By Tom Rakocevic
I will dearly miss my Uncle Gerard.
He passed away this summer after battling that terrible illness which has affected all of our families, cancer.
My uncle was a friendly, tireless and incredibly hard-working machinist who enjoyed a job-well-done, a glass of wine, a good book, the Toronto Maple Leafs, crossword puzzles and, unfortunately, cigarettes as well.
He was always smiling and seemed invincible even at 69. His diagnosis was a shock for everyone who knew him. He had admitted himself to hospital after experiencing a shortness of breath that kept getting worse. My Uncle Gerard took the bad news with great dignity and optimism even until the very end.
There are many among us who are silently battling cancer, and there are many of us who have beaten this disease.
Even as I write this, the news is reporting that Mayor Rob Ford has been admitted to hospital with a tumour following months of abdominal pain – I wish him a speedy recovery.
Cancer has also claimed the lives of very public figures like the late, great Jack Layton and billionaires like Apple founder, Steve Jobs.
We are all at risk, but the risk can be mitigated. The end of our lives is unavoidable but the length of our lives and the quality of our years are largely of our choosing.
Healthy living will make you live longer and better.
Your diet and regular exercise will give you energy and boost your immune system. Local non-profit health organizations like the Black Creek Community Health Centre (located at York Gate Mall, 416-249-8000) is a great place to learn about healthy living.
Our community centres such as Grandravine CC, Driftwood CC, Oakdale CC and John Booth Arena all have weekly seniors exercise programs during the colder months. When the weather is warm, take regular walks with your friends and enjoy our parks. Cut out the unhealthy bad habits – an Oncologist told me that smoking increases the risk of cancer by ten times.
Monitor your health.
Make sure to see your doctor regularly, especially if you are elderly, and obviously when you are feeling persistently unwell. Annual physicals are important for all of us since blood work can reveal health issues that are not readily apparent. If you are facing health challenges like diabetes, make sure to stay on top of it and follow the instructions of your doctor, pharmacist and other medical professionals. Also, learn the early warning signs of a heart attack or stroke.
Ask about the health of others.
I am proud of community members like Joe Astrella and my neighbor, Armindo Silva, who regularly volunteer their time to help others and drive seniors to health appointments. We can all do a little more to help one another, and there are many among us who may not feel well but are keeping it a secret.
We all know people who are living in isolation – this can be unhealthy as our mental state can often affect our physical. Maybe that person is a family member, friend, or neighbour. Keep in touch and let them know that they are not alone. There are many interesting programs and social clubs at our community centres; encourage them to join.
Finally, learning CPR and First Aid may help save someone else’s life in an emergency. We have all heard about these fast-acting heroes – that hero could be you!
The loss of a loved one is a harsh reminder that we often spend a lot of our time worrying about trivial things. Someone you know may be silently suffering, perhaps even from something that can be stopped if detected early. I think we can all treat each other, especially those we love a little better and express how much we care and appreciate them.
You never know when it will be your last chance to say “I love you”.