Looking at Statistics about Cancer?

This entry is part 21 in the series Victory in the Valley

Start at the beginning of the story

Now read on . . .

Why did I get cancer? The question rumbled round and round in my mind.

Image by Anita Peppers at Morgue File

  • I had three children before the age of thirty
  • ate a healthy diet with vegetables or fruit at most meals
  • I didn’t smoke
  • or drink alcohol
  • nor was I really overweight.

I learned that these were some of the factors which are supposed to have contributed to my chance of getting Breast Cancer.

Other risk factors I read about however were not so easily avoided, including

  • pollution
  • food additives
  • even the chemicals being used to grow fruit and vegetables
  • I learned that animals are injected with antibiotics and hormones to keep them healthy, but these in turn can cause the development of free radicals—substances that cause damage to the DNA of cells. According to statistics, these provoke a modified behavior which can lead to cancer.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

It was interesting, however, that every doctor I saw during that period asked me the same question. “What happened in your life two to three years ago?”

When I replied “M.E.”, they would nod their heads wisely.

I came to realize the importance of learning to handle stress. M.E. was a time of intense pressure for me, both physically and mentally. I met a number of people whose lives were ruined by this misunderstood and often unrecognized illness.

Many of my nursing colleagues did not believe it to be a genuine diagnosis, and so I kept trying to push myself to do more than I could, only resulting in aggravating the symptoms.

Friends and family alike could not understand what was happening to me, and I had very little understanding or support, except from Rob. The result was that I didn’t handle that period of my life particularly well.

The Lord is good and I made a complete recovery. But how much of that low time in my life was to blame for the cancer I now had? No-one knew. I could find no statistics to answer this question.

The need to take care of our immune systems

The more I read about the formation of cancer, the more I realized that there is no way we can live in such a way that we will not, from time to time, develop these wayward cells. It is therefore important that we take care of the defense system of our bodies, the immune system.

Build up your body's defense system when you're well to prevent disease. Click To Tweet

It is likely that the deformed cells, produced during my time with M.E., escaped my weakened immune system, ultimately permitting the development and growth of Goliath.

The “C” Personality

When I read about the so-called ‘C’ personality, the type of person who, according to statistics, is most likely to develop cancer, I soon identified myself. For a while, I believed that my nature had actually caused the cancer.

One day, at a convention, I listened with interest as a cancer survivor asked a psychologist, “Do you believe in the theory of the ‘Big C’ personality?”

His reply was understanding, but firm.

Problem with Statistics

“Whilst it is true that there are often similar characteristics found in many cancer patients, whether these actually aggravate the risk of developing cancer or not is open to debate. Statistics can be very misleading.” He swung around in his characteristic and amusing way and frowned at the audience. “I don’t want to ever hear you say that you have caused your own cancer. Not ever!”

I never did again.

The problem with statistics is obvious. You don’t go to the doctor when you are well. The statistics are based on sick people, people undergoing treatment, people who die. What about all those who get better, those who stop attending the doctor? Who keeps track of them?

Statistics are based on patients who are ill, die or continue to see the doctor. Click To Tweet

Panic Attack!

That week I had my first panic attack although it was a while before I realized that was what these were. Without warning, my body started to behave as if I was in extreme mortal danger. My heart pounded in my chest as if it would attempting to leap right out of my body. My mouth went dry and I shook uncontrollably.

“Rob!” I shivered, “What’s happening? I am suddenly so afraid.”

Rob had no idea what to do, so he just held me tight without saying a word. Within a couple of minutes the violent trembling stopped as suddenly as it started. The fear left me.

This experience really shook me, in more ways than one. Where did that come from? No one, including my oncologist, could explain.

Over the next few weeks this happened frequently and was always terrifying. It would leave me exhausted and drained. Yet all I needed was Rob to hold me tight, just for a minute or two until the shivering stopped, and the attack faded. 

One evening, Rob was lying in the bath, and I felt the familiar fingers of fear creeping around my throat. Without stopping to think, I barged into my youngest son David’s room. 

“David—hold me!” I gasped. My son leaped to his feet, put his strong young arms around me and clasped me to himself until the shaking subsided.

“It’s almost as if, where I am trying hard not to allow myself to be afraid, my body just takes over and says, ‘Well I’m afraid—and I need reassurance,’” I said to Rob. As I learned to share my fears, and as my family coped with hearing about them, the “need” for these attacks grew less. The periods in between gradually lengthened, until one day I realized they were no longer happening.

I learned from this that it’s neither healthy nor wise to try and control fears by pretending they’re not there. Fears demand to be expressed. We need to allow them to surface in a safe environment and we will then learn how to deal with them.

Over to you

Have you ever suffered a panic attack? How did you deal with it? Were you able to identify the cause? 

Please leave a comment, and if you leave a live URL in your comment, I’ll get back to you.

These events occurred between 19 and 20 years ago. I have tried to recreate events and locations as accurately as possible, but in order to maintain their anonymity, in some instances I have changed the names and identifying characteristics of individuals and places.

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8 comments on “Looking at Statistics about Cancer?

  1. Yes, I have suffered panic attacks. I have a couple of phobias, one which has had a major impact on my life. So many things in our bodies seem interconnected. My best friend, who went through the cancer journey twice, has an older sister who suffered from what she was told was chronic fatigue syndrome. She had another sister, and an uncle, with multiple sclerosis. Some of these diagnoses took years, and much suffering as doctors seen initially were disbelieving, blaming the patient (“all in your mind”). Why do doctors blame the patient for his/her own ills, when they can’t figure out what is happening?

  2. That was really interesting Shirley – I’m not going to look up what the characteristics of a “C” Type person are because I probably fit them all! I’m so glad you got through it all and out the other side. I think your interpretation of your panic attacks is probably right – sometimes our bodies just need to say “enough, I’m scared” and to be recognized for that before they can start to heal.

  3. Yes I have suffered panic attacks and impossible anxiety work related and family related.Hugging my hubby helped me too.Its very brave of you to share these Many people will be helped .

    • Thanks Amrita for your encouragement. I hope they help people. Obviously, since I’m writing this, it has a happy ending. But I sometimes worry I’m making it too gruesome.

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