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Pam McMillan a native to the Texas Panhandle is a registered nurse, wife and mother. During her career she has developed a passion for serving those suffering from cancer. Her current role is leading the survivorship program on behalf of the Harrington Cancer and Health Foundation. She continues to serve those individuals and families across the region that are affected by cancer. Follow her on Twitter @pammo10

Eating Healthy on the Job

Two-thirds of cancers can be prevented by diet and exercise alone. Now is the time to focus on cancer prevention.
Cancer Prevention
Have you ever stopped to think about all the days and the months that we celebrate something? There are birthdays, anniversaries, Doctors Day, Nurses Week, Valentine’s Day, National Donut Day, and the list goes on and on. Why are there so many days to celebrate, and how many dates/months can one person remember? Plus, who comes up with all of these? Really, do we need a National Junk Food Day (July 21 in case you were wondering)? Which one’s do you choose to celebrate or partake in? If you’re like me, we end up celebrating a lot of these.
As an Oncology Nurse, I naturally lean more to those days that apply to my field of practice, but I manage to throw in a few extra for good measure. Did you know that February is Cancer Prevention Month? When I really stop and think about it, I am working with people that already have cancer – do they care about prevention of cancer? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
I am sure that we all have patients that have said “getting cancer was the best blessing in my life.” It’s their aha moment when they may decide to change their habits and lifestyle. I find myself talking to patients about screenings, awareness, and healthy lifestyle choices more than I have in any other time in my career. Every time I talk about making choices that lead to a healthy lifestyle, I think to myself, “I personally need to work at this.” I really don’t want to be one of those people that say “do as I say, not as I do!”
Just like everything else in life, being healthy and focusing on you is a work in progress. There is no time like the present to focus on cancer prevention - and what a great month to pick to do that, right? I have seen this statistic quoted in numerous places, and it bears repeating. Two-thirds of cancers can be prevented by diet and exercise alone. TWO-THIRDS – that is huge!
Working in healthcare, our schedules tend to go south really quickly. There are emergencies that happen, phone calls to return, and patients to work in.  As a result, how many times have you said or heard your co-workers say “I just don’t have time to eat healthy” or “I just didn’t have time to eat lunch today because I was too busy?” Some days may seem like that, but they don’t have to be. It takes some preparation and dedication in order to combat those excuses. So, how can we eat healthier on the job in order to set a good example and help in cancer prevention? 
First of all, education is key! I have recently been educating myself more on this topic by listening to a variety of podcasts, reading several articles, and talking with the dietitian at our Survivorship Center about cancer prevention and healthy eating.  There are so many good tips and tricks on this topic that we could go on for days! In the essence of time, I have put together a top ten list to help you kick start your journey to a healthier you. 
  1. Remove the candy or chocolate bowl from your desk or other nearby location - Out of sight, out of mind.  
  2. Don’t drink your calories (sodas or energy drinks).  Stay hydrated – drink your water!
  3. Eat a healthy breakfast at home and try to eat at regular intervals throughout the day.
  4. Stock up on healthy snacks. The best and worst habits usually start at the grocery store.
  5. Pack your lunch, but try not to be a desk-diner.
  6. We are easily influenced by the people around us, so get your coworkers on board with eating healthy.
  7. Get up and move!  Try not to sit too much. 
  8. Eat your fruits and vegetables, and limit processed meats. Also, be sure to include whole grains in your diet. 
  9. Practice saying “No thanks” – to the unhealthy temptations. Goodness knows we have plenty of days to celebrate.
  10. Moderation is the KEY – Last year we had a cardiologist give a talk on Heart Health and he said “Eat cake on your birthday, not everyday.” 
Remember, you must start somewhere, and now is the time!  I recently went to a survivorship conference and one of the presenters said “10% of something, is better than 10% of nothing!” Start by focusing on one thing – that is you!

Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions Oncology Nursing News discussion group.
More from Pam McMillan, RN, OCN
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What milestones do you celebrate with your oncology patients?
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As a young adult with cancer you may feel like a prisoner in your own world. How can nurses help this age group?
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