“I don’t care which one of you started it, behave yourselves or I’ll smack your heads together.”
Parental justice in my formative years often sounded like this. Mom did not care who instigated the squabble, nor did it matter who was the injured party, unless of course, there was truly a physical injury and then she shifted into Registered Nurse mode. Blood trumps everything.
Just for the record, our brains were never smashed together by our parental unit. Once my siblings and I figured out that Mom was not going to settle disputes based on who was to blame, we had to move on.
When it comes to cancer though, almost without exception, everyone plays the blame game. I began to notice this in 1998 when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
From well-meaning loved ones: Are you sure they got your tests right? Maybe there’s a mistake. This falls into the larger category of placing blame at the feet of the medical profession. In other words, let’s shoot the messenger.
From well-meaning coworkers: Is there lots of cancer in your family? Do you think it’s from too much wine? Pollution? Anti-perspirants? Stress? Fast food? Squirrels? The root question is really this: Can we blame your cancer on someone (family or yourself) or something (environment)?
More than anything, people have a deep-rooted need to understand why the Big C happens. It is not acceptable to shrug one’s shoulders and say “I don’t know.” Worse yet, try to joke about such matters and no one will laugh. Why? The answer lies in the huge wave of fear that engulfs everyone around you in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. Especially if the afflicted is young and otherwise healthy. Cancer can happen to anyone and this frightens us out of our collective wits.
I tried to accept this need to fix blame and be polite, except of course to those idiots who say cancer is God’s will and I should pray for my sins to be forgiven to speed his healing love. Religion is the ultimate example of man inventing crap to answer the unknowable. I respect everyone’s right to believe whatever nonsense gets them through the night. Prayer is great. Miracles like spontaneous remission do happen. I just don’t believe that any deity is responsible for dishing out diseases or cures. God does not play the blame game. People do.
In late 2011, over thirteen years after my first cancer diagnosis, long after I’d ceased to play my own version of the blame game, medical science discovered that a tiny slice of my genetic code was the place to point the finger. I had met the enemy, and he was me. A whole new set of cancer problems entered my life.
Just like Mom, I did not care who started the argument. I just wanted to wag my finger at my own DNA and threaten to smack it’s ugly head, hoping it would behave.