THE BLOG
07/09/2014 12:13 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2014

What We CAN Do and What We Can't in the Realm of Health and Wellness to Combat Disease

The world is chaotic -- there are things that we, as individuals CAN control and many more that we cannot. For example, we can't control what's happening in the Middle East. If we live outside of the state of Georgia, we can't control the legislatures passing of a bill that allows guns to be carried nearly everywhere. We can't control the decisions the Supreme Court makes. We also, as adults have little control over what our loved ones do or don't do. I don't know about you, but I've tried to "change" people ... sometimes they're responsive and other times not.

We can, however, control our own bodies, mindset and choices.

I recently attended the American Cancer Society's Corporate Impact Conference in St. Louis, MO. I met many amazing people and attended informative and inspiring sessions. We heard from physicians about the newest cancer research, we heard from CEOs of major organizations that are part of the CEOs Against Cancer initiative about their commitment to ending cancer through their corporate wellness programs, and we heard from motivational speakers. By the end of the three days, my head was spinning.

I came away with a few great pieces of information and inspiration.

First, the newest research, especially into what's called the Cancer Genome Research is examining genes found in healthy tissue and genes found in tumors in order to understand how they differ. With this information, by understanding mutations, treatment can begin with the individual in mind. Treatment can be less generalized, with many diagnoses being treated in the same way or more specifically treated to each person. In some cases, drastic treatment might not even be necessary. This is amazing information for physicians and patients.

Second, the case was strongly made that healthy habits are a key factor in wellness and well-being is a key indicator in people's being able to resist disease. Now, we've known that for a long time. In most cases, it's true; and of course, there are certainly a few individuals who do everything "right" to maintain healthy lifestyles and still develop heart disease or cancer or MS or other diseases. Perhaps the issue in such cases is genetics or "bad luck", not sure.

But, let's return to healthy practices. Major companies, like some I've already written about, have outstanding programs. I sat in on panel discussions at the conference and was blown away by the generous budgets they have to help their employees get and stay healthier. There are on-site gyms or generous memberships to outside gyms, there are work cafeterias that only serve healthy food options, there are team sports (or walks or runs), there are numerous classes (live or via webinars). There are also financial incentives for people who participate.

With all this going on, however, there are still some people who fail to take advantage of such programs, continue to live in unhealthy ways. I work for myself, but if I worked inside such a company, I'd be taking advantage of all of this.

Third, the most preventable cancer, and the one that takes the lives of more people is lung cancer, due, of course, to smoking. As a former addiction therapist, I know the misery of smoking addiction (or alcohol and drug addiction) and I know it's a struggle for people to give it up. What I didn't know is that more people die from lung cancer then probably breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic combined. Wow.

So the question I've asked myself is ... why, when people know the consequences of their unhealthy behavior, are they resistant to take advantage of things that will help them? It's a loaded question. There is, of course, the addiction factor -- nicotine, sugar, other food addictions, other drugs. Heck, we can even take it to the next degree -- people stay in dangerous relationships, people engage in highly dangerous sporting events. And, the reality of: "you can't tell me what to do ... it's my body."

So, while I applaud all of the incredible offerings within corporations to help their employees get healthy, I'm flabbergasted by how many people don't take advantage. As a parent (even though my child is grown), I want to take the best care of myself. Believe me, I'm not perfect. I love sugar and I like to eat and I am not a big fan of the gym. However, in my desire to extend my life, especially after having cancer and because my son is not ready to lose his Mother, I do as much as I can to be healthy.

Please understand: It's not my intention to be putting anyone down. I have empathy for all people. I've experienced hardships, challenges. So, the last part of my message here is that even though we might not understand them, we should NOT judge those that hold on to their less than healthy habits. We need to be concerned, offer help when they are ready, urge them to consider options all the time so they eventually "get" ready. Then, if they get ill, we serve them as compassionately as we serve others who are ill, in spite of their behaviors. History is loaded with good people who made unfortunate mistakes, suffered consequences and yet experienced loving kindness from those that offered a hand up.

One of the ways corporations can do this is to be there, offering a hand up when someone is diagnosed with a chronic or serious illness and help them in any way they can. We don't want to punish, but rather create a compassionate space for healing and offering accommodations to keep them working.

I'd appreciate your comments.