8 things men do when they get cancer

I had a conversation with one of my team members this morning that reminded me of one of my main principles of healthy living.

Without going in to too much detail, this team member was concerned that her boyfriend wasn’t paying enough attention to his health. He was eating badly, not exercising and was probably about 70-80 pounds over his healthy weight. In short, he was a classic case of chronic disease just waiting to happen!

The thing is, I told her, most people don’t really focus on their health UNTIL they get sick. It takes a life event like getting a serious disease (cancer being “the” BIG one) to wake most people up to getting healthy and making the right choices — choices that have a positive impact on their health and prevention of chronic disease.

I hear this all the time in my business and conversations I have with cancer patients: “I should have done this,” or “Why didn’t I do more of that?” The one question I am asked most of all though is, “What should I do now?” Disease is a focusing event, and it focuses you around better choices in all aspects of your life that maybe you previously didn’t care enough to make — or your “male invincibility” led you to believe didn’t matter or weren’t necessary.

Most of my discussions are with men who have just found out they have prostate cancer. To a tee, every one of them is looking to make better lifestyle choices that will help them manage their disease and prevent re-occurrence. In short, they want to get and stay healthy again. The flip side of this is that they hadn’t previously focused on their health as much until they were jolted into their new reality.

Being a cancer patient obviously has many dimensions, and I am not about to profess around all the myriad of ways it impacts a man’s life. But over the course of 10 years I have had enough discussions to distill a list of some of the key changes that you make when you get cancer, and at the end of this blog there is a message and a challenge.

So here’s the list:

  1. Cancer Patients Lose Weight
  2. Cancer Patients Eat Less Red Meat
  3. Cancer Patients Exercise More
  4. Cancer Patients Develop Stronger Community and Family Relations
  5. Cancer Patients Reassess What Makes Them Happy
  6. Cancer Patients Learn to Relax and Meditate
  7. Cancer Patients Have More of a Plant-Based Diet
  8. Cancer Patients Eat to Promote Better Immunity and Prevent Disease

You probably have dozens of things you could add and comment on, but the takeaway from this list is that getting a disease makes you focus on better lifestyle and nutrition choices and what really matters. It’s not an exhaustive list, and it’s certainly not universal, but here is the message for those of us who are disease-free: These choices are all ones that are available for you to make today. Or to put it another way, guys, “Don’t wait until you get sick to get healthy!”

My friend Tony Robbins calls this his “Rocking Chair Test.” Basically it works like this. You imagine yourself sitting in a rocking chair 10 years from now thinking about all the things you “should” have done. Then, in a magical instant of time travel, you transport yourself back to the present with the power to make those changes right now — today!

It’s always been a powerful tool for me, as it has focused me on living a life of maximum health and wellness. Part of it is out of fear. Fear of disease. Fear of not being able to live life to its fullest — jumping down double black diamond ski runs every year or surfing in Fiji — stuff that I want to do as long as I am able — to be stopped not by disease but by my joints finally giving in when I am in my 90s!

I tell people I live like I have cancer even though I don’t. It’s a strange thing to say, but think about it. What are the things you would change today if you found out you had cancer? Look at the list above and think about the other things you would do differently. How would you live your life? To me, living a life of preventative health is the best way to lead a full and passionate life for as long as I can. I put myself on that proverbial rocking chair all the time to focus on what is important today and for the future. Being healthy for me is part of a life plan that impacts the decisions I make on a daily basis. And I am not just talking about just being “health conscious” — it’s more than that. It’s living in a “conscious state of health” — with my daily decisions and choices being driven by their contribution to my overall wellness, immunity and physical energy.

Remember your mom yelling out of car window when she dropped you off at school: “Make Good Choices!” Well, like the message in my conversation this morning, don’t wait until you get sick to think about getting healthy, and don’t let serious disease be your catalyst to better health. Find your reason to start making better decisions today — and start taking small steps towards the goal of maximum health.

Craig Cooper

By Craig Cooper

Craig Cooper is a serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author, and TV host of CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists". He is an “Ambassador” for both the global men’s health foundation “Movember” and 2XU, the performance sportswear company. He is the author of the Harper Collins book “Your New Prime: 30 Days to Better Sex, Eternal Strength, and a Kick-Ass Life After 40“. Follow Craig on Instagram @craigcooperrrr and Facebook.