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I’m delighted to be participating in the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s “blog carnival,” where people share their cancer stories, say why they stay healthy and who they prevent cancer for. Great idea – so here goes.

First and foremost, I prevent cancer for me. I try to stay healthy by eating right, getting plenty of exercise, following screening guidelines and knowing my family’s medical history. I also prevent cancer for my son Jake. Too many times I’ve seen the look in someone’s eyes when they’ve learned their loved one has cancer or as they’ve watched them battle the disease. That’s a look I never want to see in my son’s eyes. I believe that your children (no matter their age) never stop learning from you. I want to lead by example so he’ll strive to live a long and healthy life.

On my blog, my last post shared my sister Rita’s battle, and ultimate loss, to lung cancer. I was overwhelmed by the number of views the post got and by the number of messages of condolence I received, some from people I don’t know. Along with these messages came personal stories about cancer battles, the losses and triumphs. It made me realize, whether we know each other or not, we are all connected in some way by cancer.

How? Because everyone is touched by cancer in some way: personally, a family member, neighbor, colleague, teacher or service provider. We all get touched.

I’ve worked in the non-profit world for most of my career. Over sixteen years ago, I made the switch from working in the “arts” to “health,” and never looked back. I had no family history of cancer at the time, so my first up-close experience with the disease was with pediatric. To say I was woefully unprepared for the impact it would have on me is an understatement. Children should get colds, scrapes and maybe a broken bone or two, but not cancer. Watching kids battle what adults find difficult was humbling. It also taught me a great deal about life, not only that it can be short, but that even in bad times, you have to find humor and a reason to smile. One girl in particular, Sara, made a tremendous impact on my life. Years after she lost her battle, I still think of her and the smile that never left her face.

As you get older, your experiences grow, as does the number of people you know who battle cancer. Ten years ago, my sister Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer and successfully won her battle. A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with skin cancer. A simple surgery in my doctor’s office took care of it, and now I practice sun safety and have a full body scan every six months. My sister Rita was diagnosed with lung cancer this past April. She died three weeks later.

Why do I practice prevention? Because prevention is a gift we give ourselves and those we love.

This post is part of the Prevent Cancer blog carnival.