I'm sick. I'm sick and tired. I'm sick and tired of hearing blame being heaped upon the metastatic breast cancer patient, making them feel as if it is their fault they have this disease.
We are assaulted on all sides. Questions and statements like, "Well, didn't you have your mammogram?" or "What is your family history?" or "You shouldn't have eaten at McDonalds." or "I told you that Coke Zero was bad for you!" or "Should you be eating that?" or "Should you be drinking that?" or "What does your doctor say about your weight?" or "Shouldn't you lose a few pounds?" or "I'm not sure that's a good idea for you in your condition." or "Have you tried this?"
The list is endless.
But what peeves me off more is when I listen to a PATIENT blame herself for the disease. As a volunteer cancer mentor, I have heard newly diagnosed patients say the following:
"I gave up meat two weeks ago and I've increased my vegetable intake."
"I'm seeing a naturoapth to get me going in the right direction."
"I'm going to a Zen center to detoxify my body."
"I'm taking Chinese herbal medicine, regardless of what my oncologist says, because it's the right thing to do."
"If I hadn't gotten a divorce, this cancer would have never happened."
"I had so much stress in my childhood, that cancer was inevitable."
"If only I had lost 20 pounds after having my children, then cancer wouldn't have occurred."
"I shouldn't have put off my mammogram."
"If only I juiced more."
"I'm taking all the vitamins and supplements I can get my hands on because they can't hurt."
"My budget for natural items has doubled now that I have cancer."
"I'm not sure how to correct what's wrong in my life in order to cure this metastatic disease."
"I can't afford to buy the juicer I need in order to combat this disease."
"My cancer was caused by years of unhealthy eating and drinking habits."
"I shouldn't have had that root canal."
"I shouldn't have eaten fish."
"I should have drank more green tea."
"This is what I get for not being positive enough."
"I didn't learn from my early stage diagnosis. If I had changed my life, then I wouldn't be Stage IV now."
Put bluntly? This shit needs to stop IMMEDIATELY. RIGHT NOW.
Repeat after me: "IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT YOU HAVE METASTATIC BREAST CANCER!"
In 2014, Pfizer conducted a large survey and 50% of respondents believed that patients became metastatic because they either didn't follow the right treatment protocol or because they did something wrong (i.e. take the correct preventive measures).
Where did this come from? When did we become so comfortable with blaming someone for the fact that they have a deadly disease? When did we become comfortable with blaming ourselves? Is it because of the myth of the pink ribbon? Is it because we are bludgeoned with the triumphant message of "Early detection saves lives!" thus feeding the frenzy that if you are diagnosed with late stage disease then you must not have been listening?
Is it because every October we are inundated with pictures of the triumphant person waving pink pom poms, shouting, "I am a survivor! Because I am a survivor that means I must have done something right!" (Okay, I've not heard that said, but is that the insinuation?)
Or is it more because we are comfortable in our perceived roles of Masters of the Universe and that we somehow failed in that job by getting cancer to begin with much less, metastatic disease?
It's bad enough that outsiders blame us for cancer. However, it greatly grieves me to hear a newly diagnosed patient of any stage wrack her brain to determine what it was that caused the cancer in her body. Often, a newly diagnosed patient will spend hours scouring the internet looking for the possible reasons to explain away the cancer. Many newly diagnosed patients will trust something they read on the internet more than they trust conventional, clinically proven scientific research, because they are desperate to know the whys and wherefores.
It gets down to this: WE DON'T KNOW WHAT CAUSES BREAST CANCER!!!!! If we did, then we wouldn't lose so many women (and men) each year. It is not a simple matter of clean happy living in order to prevent it or to cure it.
I know women from all walks of life who have this damned disease. Rich women, poor women, women who eat meat, women who don't eat meat, women who are endurance athletes, women who are sedentary, women who are thin, women who are overweight, young women, older women and the only common factor has been their gender. I do know of one man who had breast cancer ... a Chinese man at that! ... but that was years and years ago and he is still living.
Stop blaming yourself. It's not your fault. And everyone else? Stop trying to find a reason why your beloved has cancer.
And more than that, stop feeling so smug about your own superior lifestyle choices because it's obvious that those choices are so much better than the metastatic breast cancer patient's choices, because, after all, you don't have cancer. (In case you can't tell, that was written in the hidden sarcasm font.) When you ask those crazy questions (such as "Are you sure you should be eating that?"), you are insinuating that you have inside greater knowledge over what is best for your non-cancer self and for your cancerous family member/friend. Same goes for those "cures" you read about on the internet. Just stop sharing them now.
THE BLAME GAME