(Note: everything I’m about to say is the results of my observations and experience with cancer in adults. None of this has anything whatsoever to do with cancer in children. And of course, these are biased, imperfect generalizations based on my admittedly small circle and its periphery. I recommend taking this with way more than a few grains of salt. Better yet, grab the shaker; you’ll probably need it.)
Welp, since I’m apparently in the middle of a second wind (and here I was jazzed around 11pm that I’d be able to fall asleep early tonight), I reckon there’s no time like the present to take a concept I’d been tossing around for a few months and reflect on it in greater detail. Bonus points that it’s a taboo subject.
Before starting to write this post, I ran a Googler to see if anyone else (such as a healthcare practitioner or objective observer) had anything to say about this, and at first I was somewhat surprised not to find much of anything, but then I realized, who’s going to admit in public that working with some cancer survivors might be a pain in the ass?
Oooh, I’m sure I’m going to touch a nerve with someone. After all, most of us have loved ones who developed cancer, and either they mopped the floor with it (translation: person 1, cancer 0) or the disease got them. I’m no exception; I’ve known multiple people who’ve had cancer. Some survived; some didn’t.
After losing my uncle to throat cancer I became one of those who really kinda looked forward to working with people either battling cancer or recovering from treatment and preventing recurrence. After all, my type of healthcare really plays into wellness, prevention, and holistic functional support. That aspiration began to change after actually meeting some of them.
I was graciously invited to speak at a local cancer survivor group about my type of healthcare – what it was and how it could benefit my particular audience. I was pleasantly (and nervously) surprised at the extent of the turnout; the room was fairly full. The meeting went relatively long. That’s OK; they were pretty much riveted. I fielded questions at the end; most of these questions were comfortable second-nature conversation material for me, while others were mildly more challenging.
All-in-all, they were a fairly cool group, except for one particularly miserable, difficult person who chastised me with her body language because I didn’t have an exact step-by-step specific special “cancer-prevention” diet. (What did she expect from me besides, “eat plenty of fruits and veggies”? It’s not like there’s a magic cancer-prevention acai berry in the Andes that is known only to a chosen few and I was withholding it from her or anything.)
Or so I thought they were relatively cool. Then some of those patients actually came in. While this is never a bad thing (far be it from me to not get excited about a newly-submitted intake form packet), they proved to be almost more trouble than they were worth. I don’t mean it quite as bad as it sounds, but we gave them everything we had and nothing ever seemed quite good enough.
I guess what I couldn’t get over the most was the air of hostility. It was as if they had been wronged by every other practitioner in the city (and frequently, they had been) but were now seeking to get revenge on healthcare as a whole, specifically targeting their hostility toward us. The irritability was palpable. Although they were here for our help, they tied our hands behind our backs by saying x didn’t work, or they weren’t going to do y. Through the course of our experiences, many of them tried to practically run our practice.
That got me thinking. I realized most of the people with cancer that I knew (whether they had succumbed or survived) all had something in common. It’s harder to pin down than a single word, but let’s just say that:
- They have a hard time letting go – of the past, of control, of fear, of grudges, whatever.
- They’re depressed and/or irritable – many are downright hostile. (Yep, I know I’ve already used those words – it doesn’t do the situation justice to use them only once.)
- They harbor resentment toward something or someone, usually a close family member; they’ve never learned how to properly let go.
- They’re frequently quite negative/pessimistic.
- They have a strong sense of what “ought to be” but they cannot accept the fact that things aren’t that way.
This goes double for people who eventually succumbed. I’ve noticed that those who survived tended to share some common traits, too:
- They resolved their grudges and resentment.
- They’ve come to accept and even embrace reality.
- They’ve gone through massive spiritual transformations.
- Even if they suffer depression, they’re not usually very irritable or hostile.
- They’ve come to realize that everything happens for a reason; they come to terms with their experiences, learn from them, and most importantly, MOVE ON.
This information logically begs a theory: mental and emotional “issues” contribute toward the development of cancer (through various physiological mechanisms), and that mental outlook and attitudes strongly influence the outcome of the case. This means that people aren’t nearly as off-the-hook as we thought we were. Suddenly, those who develop cancer may very well share some of the burden of responsibility toward that disease process.
I’m not saying that genetics and diet don’t play a role; they certainly do. But after what I’ve seen (and given what I know about the body and its biochemical processes and their documented emotional influences), I’m include to boldly theorize that maybe emotional/mental state plays a bigger role in many situations than genetics (and sometimes, even environment). The hierarchy of risk factors in my book goes like this. Emotional/mental state is No. 1. Second place is environment (which also includes dietary factors). Genetics? Dead last.
Which pins the lion’s share of the responsibility toward cancer prevention solely on the individual. Which is also good news, if you think about it – if congenital genetics (the one factor we have no control over) are but a minor (relatively speaking) factor in cancer development, that means that cancer IS largely preventable. We can influence the other more significant factors.
So how do we start?
Forgiveness – by working through the emotional injuries inflicted upon us by others and getting through the resulting retaliatory feelings. By not creating new rifts by being cranky or difficult to your current social circle, which does include your doctors, whether conventional or holistic. (If you’re truly not getting the care you need, find another doctor.)
Acceptance– by understanding that everything happens for a reason. It’s not because God turned his/her back on you or deserted you. It’s not because you’re being punished (although what goes around comes around?) Rather, it may be that enveloped like a Russian egg doll in thick Wrappers of Suck, there may be a tiny little gem inside–a gem that holds an opportunity. This could be an opportunity to make amends, to learn something new, to begin a journey of self-discovery, to experience spiritual enlightenment, or a plain ol’ second shot at life.