Jag skrev denna text till en stödlista för familjer med en starkt ärftlig form av cancer. En god vän tyckte den dög att läsas även av andra, så, varsågoda!
”Sometimes on this list, I feel there is too much detailed information on increased risks. Fears aroused all gets related to the Retinoblastoma. There is a risk of becoming overly focused on linking all possible and impossible dangers, problems, and nuisances of life to that little section of the DNA that was accidentally damaged…
How we mentalize risks is really interesting. People always tend to perceive dangers that are less likely to happen, but more dramatic, as more scary. People are more afraid of flying, than driving a car, even when told that the risk of injury or death is a LOT higher in the car than in a plane.
Invisible dangers are also things that cause us to worry way too much. I studied to become a researcher in cancer epidemiology, and marveled at the number of new studies performed every year to show things we already know:
Not eating varied food is bad for you. Being exposed to toxins is bad for you. Not exercising, not taking your prescribed medicines, and not taking care of your body, is bad. Not getting enough sleep: bad. Being happy is good. Having friends is good.
We all know these things. We also know that most accidents and diseases are not within our control. It is (please forgive me, those who have a very thorough belief that a higher power has detail control of totally everything) a matter of luck and bad luck, or more scientifically: random distribution, or chance…
A random number of people gets hit by cars, gets diabetes, fall of bikes, loses a job, have a cold develop into a more dangerous condition. It could be me, it could be you.
People on this list know that they or their loved ones (or just related ones – we don’t need to love them) have a genetic disposition to get cancer more easily than others. All other individual factors remain unknown. Today, one person in three dies from cancer. Almost the same number gets cured. So: the life time risk of getting cancer is higher than one in two. For people with an RB mutation, the risk is higher, and tumors occur at younger ages, but yes, you can get a cancer totally unrelated to the RB mutation and the treatments anyway, just by chance.
None of us knows our life prospects. We do know for sure that we will die. Each and every one of us. We know that most of us will have ailments, sorrows and diseases before we die. Most of us will also get a share of happiness and health.
There was RB. Did we need to treat? -Yes.
Were there side effects? -Most likely.
Can things be worse now because of my RB? -Yes, a bit more for a few risks in life, but, for almost all other risks: Not at all!
Can things be worse now because of my treatments back then? -Again, Yes, a bit more for a few risks in life, but, for almost all other risks: Not at all!
Do I need to look after myself in order not to get cancer?
– It does have some effect, yes. It has for all of us. Still: There is NO way to guarantee that you will not get cancer or stroke or Alzheimer’s. These things happen! Cancer happens from breathing. From eating. From drinking. From growing. From healing wounds. Simply put: From being alive!!!
You can take care of your body and soul from liking life and wanting to enjoy it. Making sure you eat food that tastes nice and is varied.
Need you avoid all foods that make headlines in the news? – Nope. Headlines are for selling papers. They are not balanced medical advice.
Need you take supplements to stay healthy? – Nope. Supplements are for making billions for producers.
So, what is my point?
Hm. That life is troublesome and dangerous but worthwhile. That worrying can’t add a single day to your life, but darken it a whole lot. That bad things can and will happen.
So: Follow the basic advice on a healthy life as much as you think is reasonable to keep the joy in living right now. Try to avoid pure known toxins where they are totally obvious: tobacco, drugs, solvents, etc. But don’t worry too much about a small possible residue of whatever chemical in every single produce. Food IS poisonous, but we are made to handle most of it.
Move your body in joyous ways! Dance and run, play with kids. But don’t make training a God.
Eat when you are hungry, drink when you are thirsty, sleep when you are tired… And DO have the x-rays that doctors find necessary, the check-ups that will find sickness in advance to prevent or treat it. But worry more about life as it is now, than about risks you cannot influence. May I say: Have fun?