When a crisis hits we want to put the blame somewhere for the cause. It feels better when we can focus our confusion and anger at a specific reason, or hold someone accountable for our hell. We get a false sense of control that we can affect the outcome if we know why our predicament happened. I never thought why me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, but I wanted to know why it happened so I could control my future. As hard as I tried to find a reason I got nothing.
There are risk factors and explanations that can suggest how someone might develop cancer but those are educated guesses. At first I was sure my diagnosis was because of my family history of breast cancer until a doctor told me over 90% of women diagnosed with the disease have no history in their family. I thought it must be my lifestyle choices then. I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, drank coffee all morning and soda all afternoon and had a diet of popcorn and cheese sticks for dinner. Then I remembered a woman I worked with early in my career. She was in her 60's and worked part time. She smoked a pack of non-filtered cigarettes every day from the time she was 13 years old, never once exercised, snacked on junk food all day long and ate red meat every night for dinner. She lived into her 90's and did not die from a cancer related disease. Then I thought it had to be my environment of polluted air and grime from living in NYC. But, there are over 8.5 million people living here and most are never diagnosed with cancer. So, what then?? It just can't be random.
I have volunteered on a breast cancer hotline for over 15 years. I have listened to people torture themselves to get to the bottom of why they got cancer. Some were sure their cancer was unresolved anger towards their mother, abandonment issues with their father or the fact they gave up God somewhere along the road. Others blamed themselves because they ate too much sugar, used a deodorant with metal in it, wore underwire bras or lipsticks with too much lead. The callers that lead a healthy lifestyle were angry because they did everything right and were still diagnosed. Cancer does not play favorites it is an equal opportunity disease. No amount of money, social status, education, lifestyle or beliefs can prevent - or cause - a diagnosis. Those things can dictate someone's care but not prevent their fate. I understand the need for a resolution on why we got cancer but that will never come. Even if I had an exact cause for my crises it would not have changed a thing. The shoulda, woulda, couldas were done and over at that point.
What mattered was what I did with my life now. How I handled it and the choices I made were what determined my future. Cancer may have scheduled my time, re-organize my priorities and determine my surroundings, but it did not have power over my belief in me, my resilience or my spirit. It has been and always will be in our power to choose how we feel, what we believe and how we behave. Those are the things that really make or break us. A crisis can remind you of that fact. I don't know how long I will be here or what will shape my exit, nor does it matter. What is important is what I do while I am here.