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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 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 reason,” right?

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


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 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

Patricia Potter

Thursday 24th of March 2022

Like a lot of women here, I wonder why, not why me. I think it is a cumulative thing; heredity, environment, lifestyle. In my heart of hearts it feels like it was caused by stress. Single mom, failed marriage, 12 hour shifts, caring for aged mother with dementia, history of cancer on mom's side and never enough money. I didn't get a brca test as I thought it just doesn't matter. The cancer is with it. Still putting one foot in front of the other. Thank you for sharing your thoughts ladies.


Thursday 24th of March 2022

Patricia, I agree. It's likely a combination of many factors. Sounds like you've certainly had more than your fair share of stressful things to deal with. I would still encourage you to get the genetic testing done, though of course, that's a highly personal decision. Like I often say, we all gotta keep on keepin' on. Thank you for sharing your thoughts too. I hope you're doing alright now. My best to you.

Nancy Trainor

Thursday 24th of March 2022

I don't think... I know I got breast cancer from being radiated at 4 weeks old for an enlarged thymus gland. Doctors in the 50's routinely radiated babies for this. When I was diagnosed in 2017, I found so many women on email threads that had been radiated as babies and then, 50 years later, developed breast cancer.


Thursday 24th of March 2022

Nancy, Oh my goodness. I didn't realize radiation was routinely done on infants during the 50's. It's interesting that you've found so many others who were also radiated and later developed breast cancer. There are often long-term consequences to medial treatments, though of course, at the time, that was thought to be a good option I guess. Thank you for sharing that.

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 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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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