Making sense of illness, or “Stupid Cancer”
OK, New Age friends, which pompous ass guru decided to spread that auto-immune disorders are because you don’t love yourself enough? And cancer comes because you hold anger? Did you know choking comes after you’re throat punched for such stupidity? Yes, your asshat guru is plain stupid.
There are two things I must express before my head spins around.
1. Thou shall not blame the victim, the patient or the elderly.
2. Assigning blame is a cop out. It serves as an immature impulse to make sense of the world, but it isn’t true or factual — it just comforts you like Nanna’s blanky.
Let’s say you are just hanging out and doing your thing and you read some pompous New-Agey type say that auto-immune disorders happen because you don’t love yourself. You think, maybe I’ll tell my sick friends that they just need to buy lipstick, a new dress and say good things to themselves to be healed.
And you run out of the house and do just that, but on the way to your friend, you forgot to look up what auto-immune disorders are. You forgot diabetes, lupus, celiac disease, Graves, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s, Hashimoto’s and a host of other illness stem from things going wrong in the immune system. You forgot that your friend is not the only freak in the world with an immune disorder. 50 million Americans, or 20 percent of the population, or one in 5, suffer auto-immune disorders. But you don’t stop to think about it. You put your lipstick on, say your little mantra, rub your little Ganesh dashboard statue — and you can hardly wait to share your big discovery from Swami Shaba-ding-dong. Your hurry to blurt out runs faster than your better angels. These are the angels that try to put their hands over your flapping mouth. They are the ones shaking their heads in disbelief.
Did know that 50 million Americans have these auto-immune illness? Did you know most are women?
When your Nanna, the one who made you the cozy blanket, dies of cancer, will you think of her as angry? That smile, that grace? Her death is her fault? Dick Cheney is still here, but your Nanna? She must be a real bitch right?
OH, the stupid. It burns.
Here are a few tips about humans. We like to make sense of our world.
We make up stories and connections because our survival depends on trying to make the best sense of the world we can. Lions…not good playmates for Bam Bam. Dingos…not good babysitters. Don’t take candy from strangers unless it’s Halloween. And with as much authority — don’t step on a crack or you’ll break your mother’s back. Rain is god crying. We try to make sense, but sometimes our attempts are primitive.
Scientifically, cellular degeneration and anomaly begins along with generation itself. First, just in the embryonic stage, a life form has to do the math right. It has to multiply and divide without error, but errors happen. Anything doubled and you have a birth or brain abnormality, anything not made and limbs are missing. It’s more of a question of cell generation than love. Cells are programmed, but with billions of cells, there are mistakes. With billions of life forms, things go wrong all of the time.
Can you imagine saying to a new mother of a damaged baby that she must not have loved it enough?
Or, yeah, god is just punishing you for being a ______________________ (fill in with bigoted response).
Go ahead and place palm on forehead. Your better angels already have.
What is the difference in that magical thinking from, say, sacrificing an infant or a virgin as payment to a mythical being? Murdering elephants for tusks? Albino humans? It’s very flawed thinking.
It permeates this century like centuries before because of ignorance, willful ignorance and a tidy need to find blame. I mean, isn’t life a lot easier if you can count a bead, place blame and feel superior?
Blame and sin are two sides of the same coin. They are easier and more primitive to embrace than embracing science. They are easier than accepting how small and powerless we really are as humans. We are these squishy, soft sided creatures battling against viruses, bacteria and rogue cells, and the enemy is completely indifferent to us.
Cancer cells don’t care how cool you are or how much you are loved. They don’t care how big your boobs are or how much you would really like to grow old and be a grandparent. The cells went rogue. Fucking cells.
Immune disorders are mysterious things, but they follow basic rules of science. The immune system is programmed to go after foreign cells, but when it malfunctions, it goes after well cells, including pancreas, liver, kidneys, eye balls, joints, thyroid, and central nervous system. Stupid immune system.
The point is, don’t blame the victim, the patient or the elderly.
Assigning blame is a primitive attempt to make sense of bad things. You can do better.
Just this one time, when things go wrong, analyze the primitive response to find blame and instead, when you find out your friend has stupid cancer or stupid lupus, find out what you can do to help. And keep helping, not because you are going to get Brownie points, but because even our primitive hearts know to love thy neighbor.