Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I've got Cancer...is it my fault?

So Next Wednesday I will check ino the hospital to have my cancer treated.

For those of you who do not know, I was disagnosed with Multiple Myeloma last year and have been undergoing drug and chemo therapy for it. i am now about to undergo a Stem Cell Transplant where blood stem cells harvested in January will be returned to me after I undergo a high dose of chemotherapy to kill off my entire immune system.

This has been a hell of a year, trying to move to Ireland, get settled into a new job, and get treatment for this silly disease for which I've been lucky enough to have no symptoms, dealing with an ongoing case of pneumonia that has made walking and stair climbing unpleasant...caused by the reduction of my immune system which is part of the treatment, not necessarily part of the illness. But, here we are and, with this SCT, I hope to be in complete remission.

But what I wanted to talk about in this posting was the reaction some people have given me. I was surprised and, to be honest, somewhat dismayed.

Some people have questioned whether my cancer is 'lifestyle related' ... the implicit assumption being that somehow I am responsible for the disease because i do not live a 'healthy enough' life.

Well, first, there is NO scientific evidence for lifestyle having ANYTHING to do with Multiple Myeloma. It appears to be either a disease genetically inherited or prompted by random events as one ages. I subscribe to the 'stray cosmic ray' theory, but my mother had a related disease, lymphoma, so who knows.?

Secondly, let's consider what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. I do not exercise much, I am a bit overweight (130 kg or 270 lbs at 187 cm or 6'2") but I do not smoke (and never have), seldom drink and typically no more than a single beer at a time, and, prior to becoming ill, I walked 3 mils a day for 2 years, I typically eat my 5-a-day fruit and veg (often more), drink about 2-3 liters of water, coffee, or tea a day, drink decaf tea with all those anti-oxidants every evening, and take a multi-vitamin each morning. Yes, I eat red meat, but intermix it with a lot of chicken and pork and fish. I prefer a variety of food and flavours which means i eat a wide variety of things over the course of the week.

I meditate regularly, but do not practice yoga or a martial arts form. I am happy to say that my health has recently returned to a point where I can start walking routinely again. Of course, Galway weather does not lend itself to vast amounts of enjoyable, dry walking. I work a lot, but read for hours each day (leisure reading) and watch a lot of TV. I enjoy relaxing weekends and two week vacations, but also try to relax when I travel as well. And I love to travel.

So, do I lead a healthy lifestyle or not? In the 18 months since I was diagnosed, I have NEVER been told by any of my multitudinous doctors to lose weight or change my lifestyle at all.

Many people I talk to tell me i should be eating organic foods and many have recommended odd lifestyle changes which seem ludicrous to me. They also recommend a bunch of self-help and self-health books but I find such books boring and contradictory.

BTW, what does 'organic food' really mean? All food is organic. The term seems to be reserved now for food that is grown without fetilizers other than 'natural' ones like manure. For me, I find 'organic' foods to be smaller, less tasty, and more expensive than 'non-organic' foods. Frankly, give me the fertilized food over the food grown in shit.

Also, those growth hormones in US beef? hey, worked for me...I'm 6 foot 2! Actually, those hormones and the antibiotices in our US meats are typically helping to cut down on food borne disease and many are also broken down by cooking processes. The incidence of stomach cancer has fallen dramatically since the inclusion of preservatives in food became common.

When was the last time you heard of a case of trichinosis from rare pork? WrongDiagnosis.com lists the annual incidence at

"approx 1 in 22,666,667 or 0.00% or 11 people in USA."

That is mostly due to the use of antibiotics in pork feed.

So, I am sorry, but I see virtually NO value in 'ORGANIC' foods over AgriBusiness foods. and I like BIG grapefruits, BIG Peaches, and cheap vegetables. particularly ones that don't I feel safe eating.

Another BTW, I, like most, eat a lot of potatoes, but i try to NOT make them my only veg. I enjoy spinach, green beans, asparagus, peas, black eyed peas, lima beans, corn, and manny other vegetables. Linda nad I were talking recently and realized that our variety of veg exceeds that of others we know by quite a lot.

So, I do not believe lifestyle has anything to do with my illness. For some, yes...lung cancer FROM smoking is an established fact...but don't suggest Dana Reeve should have changed HER lifestyle...she never smoked a day in her life. (http://www.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/03/07/reeve.obit/index.html)

But what confuses me is the large number of people who WANT lifestyle to have something to do with it. Of course, that provides a thing to hang blame on...to point a finger at and say, "that's why"...but those are false hopes. there are often no reasons...just the randomness of a universe driven by chance.

45% of men and 39% of women in the world will develop cancer at sometime in their life...his means YOU. Of course, cancer is the thing that gets us now because we survive most everything else here in western society...and even cancer is becoming more and more curable or manageable daily. My own will be pushed into remission with a stem cell transplant next week, and then I will manage it as an occassionally annoying chronic disease...hopefully for many long years.

So, before you self righteously think, "oh, they lead an unhealthy lifestyle" when you hear of a person aflicted with cancer, heart disease, or many other ailments, remember that, for many, the problems are not in their lives, but in their genes. And maybe in yours.