"Cancer doesn't choose who survives based on how hard someone fights" - I want to talk about this headline, used for an article surrounding the reaction to U.S. Senator John McCain's cancer diagnosis.
It's problematic that we think we have any type of grasp or control over the outcome of anything let alone a potential life-threatening, rogue disease.
How much research we do personally on healthy habits - no matter how carefully we eat or often we exercise, or our courage in determination going into a cancer "battle," - there is no predetermining the outcome.
It's alienating for those who pass away. What would you say to the families and loved ones who don't make it out alive? That they didn't try hard enough, fight strong enough?
The issue with attitudes like "I can and I will" and other clichés that I point out in my personal blog post, The Anti-Cliché, is that we largely have to cede control to larger forces.
As I point out in the post: "We can do everything right, and for reasons beyond our control, with no explanation or justification it may not go our way."
I have largely learnt this the hard way through losing my mother as a teenager, dealing with a mental health disorder, and my own cancer diagnosis and treatments.
There was a time when I clung for dear life on the belief that "everything happens for a reason," but as my life has gone on I have largely rejected that there is a "greater plan" to my life and that I somehow deserved the struggles I was dealt.
This all has led to many existential crises in my faith and belief in God, but I do still believe in a type of karma and that there are forces out there greater than ourselves.
I now believe we make our own purpose, through our work both professional and other, relationships with family, friends and loved ones, and our intentions.
A cancer diagnosis is nobody's fault, even if you don't have the best habits.
Cancer is blind and "chooses" its "victims" totally at random and we can do our best to stay strong and brave throughout the "fight," but don't put that responsibility on the cancer patients.
There were nights when I and even my doctors thought I wouldn't make it through, including enduring sepsis, gangrene in my gall bladder, seizures, and two episodes of e-coli and that was not up to me, nor is why I survived.
At the end of the day we can only do our best and this is ultimately all we can ask of anyone, of researchers and doctors, nurses and donors, caregivers and even ourselves.
Let yourself off the hook but don't let go off the hook completely. Just because we don't have much control doesn't mean we should lose hope for a positive outcome and keep trying our best.
I am lucky to be a survivor, but I also know that a lot of effort, trial and error, work, and support were put into that luck by a lot of different kinds of people and communities.
So don't lose hope.
Keep the faith!