Do you sometimes blame yourself for getting cancer? If you’ve been diagnosed with any serious illness, you probably have asked, why me? You might’ve wondered if something you did or did not do was partly to blame for your predicament. The blame game is pointless, unhelpful and potentially harmful. So, stop blaming yourself.
Now there is more scientific evidence to back up the random nature of many cancers. So again, stop blaming yourself!
Easier said than done, though, right?
People like to have answers as to why bad stuff, including cancer, happens.
But sometimes there just aren’t any.
Many in Cancer Land, including me, are weary of the blame game. We get tired of people, books and articles claiming to have the secrets to cancer prevention. We get tired of feeling badly for being made to feel we ate the wrong foods, didn’t exercise enough, didn’t watch our weight carefully enough or whatever else we did not do right.
You might think since I’ve got the BRCA mutation to blame for my breast cancer, I’d never need to ask, why me?
The fact is, not everyone who is BRCA+ gets cancer. My mother wasn’t diagnosed until she was in her seventies, so what did I do wrong that she didn’t do? Probably nothing.
But I still sometimes blame myself. I figure it must be those extra pounds I carried around for years after baby number three. Or maybe it was because I had kids at an older age. Or I didn’t breastfeed long enough. Or I breastfed too long. Or because I got my period at a young age. Or because I didn’t exercise hard enough or eat enough veggies. And on and on. I’ve covered all the possible reasons why in my head many times.
And then there’s my recent skin cancer diagnosis. Compared to my siblings, I probably spent the least amount of time in the sun over the years, and I never once stretched this body out in a tanning bed.
And yet…I was diagnosed with cancer #2 last summer.
You can go crazy if you try to assign a specific reason for every bad thing that happens. Everything does not happen for a reason. Sometimes maybe it is just bad luck.
At the risk of over-simplifying and based on what we currently know (not enough), cancer happens due to three things: genetic factors, environmental factors and random factor(s). And of course, there can be a mix of all these factors coming into play.
This explains why in a family like mine, the odds of getting cancer are not only impacted by the hereditary factor, but environmental factors and the random factor(s) still matter, too. This also explains why not all who are BRCA+ end up getting cancer.
That recent study suggests that many cancers might be random DNA mishaps, in other words, bad luck. Cells are constantly multiplying and therefore, the chance of “typos” or replication errors happening makes a lot of sense.
Of course, this does not mean risk reduction efforts, early detection and so on aren’t important, or that we can all just throw our hands up in the air and say, it doesn’t matter what we do regarding lifestyle and such.
Not true. It all matters. All the influencing factors matter.
I’d add, the study again reminds us just how much we still do not know about cancer, including why some of us develop it and most do not.
Back to that blame game thing…
Even though deep down, study or no study, everyone has always realized we are all at risk, to one degree or another, for getting cancer. However, there is still a blame game that goes on, and there are different levels of blame.
For example, there is more shock and therefore less blame, when a healthy-appearing person who’s seemingly done everything right develops cancer than when a smoker or an obese person does, is there not?
Think about all those celebrity stories. Like this one. (See what I mean? More shock, less blame and also a fair amount of arrogance, IMO)
And we all know the first question anyone diagnosed with lung cancer is likely asked is, did you smoke?
If you’re a person who did everything right health-wise, “you’re not supposed to get cancer” but if you smoke, don’t always eat right or exercise enough, sat in the sun too long and too often or whatever, well then, it’s sorta implied getting cancer is at least to some extent, your own fault.
Cancer is bad enough without assigning blame or trying to figure out what you did or did not do to deserve it. That is a waste of energy.
No one deserves it. I repeat, no one.
Do not blame yourself for getting cancer.
Don’t do that. Just do not.
I’ll try not to do it, too.
If applicable, do you sometimes blame yourself for getting cancer?
Do you ever get asked any of those “did you” questions?