Honestly, It’s Not My Fault

Michele Weldon | March 28, 2010


You don’t know why you get cancer. Unless you have been chain smoking in an asbestos-battered building, eating chips of paint and wearing moth balls around your neck, your guess is as good as anybody’s.

So the study released last week at a conference in Barcelona stating that "a third of breast cancer cases in Western countries could be avoided if women ate less and exercised more" makes me upset. If I could have knowingly avoided cancer I would have. None of us is sure of cause and effect.

Someone told me I got breast cancer because I wore deoderant. Someone else told me it was stress; now that I believe. I have three children, and I breastfed them all. That was supposed to save me. Perhaps its is weight, but with my BMI (that's Body Mass Index) hovering around 25 percent, I am in the normal range. The high end of normal, but normal nonetheless. Though I could always trim down a size, I am not obese.

I don't smoke. I exercise almost daily. I don't eat red meat, drink too much or go in the sun anymore without sunscreen, unlike in the days of my youth spent slathered in baby oil with iodine as I held the tin-foil covered sun-reflector beneath my chin. OK, so maybe it was the baby oil and the iodine.

Why anyone gets cancer is a complicated formula of genetics plus environment plus fate plus who knows what, maybe the perfume my mother wore when she was pregnant or the weed killer my father spread on the backyard lawn. It was the diet soda I drank. The milk I didn’t. It wasn’t the blueberries I ate or the red peppers I loved. It was not necessarily the burned popcorn or the smoked meat.

But cancer is everywhere. Everybody walks around with those pink ribbons on their lapels and the magnetized rubber versions on their cars. The good news is most of the time you get the cancer removed and you are fine. You can't start micromanaging and dissecting your history to single out every bit of everything you ingested or didn’t ingest because the figuring out would make you crazy.

You do your best to live clean. No one has an extra slice of pizza because they want to tempt the cancer devil. You can't know for sure. You can't place blame. You sure can't tell me if I never had a bag of M& M's I would not have gotten cancer. But you know, like everything else you do, especially as a parent, that you have to avoid the obvious risks and damn well do your best.

Because you really don't know why. Who gets cancer is random perhaps. The when hits you when it hits you. What you just need to know is how to keep going.

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