For me, once the shock wore off the first thing I thought was "OMG, Granny was right!" When I was a teen I began my weight struggles (no surprise when you live with a woman who makes even the most boring of meals taste fabulous) and so I took some over the counter diet pills. When Granny found out, she was livid. She scolded me and told me that I was going to get breast cancer. I was a teen and didn't take her seriously - I thought it was one of her goofy old wives' tales. (I'm ashamed to admit that though I loved her more than anyone, I was a teen and I often didn't take seriously what she said - even when she was right on track.) And no I don't believe diet pills I took 30 years ago gave me cancer today, but it did cross my mind after the diagnoses. (I later found out that she told my younger cousin that he shouldn't hit his sister because it would give her breast cancer. For a woman plagued with high cholesterol and hear disease Granny seemed very worried about breast cancer. I always thought God had granted her a little bit of the "sight.")
And intellectually, I know that I didn't get cancer because I'm a bad person. (I'm not as good a person as I'd like to be and there was that thing that happened when I didn't get on the high road as fast I would have liked, but there are plenty of evil people much worse than I am walking around in perfect health. And besides I'm kind to small animals and small children.) My BCN wants me to meet with the genetic specialist at the cancer center, so even though there is no known history of it in my family, maybe I did have a genetic pre-disposition for breast cancer. I was estranged from my mother and my half sister. I do know that my mother passed away about two years ago, but have no idea of what.
Or maybe, it's just like the oncologist said, my case is a fluke.
In the cold light of morning, strengthened by a good cup of coffee, I don't think it matters how I got it, because I don't believe I have the kind of cancer that knowing how or why I got it will make a bit of difference in my cure. I wasn't exposed to any toxic chemicals. It's not lung, skin or liver cancer - the kinds that know what caused it could have a big impact on the cure and making sure it doesn't reoccur. What matters is how I fight it. - So says the educated somewhat intellectual librarian. But sometimes, in the dark of the night, the frightened little girl still asks why and wonders if she had done some things differently, if she'd been a nicer person, would it have made a difference?
Today's tip is for friends and family of cancer patients. When your loved one asks the questions I just mentioned, don't immediately dismiss their feelings. It's one thing to know you are not being punished - that it's not your fault - but it's normal to have those feelings. So assure them that they were not struck by cancer because they snarled at the person who took the parking space they wanted (yes I'm being a little irreverent and exaggerating a great deal), but validate their feelings by recognizing it's normal to have those feelings. And if nothing else, just lend an ear when those fears surface.