Someone I knew recently died. He died of cancer, ultimately. He was young. He had kids. It’s sad. There is no getting around that. I overheard a conversation about it. Someone was asking what happened, what might have caused it, how they found it. I’ve had this conversation a thousand times. And it’s ok with me. It really is. I asked those questions before, too.
But I want to explain something to you.
When you ask those questions, I think I know why. I think those questions really are disguised versions of these questions:
Did this person do things that might have caused the cancer?
Are any of these things (smoking, drinking, drugs, inactivity, eating red meat, drinking unfiltered water, staring at goldfish) things that I do?
Was it actually his or her fault?
What’s behind these questions is a desperate lunge for a bit of superiority, that will reward us with the feeling of safety.
And here, of course, is what’s behind that:
Do I actually have control over my life? Can I control how long I stay alive?
I don’t know. Maybe. According to lots of studies, if you eat fewer animal products, you’ll live longer. And a lot of other studies suggest that a low grain, more Paleo approach will give you more years. Some studies say that keeping excess weight off is ideal, and other studies say that a few extra pounds can be protective. You’ll read that running is terrible for you, and that it will save your life. I know of healthy people who have dropped dead of a heart attack out of nowhere, chain smoking alcoholics who will outlive us all.
I’m an advocate for moving more and eating well – but I had cancer three times and I’m not exactly a bikini model, so if being healthy or skinny are your goals, don’t listen to me. I’m sort of kidding, because, hey – I’m still alive despite my body trying to kill me every year or so since 2013. But also, not. I mean, seriously…WHO KNOWS.
I do know this. It’s not kind or helpful or loving to try to figure out why someone got cancer or had a heart attack or died. Say something else. OK?