Warrior Stuff

Hey You! You did NOT cause your cancer!

Do you hear me?

You did NOT cause your cancer!

Repeat that as often as needed until you believe it.

{Insert high-five here}

When I was diagnosed with cancer, of course, I wondered how I got it.  I think that’s a natural reaction.  What caused me to get cancer?  Was it something I did?  Was it something I didn’t do?  Why did I get rectal cancer versus getting another type of cancer?  Could I have done something differently in my life to avoid getting cancer?  I don’t have a family history of colorectal cancer so I really didn’t think it was genetic.  So was it something I ate?  Was it something I drank?  Was it something I didn’t eat?  Was it from certain beauty products I used?  Was it from using the microwave too much?  From drinking water in plastic bottles?  From not exercising enough?  You get the idea, I could go on like this forever.

On top of that I had a few people who would make comments like:

“Pesticides cause cancer, you should buy organic.”

“You should try essential oils, they cure every illness.”

“Take some vitamin and herbal supplements, they will get you healthy.”

Now, I know that these comments are from well-meaning people, but I don’t think they realize that these comments imply that I was unhealthy and that I caused my cancer.  Maybe I’m being a little over sensitive about this, but I don’t think people realize the guilt you already place on yourself wondering if you could have done something different in your life to avoid getting cancer.  I wanted to tell them that before getting cancer I did the best I could-buying organic whenever possible, not eating out often, not eating much red meat, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, I drink a plant-based protein smoothie every morning, I drink a ton of water every day, I exercise when I can, I try to keep my stress level low, I try to get enough sleep at night, I get my annual check-ups with my general practitioner and my gynecologist, etc.  Now I am definitely not perfect.  I know I could have done a lot better especially at things like exercising more and eating less carbs and sweets (all heart eyes for bread over here), but I don’t think those things caused me to get cancer.

After diagnosis I was given appointments immediately for various scans, to see a chemo oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a rectal surgeon and also for genetic counseling.  It was so overwhelming!  At first I didn’t understand why I would need to get the genetic testing done.  I mean, no one, NO ONE, in my family has had any type of colorectal cancer.  But at my appointments, each of these doctors asked me if I had gotten the genetic testing done yet.  They explained the importance of genetic testing to me.  At this point I had cancer, there was no preventing it anymore, and we were going to treat it.  But by doing the genetic counseling they could learn more about my tumor and this type of cancer.  It would help to ensure that we were treating my cancer effectively.  They could tell me if our girls would have a higher risk of getting colorectal cancer.  They informed me that sometimes a random mutation can occur which would make my girls more susceptible.  That terrified me!  What would I do if I had (unknowingly) passed on a cancer mutation to my children?  This thought was scarier to me than actually having cancer myself.

Luckily the results of the genetic testing came back negative.  We were so happy and relieved!  Then the genetic counselor said she wanted to run a slew of other tests.  I had no idea there could be so many different mutations.  I agreed for them to do whatever tests they wanted as long as my insurance paid for it.  It seems we have pretty good insurance because everything was paid for.  I can’t even tell you all of the different testing that was done.  By this point I was living in a fog.  But they took a bunch of my blood for testing and they even tested the sample of the tumor that was taken from the biopsy.   I have a whole file with all of the paperwork from it now.  Thankfully all of these tests came back negative as well.

It was funny though because every time the genetic counselor would call to tell me more negative results (which is a good thing) she seemed baffled.  She kept saying that a 36-year-old should not have rectal cancer.  She kept saying that there must be something there that caused it.  I wanted to shake her and say, “I know it’s surprising, but here I am, 36, with rectal cancer!”  I think she just wanted so badly for there to be an explanation for it.  For there to be a logical reason.  And I agree, it would be so nice to have an answer as to why people get cancer.  It would then give us more hope at preventing cancer from happening at all.  I remember talking with my clinical trial coordinator, Vanessa, one day about all of the genetic testing being done.  I told her about the genetic counselor’s reaction every time she called with new results.  Vanessa said, “Sometimes cancer is sporadic.  Yours is a sporadic occurrence.”  Simple as that.  Yes, sometimes cancer just happens.  It sucks, but it’s true.

It’s so hard though, because we want to be able to blame something, anything, for this horrible awful disease.  But I think that’s why there are so many cases of cancer in the world today-doctors just aren’t sure what causes every cancer to occur.  Heck, my sweet grandma smoked like a chimney almost her entire life and she never got cancer at all.  Go figure!  I guess my point in this long-winded post is please don’t blame yourself.  Promise me that!  Because you did not cause your cancer!  And if you have cancer, then you have far more important things to do now, like kicking that cancer out!  Save your strength for the fight ahead of you.  Don’t waste time worrying about what you could have done differently to avoid getting cancer.  Don’t look back.  No regrets.




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