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Do You Believe Everything Happens for a Reason?

Recently, I was inadvertently pulled into a Twitter conversation about an article in which the writer had proclaimed she believed all things happen for a reason. There was then further discussion about anger and how it is often considered somewhat of a “sorry” emotion, certainly not one most people would want attached to them or to be their legacy. No one wants the “angry person” label to be the only one they are remembered for.

But I do not believe anger, in and of itself, is a bad emotion. And I do not believe everything happens for a reason. I just don’t. 

I respect that writer’s viewpoints. All I want in return is to have alternate viewpoints respected as well, including mine. And yours.

Some of you might have read my recent post in which I shared how a book club reacted to my memoir.

Cancer Was Not a Gift #books #memoirs #cancer #breastcancer #cancerwasnotagift

In a nutshell, there was a 50/50 split, with half liking it and half not so much. Half the group felt I was too negative, too angry or too bitter. I’m fine with that split. Not everyone sees her/his cancer experience as I see mine, nor should they. My memoir is not for everyone, nor is this blog.

However, one comment in particular has continued to pester me and after that Twitter discussion I mentioned, I started thinking about it again, hence this post.

The comment was this one:

I felt profoundly sad that Nancy isolated herself from every opportunity to create a positive event in her life. This should have been a bonding time between she and daughter, she and her sisters and she and other patients. If you want to live, sometimes you have to fight for your life. I get a hospital news letter which occasionally runs a cancer patient’s story. Your story and theirs – very similar. Choose life no matter the struggle.

This is a very interesting comment and I appreciate the frankness and good spirit in which it was given. However, I also find it troubling that someone might suggest that my cancer experience should have been an opportunity to create a positive event in my life. 

I do not understand this logic. But I am not surprised by it because this “finding the positive” narrative continues to be the prevalent one in Cancer Land.

I have no issue with someone seeing her cancer experience as a means to a positive. If this sort of re-framing works for some, fine.

But why the unspoken (or not unspoken), inference that my way is inferior?

The person who left that comment has NO idea what my relationships are with Dear Daughter, my sisters (or my brother) and other patients. She has no clue what bonds do or do not exist between others and myself. In addition, there is the suggestion that if you want to live, you have to fight for your life. Hmm, don’t get me started on that one!

You can read my thoughts on that here or here.

The final observation about that particular comment is that she went on to say she reads a hospital newsletter with stories by cancer patients that are similar to mine.

Doesn’t this in itself say there are others that feel the same as me?

I continue to be baffled by the societal expectation for cancer patients to above all else stay positive and search for the lesson in cancer, and if you don’t find one, you’re doing something wrong. What BS!

Cancer is isolating enough without others making the patient feel even more so because she/he isn’t living up to the gold standard of how to do cancer. Finding little or nothing positive and/or no lesson in cancer does not mean you’ve “failed” some cancer test.

Before cancer, I had a darn good grasp of what was important to me in life. As I have said again and again, I did not need a wake-up call about that.

And the suggestion that my friends who are living with metastatic breast cancer should somehow believe there’s a reason for their situation, is beyond my comprehension. That’s just plain cruel.

Sometimes there just are no reasons.

In this case (and in many others), saying everything happens for a reason, sounds downright insulting, does it not?

I try hard not to impose on others my thoughts/feelings etc regarding my cancer experience.

I have had no epiphany. Again, I do not believe everything happens for a reason. I’m not a better person because of the big C, and hell yes, I’m angry sometimes. It’s cancer, for crying out loud, not some grand opportunity to reinvent myself.

I respect the right of others to feel they’ve changed for the better, or to proclaim they’ve had an epiphany, or whatever it might be.

But why can’t my way (and perhaps yours) be respected as well?

As far as I’m concerned, cancer sucks. Period. I will not give it credit for things it deserves no credit for. I will never sugarcoat my experience to conform to an unrealistic narrative I do not relate to.

If some feel this means I’m too angry, too negative, too bitter or all of the above, so be it.

I get to do cancer survivorship my way.

So do you.

Recommended read:  Reciprocity and Respect

Do you believe everything happens for a reason? (If you do, I want to hear from you too.)

Do you feel you are a better person since your cancer diagnosis? 

Why do you think there is resistance to accepting other ways of “doing cancer” that don’t follow the more generally accepted societal narrative?

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It's okay to feel angry sometimes.

Sometimes it’s okay to feel your anger, maybe even necessary.

 Do you believe everything happens for a reason? #cancer #life #death #breastcancer

Fran Kimbar

Tuesday 9th of March 2021

I do believe that some things in life happen for a reason, but cancer is not one of them along with many other tragedies that befall us. I love the title of your book, and it’s message was very validating for me. I have lymphoma and after 6 rounds of RCHOP, a bone marrow transplant, radiation, neuropathy, and all the other results of my treatment like cardiomyopathy and fatigue, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Cancer was no gift. I am not a better person because I survived it either. It took a year of my life away, aged me about ten years, and left me feeling tired and frustrated. I am glad to be alive for sure, but I could never find a gift in having cancer, nor a reason I was unlucky enough to get it. Keep up your good work, Nancy.

Nancy

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

Fran, Really glad to hear you love the title of my book - it's long, but it's the only one that worked for me. Sorry to hear you've had to endure all that. Yeah, definitely no gift there. Thank you so much for reading and for taking time to share some thoughts too. My best to you.

Tarzangela

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

Curses! That freakin book comment still profoundly bristles me every time I read it! The veins in my neck and head start to pop out............. No really, it piffs me off .......... Why anyone would leave a negative review on someone else's life story is just mean. I mean.....whos calling who negative? But, hey, Nancy, you are doing the biggest, bestest most positive thing you can do by having this blog. Keeping it real is so much more important because their are so many others who have similar stories. Because there are so many others who don't know if they are "doing cancer right". Because there are so many others who are just trying to get thru each day with a shred of dignity, self respect and a little bit of happiness to carry them to the next day. Because some days it is just too hard, because sometimes, you just don't want to adult that day.

Whoa, sorry about that. Where did all that come from? Hmmm Anyway, I believe everything is random. But also, some things do happen for a reason which is simple cause and effect........ But most things that happen are just luck of the draw or a mystery, maybe for now, maybe forever or defy explanation, or defy the science we know of, and news flash, we don't know everything weird shit happens, It just does..........we are imperfect human beings that are contained in an incredibly strong yet fragile body of cells. Has the covid pandemic taught us any lessons? I sure hope so........... And remember, what have we learned these past few months? There is a big difference between what we want to believe to be true and what is really the truth.......... and then there is simple hope........................what we want to believe to be true Sorry, I can't fart rainbows and unicorns for everyone all the time!

Nancy

Thursday 4th of March 2021

Tarzangela, I believe a lot of stuff that happens is pretty darn random. But you're so right about that cause and effect thing too for some things. Is it 50/50 random and 50/50 cause and effect? I have no idea. There is a lot of bad luck involved. And good luck, too, of course. And oh boy, we humans are definitely an imperfect lot. I like to think the pandemic has taught us a few things, but I'm not entirely sure that it has. As always, your comments are insightful and witty too, so thank you. And thank you for sticking up for my book, my story. For me!

Alix Arvai

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

In response to Linda....Go ahead and rant, Linda. No one becomes a better person or a more insightful one just because they have cancer. It really is just a random thing that will never make sense to those of us who have heard the diagnosis. The God I believe in understands the anger we feel and will never judge us because of it. Cancer is never purposeful and it is never directed to us because we "deserve" it or because we need to learn a "lesson" from it. Too many women try hard to determine the reason they were diagnosed with cancer and mistakenly come to the conclusion that they are being punished for something they did or thought in their life, That is absolute nonsense. I choose to think that I could have had an auto accident, a debilitating illness other than cancer, a family tragedy or any other awful occurence. Breast cancer just happened to be the one that got me. I'm currently cancer free and thankful, but am never absolutely certain that I won't have a recurrence. Don't ever think that you are alone and don't ever think that you were "chosen" to face such a disease. Thank the Lord that we have this website to air our thoughts and concerns along with a n angel named Nancy.

Nancy

Thursday 4th of March 2021

Alix, Can I just say, I love your reply to Linda. Thank you. :)

Linda

Wednesday 3rd of March 2021

I don't think things happen for a reason; it's all random to me. But I used to feel that when bad things happened to me, I was being punished. And yes, this is probably sounding very religious. My mother used to scold and lecture me about feeling that way, but every once in a while I wonder what I did that I have to go through so much shit. Like Cancer. A brain tumor. A stroke. MBC. and now Lymphedema. Some days I get so angry at God (I know that will make others very angry with me, but, hey, I'm keeping it real!) and other days I seek His comfort. I absolutely pass by comments that are too religious, too insistent that if I just believed more in a higher power I will get through this. Sorry, I'm ranting.

Nancy

Thursday 4th of March 2021

Linda, I think life is pretty darn random too. I don't blame you one bit for wondering why and being angry that you've had to deal with so much crap. It's been a lot! I pass by many of those comments of the sort you mentioned too. If there is a God, pretty sure He understands. Rant away anytime. You know how I feel about a good rant now and then. :)

Claudia Schmidt

Wednesday 12th of February 2020

Hmmmm.....this one is interesting. I don't think everything happens for a reason, I think a lot of life is very random, including cancer (or any other health related issue). I do, though, find that there is always some type of lesson that I personally have learned in any life experience I have gone through, including that of breast cancer. And, re the book club, I tend to be the one who always recommends a book that's well written, insightful and full of life's truths, only to have the book club participants tell me they thought my choice was too sad, too dark, too difficult, too serious....! Needless to say, they never like it when I pick the book choice and I had to stop going to that book club. I personally found your book to be very helpful, honest and true. xoxo

Nancy

Thursday 13th of February 2020

Claudia, I agree that much of life is very random. Sure, we learn stuff from most things we go through, but that doesn't mean we needed every single one of the bad experiences or that we must be grateful for them all. I could've gotten along fine without learning what I've learned via cancer - much of which is quite unpleasant. Guess it's good you left that book club! Considering what a voracious, critical reader you are, it means a lot that you found my book helpful. Thank you for reading and taking time to comment too.

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