Cancer is Crap: What Caused It?

Rethink is proud to republish the original blog posts of Leanne Coppen first featured by Chatelaine.

October 13th, 2008. 2:42 pm

You can drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what caused you to get breast cancer. I may have driven my doctors a little crazy too, with my litany of questions: 

Was it pollution, plastics, pesticides, proximity to Lake Ontario, wine, chocolate, caffeine, vaccines, stress, potato chips, Teflon, divorce, later-in-life childbirth, lack of collard greens, microwaves, anti-malaria pills, red meat, smoking, not enough exercise, farmed fish, late nights, underwire bras….?

In short: What did I do wrong?

My cancer is not genetic or estrogen-driven and they can’t tell me why I have it. There are lots of studies and theories, but no conclusive answers.  I wondered at first if they knew but weren’t telling me, so that I wouldn’t blame myself, but it turns out they just don’t know. 

The thing with cancer is that it feels so random. When we hear of it happening to someone, there is a need to know why it happened to them, mostly to determine our own vulnerability. We feel a great deal of compassion certainly, but questions about the general health and lifestyle choices of the Unfortunate Cancer Person are inevitably pondered.  This enables us to create a risk-assessment scale against which we can measure ourselves with the hoped-for outcome that we’ll rank significantly lower-risk than does the Unfortunate Cancer Person. It’s not about judging a person with cancer; it’s more like trying to attain a score that will let you sleep at night.  But it kind of amounts to the same thing.  And it’s kind of ridiculous. 

We make lifestyle choices that affect our health, yes, but do these choices guarantee that we will or won’t get cancer?  There are lots of cancer-free people (grey-skinned, lumbering along with arms extended zombie-style, cigarette hanging from corner of mouth) who, based on the risk-assessment scale, “should” have cancer.  There are also lots of people (sitting in lotus position in their vegan gardens, in possession of clear chakras and digestive tracts) who “shouldn’t” but do have cancer.

Sometimes there’s just no making sense of it.  And what if they could tell me it was something I did, something I brought on myself, where would that leave me?  Likely with a large quantity of guilt and regrets, and a list of Things To Avoid In Future – but I’d still have cancer right now. 

No, I just tell myself that the universe is imploding as it should and I try to get on with the business of evicting cancer from the non-vegan, but pesticide-free, mostly organic premises.


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