The Why Me of Cancer

Started by anonymous, December 12, 2014
9 replies for this topic
anonymous

N/A
N/A
Posted on
December 12, 2014
Cancer?!?

This can't be happening.



What did I do to deserve this?


Am I being Punked?


Is this my fault?


This isn't real.


Why me?


Cancer. The Big C. The malady that once was only spoken about in whispers. The Voldemort of diseases. With so much fear surrounding this diagnosis, is it any wonder we end up asking, "Why me?"

Why does a 14 year old vegetarian get bone cancer?
 
Why does a 37 year old non-smoking mom of three little ones get lung cancer?
 
Why would both patients be the same person?
 
~~~

When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the first person we contacted (after my parents) was my pediatric oncologist. Could this be a very delayed recurrence of my osteosarcoma? Was this caused by treatment for my first cancer? Is there something about ME that explains how I got two cancers before the age of 40?
 
A biopsy answered the first question. No, this was adenocarcinoma of the lung. A totally different cancer than my childhood osteosarcoma.
 
My pediatric oncologist confirmed that this does not appear to be a late effect of prior treatment. Survivors of childhood cancers do face a slightly increased risk of subsequent cancers, based on what treatments were used for their first. However, the chemotherapy agents I had increased my odds of getting leukemia (very slightly). Lung cancer is nowhere on the list.
 
The third question was a bit trickier. She told me that I needed to get tested for Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that makes a person highly prone to developing any number of cancers. The most worrying part about this is that I have three children. If I tested positive, each one of them would have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the syndrome.
 
How's that for maternal guilt?
 
Fast forward through CT scans, PET scans, a second bronchoscopy, genetic counseling, and sending DNA samples to be tested for Li-Fraumeni.
 
The bad news: the lung cancer had spread throughout my bones and into my liver. Metastatic. Stage IV. Incurable.
 
The good news: I do not have Li-Fraumeni. So, as far as they can tell, the second cancer is not part of a syndrome that my kids could inherit.
 
Those are some pretty heavy scales. But they tip in favor of the good.
 
That brings us back to the why.
 
The diagnosis of lung cancer carries with it a great deal of blame. There is the sometimes-spoken-usually-thought question that lung cancer patients face: did you smoke? While it is certainly true that some lung cancers are caused by smoking, 10 to 15 percent of people diagnosed have never smoked (like me), and another 40 percent have quit and were living smoke-free. Also keep in mind that the older folks started smoking when it was the norm (seriously, even doctors promoted smoking back then). Sadly, lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer – more than breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined. Despite this, lung cancer research receives a fraction of the federal funding of other cancers. And it boils down to blame.
 
~~~

Why me? Why did I get cancer?
 
Well, it must be because you smoked. No?
Well, then it must be caused by previous treatment. No?
Well, then it must be caused by a genetic condition. No?
Well, then it must be caused by lifestyle choices. No?
Well, then it must be caused by second hand smoke. No?
Well, then it must be caused by radon. No?
Well, then it must be caused by pollution. No?
Well, then it must be because you prayed to the wrong god.
Well, then it must be some sort of cosmic joke.
Well, then it must be punishment for mistakes in a past life.
Because it must be YOUR FAULT.
 
I don’t think people follow this line of thinking to be cruel (most of the time), but rather to distance themselves from the illness. I didn't do X, therefore I could never get Y. I'm safe and can carry on without worry.
 
Every day we make choices about how we live. Did you choose the salad or the steak? Did you ride your bike or drive? Did you sleep a full eight hours? Did you meditate? Did you exercise?
 
Of course we should make healthy lifestyle choices. But we are all human, wonderfully beautifully flawed human beings. And sometimes even when you make all the "right" decisions, life has other plans.

~~~

So, why me?

Why me?

. . .
 
Why does it matter?
 
 
What about you? Have you had a "why me" journey? I welcome you to share your story in the comments.

~~~

Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to Cancerland. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.
Report

Page 1 of 1 1

Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 12, 2014
Cancer?!?

This can't be happening.



What did I do to deserve this?


Am I being Punked?


Is this my fault?


This isn't real.


Why me?


Cancer. The Big C. The malady that once was only spoken about in whispers. The Voldemort of diseases. With so much fear surrounding this diagnosis, is it any wonder we end up asking, "Why me?"

Why does a 14 year old vegetarian get bone cancer?
 
Why does a 37 year old non-smoking mom of three little ones get lung cancer?
 
Why would both patients be the same person?
 
~~~

When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the first person we contacted (after my parents) was my pediatric oncologist. Could this be a very delayed recurrence of my osteosarcoma? Was this caused by treatment for my first cancer? Is there something about ME that explains how I got two cancers before the age of 40?
 
A biopsy answered the first question. No, this was adenocarcinoma of the lung. A totally different cancer than my childhood osteosarcoma.
 
My pediatric oncologist confirmed that this does not appear to be a late effect of prior treatment. Survivors of childhood cancers do face a slightly increased risk of subsequent cancers, based on what treatments were used for their first. However, the chemotherapy agents I had increased my odds of getting leukemia (very slightly). Lung cancer is nowhere on the list.
 
The third question was a bit trickier. She told me that I needed to get tested for Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, a rare genetic condition that makes a person highly prone to developing any number of cancers. The most worrying part about this is that I have three children. If I tested positive, each one of them would have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the syndrome.
 
How's that for maternal guilt?
 
Fast forward through CT scans, PET scans, a second bronchoscopy, genetic counseling, and sending DNA samples to be tested for Li-Fraumeni.
 
The bad news: the lung cancer had spread throughout my bones and into my liver. Metastatic. Stage IV. Incurable.
 
The good news: I do not have Li-Fraumeni. So, as far as they can tell, the second cancer is not part of a syndrome that my kids could inherit.
 
Those are some pretty heavy scales. But they tip in favor of the good.
 
That brings us back to the why.
 
The diagnosis of lung cancer carries with it a great deal of blame. There is the sometimes-spoken-usually-thought question that lung cancer patients face: did you smoke? While it is certainly true that some lung cancers are caused by smoking, 10 to 15 percent of people diagnosed have never smoked (like me), and another 40 percent have quit and were living smoke-free. Also keep in mind that the older folks started smoking when it was the norm (seriously, even doctors promoted smoking back then). Sadly, lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer – more than breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined. Despite this, lung cancer research receives a fraction of the federal funding of other cancers. And it boils down to blame.
 
~~~

Why me? Why did I get cancer?
 
Well, it must be because you smoked. No?
Well, then it must be caused by previous treatment. No?
Well, then it must be caused by a genetic condition. No?
Well, then it must be caused by lifestyle choices. No?
Well, then it must be caused by second hand smoke. No?
Well, then it must be caused by radon. No?
Well, then it must be caused by pollution. No?
Well, then it must be because you prayed to the wrong god.
Well, then it must be some sort of cosmic joke.
Well, then it must be punishment for mistakes in a past life.
Because it must be YOUR FAULT.
 
I don’t think people follow this line of thinking to be cruel (most of the time), but rather to distance themselves from the illness. I didn't do X, therefore I could never get Y. I'm safe and can carry on without worry.
 
Every day we make choices about how we live. Did you choose the salad or the steak? Did you ride your bike or drive? Did you sleep a full eight hours? Did you meditate? Did you exercise?
 
Of course we should make healthy lifestyle choices. But we are all human, wonderfully beautifully flawed human beings. And sometimes even when you make all the "right" decisions, life has other plans.

~~~

So, why me?

Why me?

. . .
 
Why does it matter?
 
 
What about you? Have you had a "why me" journey? I welcome you to share your story in the comments.

~~~

Tori Tomalia is many things: a mom, a wife, a theatre artist, a mediocre cook, a Buffy fan, a stinky cheese aficionado. She is also, unfortunately, a repeat visitor to Cancerland. Stay tuned for her continued adventures.
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 12, 2014
I think the Why Me kind of goes away a bit after you start going to the hospital oncology department. Once you realize so many people suffer with you, it's different. So my "Why Me" didn't last long. At first, it was me because I felt mentally ready for what was coming, and better me than anyone else I knew, and then it just became, "Well, why anyone?"
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 12, 2014
Thanks for your comment. That's interesting that you felt like the "reason" was because you could handle it. And yes, I don't know why anyone should have to suffer. My "why me" has definitely taken on a different, more philosophical tone, as in "what am I supposed to gain from this experience?" "Can I make this into something positive?"
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 15, 2014
Hi, Tori. We weren't in the same grade, but we went to high school together. I remember admiring the smiling, soft-spoken, contemplative, witty and beautiful girl in the beret. I didn't come across you often in the halls but always saw your name on the honor roll. I heard then you had cancer and then I heard you beat it. I cheered for you and thought you should go by the name "Victory." I'm now in my late 30's, a married mother of 2 children and a dog. We have challenging days sometimes, as we're all a bit difficult and grumpy, but I didn't realize how fortunate we are to have our health until I happened across your blog today. It made me re-think things. My mother had cancer when I was young. Outside of a few people she chose to share the news with, we weren't allowed to talk about it. My mother suffered in silence, and that silence was stifling. I felt helpless to provide comfort or to try to understand her experience in any way, and unable to make sense or direction of how this impacted our family. Reading you have cancer again was shocking. I will keep you and all your loved ones in my prayers. But thank you, thank you for sharing your experience, your thoughts, ad your willingness to reach out. I continue to think the world of your beauty, intelligence, and courage.
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 15, 2014
Tori, You ask great questions here, I appreciate that. I was stumped for over 15 years about the cause of my mother's cancer. I got around to talking with her about what was happening in the months before she was diagnosed. This led to some interesting discoveries that led to more conversations and eventually, to a specific cause for her cancer, based on her situation. Instead of feeling blamed or guilty it feels very empowering (and still scarey and challenging!) At 82 my mother now approaches her cancer from both a physical level (chemo, etc.) and from an emotional level (using self-directed means). She's actively engaged in her own healing and noticing a difference. For three years I've observed similar patterns with different cancers and even other illnesss and diseases. Unfortunately, there's almost no research being done and very, very few medical doctors/practitioners are working in this area.
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 15, 2014
Caroline, thank you for your incredibly kind words. I'm so sorry that your mother had to suffer in silence. It seems that a lot of people, especially in those days, felt such a great deal of shame surrounding this diagnosis that they wouldn't speak of it or reach out. It is hard to admit vulnerability, and I hope that by being so public I can dispel some of that embarrassment. I wish the best to you and your family, may you have a wonderful holiday season.
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 15, 2014
Tedd, I am so glad that you were able to find some answers that were able both to bring you solace as well as actionable steps. I certainly agree that searching and learning can be very empowering (and potentially life saving - a story for an upcoming post!). There are more cancer centers bringing in integrated medicine, that explore the role of food, exercise, supplements, art, meditation, etc in cancer care. I hope your mother continues to do well! Best to you both.
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 21, 2014
Hi, I am 61 years old and was diagnosed 2 years ago with stage 1A lung cancer. My right middle lobe was surgically removed and I remained cancer free until this past summer. I am now stage IV. I dread the inevitable "did you smoke" question probably more than non smokers because I did smoke. I grew up in the era of smoking being acceptable. Our favorite TV stars smoked on TV. Our family doctor smoked and I remember seeing a lit cigarette in the ashtray on his desk every time we were at his office! I probably smoked for less than 10 years and had quit 25 years prior to my initial diagnosis. Did the relatively short and long ago exposure cause me to have lung cancer now? Who knows. Never the less, the question causes immense amounts of guilt. I was even told by a "friend" that my lung cancer was my fault. I wanted to run. And scream. So, why me? I still ask that question even though I have a smoking history. I have had a healthy life style for the past 27 years. I have an awesome husband of 35 years and two beautiful daughters. I am also a lung cancer awareness advocate through Free to Breathe. Thank you for posting your story. It is always helpful to read about another survivor's journey.
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 21, 2014
Patricia, please do not feel guilty for smoking. And you friend who said it was your fault was simply being cruel. If you haven't already, please take a moment to read a beautiful article by a fellow stage IV lung cancer blogger, Janet Freeman-Daily, called "Dear Lung Cancer Patient Who Smoked" (https://grayconnections.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/dear-lung-cancer-patient-who-smoked/). I hope you stay well, and have many more years enjoying your family. Thank you for your comment and thank you for being a lung cancer awareness advocate!!
Report
Anonymous

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
December 22, 2014
Thank you Tori, I did read the blog and what she says is entirely true. The govt. did a fabulous job in their anti smoking campaigns of connecting smoking to lung cancer in everyone's mind. I wish we who advocate for awareness could do an equally fabulous job of connecting the habit to the tobacco industry where the "blame" should lie! I actually am a glass half full kind of person. I know I have a lot to live for and a lot to offer to my family and my community. I will continue as an advocate as long as I can!
Report

Page 1 of 1 1

You must log in to use this feature, please click here to login.