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!