Bad luck causes cancer……and the world is flat!

After a few hours I had just completed an in depth blog post on this topic, replete with references and analysis when the whole thing disappeared from view to be replaced by a clean page!! Alas, I had not saved it along the way…lesson learned! And so I will submit here just a brief entry and perhaps return another day to flesh it out a bit more in another post!

There have been many reports in the news this week that bad luck causes cancer, based on a study that correlated the number of stem cell divisions in different tissues and the cancer rate in those tissues. Those with more stem cell divisions had more cancers ( not that surprising as cancer is cell division beyond the body’s control) based on the premise that there were more opportunities for mutations in those with higher number of cell divisions. However, not all mutations are retained or lead to cancer – something that this study does not explain – except to say that for those who get it the cause is ‘bad luck’. These are critical questions that go unanswered. An article in the guardian explains some of the flaws in the press reports but does not fully debunk the bad luck theory.

I was also told at medical school that many cancers are just down to bad luck without considering the implications of this. Dr Vogelstein who was behind the study, believes that one major message to come out of the work is that cancer cannot be prevented. And it is reputed that “it helps cancer patients to know” that the disease is not their fault. But it does not say how it helps to keep them as victims of circumstances beyond their control or in other words as victims of bad luck?

Understanding illness and disease is never about blaming the individual or saying its ‘your fault’ you have cancer or this condition or that condition. It is about bringing understanding in a way that is empowering for the individual, that is healing and which offers them a bigger picture with which to understand their life and their condition and which enables them to develop a truly loving, respectful and honouring relationship with their body and their condition. 

The understandings offered by this study do none of that – they leave people as victims, with no recourse to address or heal the underlying cause – how does that help them? To me it feels very disempowering. 

What if, instead, people understood that how they live their lives, their biography if you like, does affect their biology and has an impact on their body that can be healthy and healing or detrimental and harming? Would that not be worth knowing? 

If I had cancer, to be told it is bad luck, to me leaves me with nowhere to go other than standard medical treatment, nothing I can do myself to change it or heal the underlying cause, no steps I can take to help prevent it coming back, no way to understand it that gives me some empowerment and control – it leaves me as a victim. 

Whereas if I understand and know that how I have lived my life has in some way contributed to this condition then I have somewhere to go, I can look at how I have been living and consider making changes that are more healthy, I can take responsbility for the choices I have made and continue to make….in the knowing that they have an effect on the health of my body. 

Furthermore, with deeper understanding of illness and disease, I can see this as not something bad, but something that is healing. It gives me a bigger picture to understand myself and my life and who I am. If I know that my body is a vehicle for the love that I am, and that love is unaffected by any illness or disease or even death itself, then even terminal cancer can be seen in a different light. 

To say that cancer or any illness and disease is just bad luck, is to disempower people and rob them of the rich opportunities to heal the underlying cause. It encourages an attitude of irresponsibility – for why bother making healthy choices if it’s all down to bad luck?? 

Whilst it can be a big ouch to realise how we have been living in ways that are not truly honouring of ourselves and our bodies, it is but a temporary ouch, once the true glory of our being is realised and even more when it is lived. This is an ever unfolding journey on the cycle that is life with no perfection ever being sought or required. To understand illness and disease as part of the healing journey of life, healing our separation from who we are in truth, is to transform them such that one is never a victim of them but is instead blessed by the healing they bring. 

Science is showing how our lifestyles, our daily choices are resulting in illness and disease much more than was ever acknowledged before. The sciences of epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology are demonstrating how our thoughts and emotions affect our immune system and genetic expression and can result in illness and disease. As more and more is discovered, the more we realise that we have a much bigger role to play in the conditions we develop than we previously realised and the shift is towards ever increasing personal responsibility for the state of our health. 

I’m sure one day people will look back at those who support the bad luck theory of cancer in a similar way to how we view those who believed the world was flat – with incredulity that this could ever be believed! 

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  • Reply
    Cathy Hackett
    4th January 2015 at 10:34 pm

    Thank you for such an insightful overview of what’s really going on behind illness and disease and our individual relationship with and responsibility for it. ‘To understand illness and disease as part of the healing journey of life’ provides a much needed broader truth beyond just cancer causation.

  • Reply
    4th January 2015 at 10:38 pm

    Thank you for so clearly likening this proposal about cancer as akin to the proposal that the Earth was flat. On several occasions I have been astonished when seriously ill patients showed remarkable healing and instead of pursuing the point to find out why and how that has happened, the whole thing was dismissed with the favourite label ‘spontaneous remission’ and so the case was closed. And now we have a study that claims that cancer is due to bad luck and not only is it not laughed out of the door, it is taken seriously. How can scientists remain blinkered to the studies in epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology that clearly show there is more to the limited view we have been running with and come up with a misleading study that takes us even backwards.

  • Reply
    4th January 2015 at 11:17 pm

    If this is your abridged version Eunice, I eagerly await your full article! Thank you; this is a wonderful peep into the real roles we play in ours and everyone else’s lives.

  • Reply
    Laura Hoy
    5th January 2015 at 9:13 am

    To me it just makes sense that we have a part to play in our own illness & disease. Most of us can admit that if we catch a cold it is usually because we have been run down or not taking such great care of ourselves leading up to it, if we have a hangover we know it’s because of what we drank the night before, if we are tired and grumpy it’s because we didn’t get such a great night sleep. Perhaps taking responsibility for something more serious like cancer, that takes a lot more to deal with is too much responsibility to take on?

  • Reply
    sarah cloutier
    6th January 2015 at 4:28 am

    Hi Eunice
    Your blog is spot on – the claims that it is ‘bad luck’ aren’t quantifiable if the rates of people being diagnosed with cancer are increasing, as per the recent article and statistics from Macmillan Cancer Support (ref – http://www.bbc.com/news/health-30682088-)
    There simply must be something in the way we are living that is causing the rise in diagnoses – or lots more people are a lot more unlucky than those 30 years ago!!

  • Reply
    Gayle Cue
    11th January 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Once again yours is the voice of reason amongst the bogus headlines, this time claiming cancer is just bad luck. As you have so clearly laid out for us, this leaves the person with cancer, a sad helpless victim with no control over their own life. That makes no sense.

  • Reply
    15th January 2015 at 7:57 am

    What a great article, spot on. It seems that we prefer to just be victims and let life take over, instead of claiming our enormous power and our responsibility with every choice we make. There is no such thing as luck or no luck. We have a choice.

    • Reply
      8th January 2016 at 9:36 pm

      Brilliantly said Mariette, I agree there is no such thing as good or bad luck, we all do benefit from considering that how we live makes an impact on our lives and our health, it makes absolute sense to consider that our choices all impact deeply.

  • Reply
    Anne Hart
    13th March 2015 at 10:33 pm

    Well said Eunice. I would much prefer to be empowered by the knowledge that the ‘disease’ was my body’s way of healing itself and reminding me to look at the way that I live. In the past I have blamed bad luck or genetics on my woes, but in hindsight I gradually have been able to identify how I was living/feeling contributed to the state of my health at the time

  • Reply
    8th January 2016 at 4:43 am

    I love how science is starting to probe a little deeper, via epigenetics that how we think and live really does impact our body, and that it’s obvious our health will reflect this.

  • Reply
    A Canuck
    24th January 2016 at 12:25 am

    Who knows? Maybe viewing “health challenges” such as cancer as “wake up calls” that “something’s “out of kilter” with one’s life could be empowering than simply taking them as someone just got a “crappy deal.”

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