When we receive a diagnosis of cancer, or hear of it in someone else, our immediate response is often to say that it is “bad luck.”
In fact, a recent study attributed two thirds of cancer cases to ‘bad luck’. (1)
What is luck, and what does it have to do with cancer?
When something ‘good’ happens, like getting a great job or buying a new car, people tend to say “aren’t you lucky?” And when they do, we can be quick to point out that we worked hard for it, and we deserve it.
Yet, when something ‘bad’ happens, like a diagnosis of cancer, we are not so quick to take the credit for it! We are very willing to call it ‘bad luck’.
So, is it luck, or is it not? Are we responsible, or are we not? And if we are, how can we be responsible for the ‘good’ things, and not the ‘bad’ things?
Many people who have had cancer say that it was a blessing; that it was the best thing that could have happened to them. It gave them cause to stop, to re-evaluate their lives and the way they had been living, and to make changes that they knew, deep down, needed to be made; and that their lives after cancer were much more full, rich and joyful.
I know I feel like that. The diagnosis of cancer was a shock, and a very big STOP in my life. It was no longer possible to delude myself that everything was fine, that there was “nothing to see here”, as I used to be fond of saying. It was a huge wake-up call, and a call to live a more loving and true way of life, in a much deeper way than I had been willing to look at life, up until then. It was a call to make the changes that deep down, I knew I had to make.
I am free of cancer now, but if I start to walk in the old way, to make the same old choices again, my leg gently calls me back, with a little twinge, a gentle reminder that the way I am walking is no longer true for me, and offers me an opportunity to come back to me, to who I truly am.
What if cancer were not a curse, but our body’s way of getting rid of something that does not belong to it, that should not be there? And what if that something got there because of choices that we made, and the way we were living?
If we could see life that way, the diagnosis of cancer, or any other serious illness, could become an opportunity to look deeply at ourselves, at our lives, and to live in a way that was truly loving, caring and supporting of ourselves.
And if we saw cancer in that light, it could indeed be a blessing, no longer in disguise!
Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions
Cristian Tomasetti, Bert Vogelstein ,Science 2 January 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6217 pp. 78-81