It's not my fault I got cancer.
That's right; it's not my fault. It's not yours either. Let me explain.
When people first hear you have the Big C, a self-protective cloak chokes their brains and hearts and tongues, making them think and feel (and sometimes say) some very stupid things to assure themselves that this cancer thing is just a blip on the screen. Such as: "They caught it early, right? You'll be fine!" or "They got it all, so stop worrying!" or "Well, if you're going to get cancer, breast cancer is the best kind to get!" to "Then you're cured, right?"
Part of the problem is that folks have an innate need to blame cancer on something. If we can attribute getting cancer to something someone did or didn't do, then cancer feels less out of control, less random, less likely to come our way. If we know why something happened, we can make sense of it. But it's really hard to make sense out of senseless things.
And that's exactly what cancer is: senseless. There is no reason for it. And that's a hard concept to wrap your head around. Just ask any cancer patient (or their friends and family). When cancer comes a callin', the fear affects everyone — infiltrating every relationship we have and pushing us all into some form of denial. We can't help it; if we don't detach from the fear, we will go mad.
As a cancer patient, I'm way ahead of you in the games of denial, shame and blame. I hitched a ride on that highway the minute I got "the call." But I re-learned an important lesson that is grounded in what I have always believed: that every woman, every man, every child is born into this world with a pot and a recipe. The pot is porous, the recipe inherited. Many of the ingredients are not generic, they're genetic.
Are you female? That's a big risk factor for breast cancer. Put it in the pot.
Now drop in the age at which you started menstruating — the earlier you got your period, the more circulating hormones your body has been exposed to. That increases your breast cancer risk. Put that in the pot.
Next, pour in your environmental factors. This includes the air you breath, the water you drink, the food you eat (and the containers it is stored in) — not just now, or for the past 10 years — but for all time. Consider everything your mother ate, drank and inhaled while pregnant with you; her mother before her, and her mother before her. Put it all in the pot.
OK, ready to toss in the lifestyle choices you made as an adult (not realizing their long-term implications, of course)? For women, this includes whether you had children — and if you did, did you breast feed them? What about the birth control pills you took to keep from having kids in the first place? Risk factor. For the menopausal among us, did you take hormone replacement therapy? That ups your risk too. Put it in the pot.
Ah, exercise. Do you get enough of it? Did you work out consistently during your busy lifetime? (Gaining the Freshman 15 after 40 is not recommended, and I am guilty as charged.) Maintaining a healthy weight is tres important; so is not smoking, not drinking (ummm, about those college years ...) and choosing food not genetically modified or laced with pesticides or hormones or antibiotics. What about sleep? Did you get enough of that precious commodity? And don't forget your vitamins: Did you/do you take the whole recommended rainbow? Put 'um in the pot.
Let's not forget life's psychological impact — difficult relationships, depression, financial woes, loved ones dying or falling ill, unemployment, anxiety, loneliness, tyrannical bosses (just to name a few). Put it in the pot.
It's hard to keep calm and carry on; you need a mindfulness practice to level the stress field a bit. Are yoga and meditation in your recipe? What about whatever higher power you personally believe in (or not)? How does that influence the course of your life? Put it in the pot, turn up the heat, and put a lid on it.
Your cosmic soup is now complete.
Is it any wonder — after all that you put in your pot — that you got cancer? Sneaky, stinkin' cancer? Seems pretty clear to me that it's all your fault, right? Your hereditary recipe worked overtime to lower your resistance, causing your body to fight that much harder to fend off diseases — like cancer.
But wait a minute. Aren't we all just swimming on a sea of unknowns, floating in little lifeboats, hoping the right conditions exist for us to get to shore unscathed? We paddle the way others have taught us to paddle. We carry a compass to stay on course. We keep our boat well maintained and stocked with essentials. We become expert swimmers in case we're thrown overboard. Yet still we cannot control the power of the ocean.
Aren't you forgetting that none of us make it to shore? We are all pre-programmed to die. (Hello!) No one comes with an extended warranty. It's all just a matter of how long we get to ride the wave. For some, its a surfer's paradise; for most, its more like navigating a tsunami.
So no, after all that, I do not believe that it's my fault that I got cancer. And I don't believe it is your fault that you got cancer either.
If "curing" cancer were as simple as living clean and stress-free and reducing the 'bad stuff' as much as possible — well, we would have a cure by now. The answer to cancer lies in finding a way to stop normal cells from going haywire and replicating in the first place. It's so much more complicated than eating organic and running a marathon.
In gambler's terms, cancer is the lousy luck of the draw. A total crap shoot. Not within your control. The quicker you let go of your guilt, the faster you can focus on what's really important. And only you know what that is.