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Do You Ever Wonder Why You Got Cancer?

After you heard those terrible words, you have cancer, did you ever stop and ask yourself, or ask anyone else for that matter, why me? I’ve heard, rather I’ve read, some say they never thought or asked why me? In fact, some even take it the other direction and ask, why not me?

So I’m curious, did you ever wonder about, or come right out and ask your doctor, why did I get cancer?

I have wondered and I have asked  –  more than once. Even though I knew/know there were/are no answers, I still wondered. I still asked. Sometimes I still wonder, though I’ve kind of stopped asking…

What about you?

Most cases of breast cancer do not have a genetic link, rather most cases are sporadic. I imagine the shock of hearing those words when there is no history of cancer in your family, is perhaps even greater than for someone like me whose family gene pool is “tainted”.

You might think that since my cancer does have a genetic link, I’d just go with that. It makes for a good “getting cancer excuse,” right?

At least I’ve got something to blame it on.

Wrong. 

It’s not enough.

Everyone who comes from a family with hereditary cancer risk (brca+ or not), does not get cancer. Even my mother, who was also brca2+, wasn’t diagnosed until she was in her seventies, so why the heck was I diagnosed decades younger? I know, I know, it’s not like getting cancer is better at an older age, but…

So still, the next “logical” question is, why me? Or at least in my case, why me so soon?

Shortly after I found out I am brca2+, I came out and asked my oncologist, “So, do you think me being brca+ is what caused my cancer?”

His exact response was, “Yes, probably.”

I remember that conversation clearly. I had entered intensive-information-gathering mode.

Maybe he was right. Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he was guessing. Maybe he was just being kind and telling me what I wanted to hear because he knew I was trying to figure out my cancer mess.

Regardless, I did and have continued to wonder more than a few times, why did I get cancer?

I have three siblings. All are fine so far, thank God, so why me?

Was it because I got my period early? Was it because I stopped having them early? Was it because I didn’t exercise hard enough or often enough? Was it because I ate the wrong stuff? Was it because I had my children later? Was it because I’m the tallest? Was it because I’m the youngest daughter? Was it because I was on the pill for years? Was it because I didn’t breast feed long enough? Was it because of stress? Was it because I didn’t lose that ten pounds I was always trying to lose? Was it because I didn’t have that last mammogram? Was it because I had too many mammograms? Was it because I moved to Wisconsin? Was it because I’m jinxed? Was it because I deserved it? (just trying to make a point here)

And that point is, a person’s mind can come up with some doozies.

And the longer your list of “was it because of this?” ends up being, the more bizarre the questions/reasons often become.

Sometimes we really want a simple explanation for the bad crap that happens to us and cancer is some bad-ass crap. It’s human nature to want to know, why me? Why did this happen?

The trouble is, of course, many times there are no answers, much less simple ones.

There’s danger in turning this quest for answers into a blame game of sorts. And the blame game is a slippery slope and probably a topic for another day.

Why did I get cancer?

Why does anyone get cancer?

Sometimes we just want answers.

But sometimes there just aren’t any, not good ones anyway.

Have you ever wondered why you (or your loved one) got cancer?

Keeping it real. Support you can use. 

Do You Ever Wonder Why You Got #Cancer? #brca #hereditarycancer

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Claudia Schmidt

Thursday 26th of September 2019

I asked my breast surgeon when I was first diagnosed. There was no history of any breast (or other) cancer in my family so I was stunned. She said "It's because you're older. The older we live, the more opportunity for us to get cancer." I was kind of dumbstruck by that as it had never occurred to me. But I also do the whole guilt thing where I look back at my life when I was younger and the choices I made. Birth control pills, drinking a lot in my 20's and 30's, smoked for a period in my early 30's, stress, poor diet when I was younger.....you name it, I've blamed it for my cancer. At this point, I really just try to compartmentalize and just let it go or I'll wind up making myself crazy with worry. Some days that works, some days not so much. As always a thoughtful post that brings a lot to mind. Thanks for sharing. xo

Nancy

Monday 30th of September 2019

Claudia, I hear you on that self-blame thing. Who among us has led a perfect life regarding choices and such? Likely no one. I always think about that study that came out a while back pointing out three factors that generally speaking, contribute to developing cancer: genetics, environment and bad luck. Two out of three of those one cannot control. And actually, we can't control environment completely either. Thank you for reading and sharing. x

Jeffrey Neurman

Thursday 26th of September 2019

You pose -- as always -- a very thought-provoking question. I actually had to stop and think back over all of the years since my diagnosis if I had asked the question of why. Upon that reflection, I do recall that at the outset I asked the oncologist how come me. He of course had no answer. I, like you, unfortunately come from a tainted gene pool, with both my mother and her father having had similar cancers to mine. But it is not clear if that has anything to do with it. Was it because I worked across from Ground Zero at the time of 9/11 and for years after? Who knows. But at a certain point early on I stopped asking why me and did in fact flip, as you so insightfully point out, to why not me. I attribute this to a long history of self-criticism. Now, however, I only sporadically consider these questions. Perhaps I should think about them more.

Nancy

Monday 30th of September 2019

Jeff, So many questions without clear answers. Not sure thinking about this particular one does much good. But still, I asked. Sometimes I still do. Thanks for taking time to comment. Guess we both have somewhat "tainted" gene pools.

Joyce

Wednesday 18th of September 2019

I did ask, and was told because I'm overweight. :-( I'm hypothyroid, taking tamoxifen, and am stage 3 chronic kidney disease. All cause weight gain,,,or so I'm told. I do low impact aerobics, some light weight training, and yoga, besides walking. I don't eat perfectly, but much better than most. But at my age, 72, I'm just going to enjoy my life and not worry too much about it.

Nancy

Thursday 19th of September 2019

Joyce, Weight plays a part, but there are many contributing factors as to why any individual ends up getting cancer. Good for you for exercising and trying to eat as healthy as you can. Sounds like you've figured out a few things. Thanks for sharing.

Eva

Wednesday 18th of September 2019

I definitely did not think "why me?". I hadn't expected breast cancer but I wan't surprised. Breast cancer doesn't run in my family but I'm a retired firefighter and we tend to get cancer (exposure to chemicals and carcinogens). Also I'd been taking HRT drugs for years. I felt like I deserved the cancer for taking HRT drugs despite the risks. I took birth control pills for years because I chose career over family. After the diagnosis I researched risk factors and then I really felt like I was destined to get the kind of breast cancer I had. My weight was up and down over the years. I never have children. My job and relationships were stressful and I didn't practice stress management. I worked shifts and had messed up sleep patterns for over 20 years. I ate processed foods. I feel lucky that it was caught early and I didn't have to do chemo. I feel stupid for not taking better care of myself. I'm trying to do better now. I have a young niece and I've been encouraging her to take care of herself. Two women I worked with are still on the job and I sent them long emails about the risk factors and pleaded with them to take good care of themselves.

Nancy

Thursday 19th of September 2019

Eva, No one deserves to get cancer. No one. Sure, most of us could've done a better job taking care of ourselves, but even if we had, it doesn't mean we would've been guaranteed a life with no cancer. So, don't be too hard on yourself. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Hope you're doing well.

Rose

Friday 13th of April 2018

I had heard 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer so didn't really wonder, I just assumed I was the unlucky one. My oncologist (who was really an abusive jerk) had asked me if I took the birth control pill and when I told him I had for 6 years in my late 20's he sarcastically played the blame game and said "Well I guess you regret that now". I do not believe that was the reason at all. I came to what I believe is a reasonable conclusion as to what caused it and it seems time has proven it to be reasonable. It would be a long comment to explain the whole situation, but considering when I found the lump, how long I left it be until I had a lumpectomy (10 months) and the results of the pathology, my doctor feels it makes sense. I was under some stress a year or two before the diagnosis but it was something more than that overwhelmed my immune system. I always went for a teeth cleaning every 6 months but two years prior to my diagnosis I was working very long hours and taking care of my elderly mother. I was so busy getting her to all her doctor/dental/hearing aid appointments I ended up postponing my dental cleaning appointments a couple times. My dental office books 3 months ahead and it was 18 months before I got in for my next cleaning. By then I knew something was not right with my gums and it turned out periodontal disease had set in. My gut feeling tells me this was the reason my cancer tumor got started. The moral of my story is don't postpone your dental cleanings!

Nancy

Friday 13th of April 2018

Rose, You might be right about the cause, but who knows? In most cases, it's probably a bunch of factors that contribute to cancer developing. And gosh, that comment by your oncologist regarding birth control pills was out of line. Thank you for sharing.

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