Health Promotion and Liberty: A Dichotomy?

Whatever causes I advocate for, the one thing that ties them together is a deeply held belief in individual sovereignty. Health promotion and liberty are very close to my heart. By choice, and through events I’ve witnessed. It seems they create a dichotomy. When really, they’re intertwined. All humans want to survive. We fight for freedoms that’ll enable us live our lives to the fullest, but you can’t fight if you aren’t in good health. And if you don’t have freedom, you won’t have the resources to invest in health research. I’m starting this blog to address those issues. Mainly, focusing on what most humans have in common. Kind of like when I talk with my socialist friends–we agree on the problem, just not the solution. Thus, the first part of this entry will be background, before concluding with an explanation of this blog’s direction.

On January, 16th 2006, I became one the 70,000 Americans between the ages of 15-40 who were diagnosed with cancer. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to be specific. Fortunately, I went into remission on July 20th of the same year. One day before my 19th birthday. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with all things health.

It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago, that I really understood why. Turns out there’s this thing called survivor’s guilt. As bad as my experience was, I was surrounded by people who were going through worse than anyone can possibly imagine. The ones who were terminal, but kept fighting for their lives stood out the most. Survival.

So I reacted with this attitude, “Bitch, you’re messing with me and my loved ones. You’re goin’ down!”  Now, I read any piece of health information I can get ahold of. Books, RSS feeds, etc. I also do tons of activism. Including chairing the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life three years ago, and currently volunteer in the oncology ward of a hospital.

The more people I meet, the more stories I hear, the more people I see suffer, the more I want to fight to find a cure. It’s a disease that affects everyone. Julie Salamon sums it up in her book, Hospital:

“Maybe they felt like they knew him because cancer was the true melting pot. Unlike AIDS or diabetes, cancer was a democratic disease, distributing itself with cruel impartiality, disregarding sexual behavior, eating habits, exercise, income, age or ethnicity. External differences became more and more irrelevant because almost every cancer patient–educated or not, wealthy or not, citizen or not–eventually became fixated on the same questions: Has my tumor shrunk? Can you stop it? Is there hope?”

If there’s anything that I’ve learned, it’s that people have complex relationships with cancer. Caregivers, survivors, doctors, and nurses all deal with it in different ways. Some people ignore it, hate when the term is mentioned, or they may join the fight. But no one has the right to criticize another person for how they cope. No experience is the same. While I make it my bitch, I can’t get angry at the person who smokes or what-have-you to escape. It’s a deeply personal issue. Which is why I hesitated to post this entry, and refrain from mentioning my activism to certain people. That second part can be tough. When you’re so heavily invested in something, you want to share it with the world. For further reading, see Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20’s and 30’sby Kairol Rosenthal.

But I’m also passionate about something else–libertarianism. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I even knew what the ideology was. *Insert typical story about taking an economics class.* I ended up joining the Econ Society at George Mason University. After that, I accepted a position with the Libertarian National Committee in the Summer of 2009.

Some of my health goals try their hardest to override my libertarian principles, but that belief in individual sovereignty silences them. Not always though. When lives are at stake, politics should be ignored. Meaning, a lot of pro-government positions manifest themselves. However, I’m always reminded ofAbraham Cherrix.Or that the government fails miserably when they promote health, while private companies like IBM are kicking butt!

For me, liberty means making the most of your resources–taking time to ensure that your investments will lead to rich rewards, and your body is the most important piece of capital. Without it, you don’t have anything. Unavoidable illnesses aside, volunteering at a hospital makes you realize the sharp difference between a 40 year old who lives relatively healthily versus someone the same age who’s already suffering from a lifetime of neglect. Not to mention older generations.

Whether or not people want to live a healthy lifestyle is up to them. Some just don’t have the knowledge to realize what they’re doing is harmful. Those are ones who I want to target. Even if they do have the resources, behavioral change is tough. If a person’s happy, then they have the right to be left alone. Instead of facing the endless barrage of campaigns that come across as hypocritical and elitist. I say this as a formerly obese kid who felt isolated by all of that stuff. Richard Klein makes some interesting points in his article, Against Health.

Admittedly, some of my opinions are still developing. Eventually this libertarian will pursue her Masters and then PhD in Public Health. It’s sure to be a comedic experience for everyone involved; especially for the professors who’ll make the decision of passing or failing me…

The goal of this blog is not to dwell on cancer. That was all for background. Rather, most posts will be sardonic. There’s a void I’ve noticed–health issues from a young libertarian perspective. Sorry, I’m not one of the countless 20-something Obama supporters. Or Bush, or any politician for that matter. There will also be very little, if any, discussion of health care reform. Quite frankly, I want to use my Second Amendment rights in self-defense against the headache it gives me. But every day I read news that makes me face-palm. Like CNN’s, Why eating a lot feels so darn good. The second half of the article is appalling since it was published the day before Thanksgiving. Or when San Francisco announced a proposal to ban circumcisions. In other words, this blog react to either the headlines of the day or events that occur in my own life.

So, here goes!

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