Maybe it was inevitable, me and cancer.
I never had the normal sniffles and flu as a child. I never had an ear infection until I was 13, and then, it was so bad in both ears - inner and outer - that I landed in the emergency room and could not stand without falling over for weeks thereafter.
Going further back, I had a genuine bleeding ulcer at the age of 5 that put me in the hospital, and front and center with astonished doctors. Then, a scant year later, I spent months in isolation in a hospital in Hong Kong battling the most deadly strain of Typhoid Fever, the nuns, doctors and a singular Chatty Cathy doll my only company.
Say what you will, but I had medical drama down pat before I learned my times tables.
It was a lonely, frightening time for a little 6-year-old American girl who spoke only bits of Cantonese. But there was a very old Chinese man who used to take his afternoon tea with me. He wore no mask and I think he was on the board of directors or one of the founders. Every day, without fail, he would smuggle in cookies with his tea, ostensibly to divert me from the daily round of needle pokes.
He had never seen such green eyes in his life. And I was a tiny, delicate thing, pale as porcelain and sweetly passive by nature.
He told me I was special and he treated me with reverence and respect, a big thing for a sickly 6-year-old whose world had dwindled down to the confines of a stark and sterile hospital room. He listened. He was the first adult who ever listened to anything I had to say.
I'm not sure what happened to my nature, but for decades after, whenever I’d meet a new physician - and I did my best to avoid the medical profession whenever possible - they would invariably ask me if I’d had cancer as a child or some other life-threatening illness. My personality, they observed, supported this kind of childhood trauma.
And I just thought I was atypically cynical.
But no, apparently there are personality traits indicative of survivors.
So I was different, even back then.
There is also a doctor’s theory on personality traits of those he believes are the most susceptible to cancer. I did not even want to know how many of those traits I possessed (hint: it was probably seven out of seven). And yes, I also had a traumatic event shortly before my diagnosis.
The article even has a table with the organ or type of cancer and what emotional issue or conflict that may have caused it. For breast cancer:Breast (Left) Conflict Concerning Child, Home, or Mother
So, this yahoo of a doctor is actually blaming my child or my mother? A mother who, had she not died so suddenly and for my family, traumatically, precisely one year before I got cancer, I would have been happy to blame myself.
My favorite is actually skin cancer, which the doctor says is because of - get this - "loss of integrity."
Funny, I seem to recall having loads of integrity, by the bucketful, when I got skin cancer. In fact, I am careful not to even associate with people whom I suspect of even moderate lapses in integrity, so I don’t think I could have caught skin cancer from slime balls. Is there such a thing as secondhand cancer anyway? And there I was, thinking that it might well have had something to do with being pale as death and there being no sunscreen in southern California when I was a little kid, while getting all those sunburns; something I can blame my careless, olive-skinned mother for, actually. That, and living outside and in the Olympic-size family swimming pool until I was 13.
The medical profession may disagree, of course; this doctor blames me somehow having lacked "integrity" as the reason I got skin cancer. I prefer to think of it as the combination of sun, no sunscreen, and really pale skin.
I may have gotten skin cancer, but you should see my backstroke. And I swim like a dolphin. Spackled with waterproof SFP 85 now, of course, but I still can out-swim most aquatic creatures. Just ask the killer sharks I managed to calmly swim away from off the shores of Molokai.
I keep staring at the table above, the so-called conflict theory/conflict issues behind getting breast cancer. Really? And I thought it was an overabundance of estrogen in my 50s when most women are past menopause. I don’t want my beautiful daughter thinking for one nanosecond that her frankly challenging childhood and adolescence caused her mother’s cancer. She already blames herself for stressing me out.
I think the easiest way to debunk this theory is how the doctor lists prostate cancer as being the result of, and I quote, “Ugly Conflict with Sexual Connections or Connotations." Since one man in six will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, it begs the question, would these millions of potential pervs be better off giving up their weekly visits to their local hookers? Or maybe they just need to stop surfing for free porn while their partners do laundry.
I, myself, should start worrying about my intestines, because the doctor who did the study says that, “An indigestible chunk of anger’ may well lead to cancer in that area.
Somebody pass the Tums, because I sure am having trouble digesting something.