We MUST take time to care for ourselves!

Cundiff_Nicole NEWBy Nicole Cundiff
Colleen’s Dream

Class 30 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s Core Program. The views expressed here represent those of class members and not those of Scottsdale Leadership.

Thomas Edison said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

Last Friday’s Health Care Day at the beautiful Shea Campus of HonorHealth was very interesting.  It was clear that the event Chairs put a lot of thought into our experience. Thank you, Lindsey, Alice and Maire!

Healthcare has become a polarizing issue in our country, so I will focus on the one thing that most of us can agree on: taking good care of our bodies results in not only a happier and healthier life, but, a thicker wallet!  No complaints here!

One of the primary messages of the day was how to improve our own health.  You would think a hospital would want us to get sick so they could treat us.  Wrong.  One of HonorHealth’s initiatives is to empower citizens to take better care of themselves!  In essence, they don’t want us to have to visit their hospital and the culture they are creating in this regard is pretty great.  Not only is the patient at the center of everything they do, but they want to decrease the amount of time a patient spends in their hospital.  Annual check ups with a primary care physician are a primary factor in realizing this goal.  To this end, HonorHealth is vertically integrating health care and creating a system where a patient’s care is covered on every end of the spectrum from the primary care physician to hospice.  They are not only increasing collaboration and improving communication, but also helping the patients to empower themselves.  In this spirit, HonorHealth offers a Body, Mind and Spirit Program to any patient who has been diagnosed with cancer, even if they haven’t been treated by the Virginia Piper Cancer Center.  This is the type of forward thinking that has helped HonorHealth to become a “top 100 large hospital in the USA.”

Throughout the day, we discussed everything from improving our nutrition to getting enough exercise. In order to live healthier lives, one of our speakers referred to the Blue Zones, which are places in the world where people are living longer than anyone else on the planet.  For example, “people on a tiny Aegean island live eight years longer than Americans do. They experience 20% less cancer, half the rate of heart disease, and almost no dementia.”  What are they doing differently?  According to my good friend, Wikipedia, people living in Blue Zones share the following characteristics:

  • Family – put ahead of other concerns
  • Less smoking
  • Semi-vegetarianism – except for the Sardinian diet, the majority of food consumed is derived from plants
  • Constant moderate physical activity – an inseparable part of life
  • Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities
  • Legumes – commonly consumed

IMG_8043For some reason, Americans seem to have a tough time with these.  Why do you think that is?  It seems so simple.  All I can think is that we are all too engaged in the hustle and bustle of moving up the corporate ladder while trying to also take care of our families, all with a smartphone in our hand.  Rarely do we take the time to disconnect and focus on the people sitting right in front of us.  The end result is not only hurting our relationships, but our bodies pay the ultimate price.  We do not take time to take care of ourselves.  Workouts are skipped, or non-existent, and running through the fast food drive thru to feed our family can become routine.  This has to stop!  It’s time to be kind and respectful to our bodies!  Our long-term health, and that of our spouses and children depend on it!

All in all, I think the messages we heard from the various speakers incorporated the Blue Zone characteristics in one way or another.  HonorHealth has metrics showing the longevity of remission for cancer survivors who participate in their support groups and services versus those who don’t.  Having a community of people to support you, in addition to eating well and engaging in physical activity, helps to reduce stress, which in turn reduces inflammation (a suspected precursor to cancer).

IMG_8047Speaking of cancer, the talk by Dr. Northfelt, a breast cancer oncologist from Mayo Clinic Arizona, really hit home for me.   I lost my mom to ovarian cancer and I have dedicated my life to finding an early detection tool (there isn’t one – know the signs, ladies!) so my ears really perked up during this segment.  I loved hearing about the Mayo Clinic’s and HonorHealth’s focus on finding an early detection tool for cancers that don’t have one.  The research in this realm is fascinating and we are fortunate to live in a place that houses institutions that are at the forefront of cancer research.  Many amazing discoveries have come from TGEN, Mayo Clinic, and HonorHealth.  Right now, these institutions are working hard to break down our cells (DNA/RNA) to a molecular level in an effort to detect cancer when it is most treatable.  There are so many molecules in the human body and they are sifting through them all in order to save lives!  In my opinion, the cancers that desperately need an early detection tool right now are pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancer.  These diseases are rarely caught early so the mortality rates are staggeringly high.  While there is a lot of work to be done to cure cancer in general, prevention and early detection are our best tools we have in the fight.

We are very blessed to live in a city that not only has such outstanding health care choices, but world class research happening.  As we move about our daily lives, I hope we take Friday’s key messages with us and make better decisions in our lives so that Scottsdale can add “Blue Zone” to its amazing list of health care accolades!


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