In August of 2008, I learned that my best friend, mentor, and father—Charlie Harb—was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, with a diagnosis of only six months to live. My family took drastic measures in order to preserve my father’s life and help him defeat the curse of cancer. These actions included switching my father to an all-vegan diet, eating organically, and abstaining from alcohol. Through these ambitious changes of lifestyle and introduction of chemotherapy/radiation, my father lived four years longer than his original prognosis. After seeing positive results post chemo and radiation, my father decided to join a clinical trial, and I will never forget the words he said to me: “If this doesn’t help me, at least I know the results I’m able to provide will help someone else.” Unfortunately, the trial did not help him. The high doses facilitated to him, as well as all of the medication he was prescribed, began deteriorating his brain. As a result of a plethora of seizures, he slowly became less competent. A final seizure, in April of 2012, knocked him into a state of dementia. Reality began slipping from my father. Unable to recognize the women he loved—his wife, and two daughters—my father took his last breath on July 19, 2012.
I'm a firm believer that every negative situation can be turned into a positive one. My father's fatal disease has taught me the importance of health and fitness. He has shown me how important it is to take care of your body. Our society puts so much pressure on WHAT we should look like and HOW we should act that we often find ourselves neglecting our health in order to achieve "perfection." Western society strives to achieve the “ideal” body, when it’s merely just an abstract concept. There is NO recipe for the ideal body. There is no secret, no shortcut, and no fad diet responsible for HEALTHY weight-loss. We find ourselves running in circles, in order to please and look “perfect” in the eyes of others. We spend too much time focusing on how others perceive us and not enough time focusing on how we perceive OURSELVES. Take time out of your day for yourself. Appreciate your body. Appreciate the hard work you put in to receive the results you DESERVE.
My father died wanting to help people. Now, I want to live doing the same thing. One person can change another—my father taught me that, but a collective can change the world. Together, we can erase the stigma. Strong is the new beautiful.