best medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional, and mental state.
Ultimately, we must all be the change we wish to see in the world. I can see a healthier Nova Scotia. I work every day to become more aware of my choices and to help others align mind, body, and spirit toward their own vision. Please accept this as a Nova Scotia Wellness Challenge and commit today to whatever changes you feel are most important to move you – and all of us – to a greater state of health. That would be worth celebrating!