“What did I do to get myself into this situation?”
Me in front of the Berlin wall in Berlin – photo by (c) howlzap Cologne

Inevitably at some point everyone suffering from cancer asks “Why me” what did I do or not do to get myself in this situation? Was I too stressed? Have I been poisoning my system with something? Is it my karma? What happened?

I don’t really fit the traditional demographic of bladder cancer patients, I’m female and was born in ’64. According to the World Cancer Research Fund www.wcrf.org men are over four times more likely to get bladder cancer than women* and the average age at diagnosis (in the US) is 73 years old*. It’s also the ninth most common cancer worldwide yet I hadn’t really heard much about it before I was diagnosed.

Doctors were a little surprised when they talked to me until I mentioned I was an ex-smoker, although I’d given up over ten years earlier. Smoking is a strong risk factor for bladder cancer; smokers are two to six times more likely to develop bladder cancer than non-smokers*. I didn’t consider that when I smoked but smokers are in denial about a lot.

Contact with certain organic chemicals used in textile and paint industries** can increase the risk of developing this cancer. I’ve never worked in these industries or been a hairdresser** (another risk profession) however I did get dyes and paint on my skin regularly when I was at college studying teaching and art. My father nagged me to wear gloves and be careful, but I literally liked getting my hands dirty (still do). Stress as a risk factor for cancer is debatable but according to Dr Lorenzo Cohen “stress makes your body more hospitable to cancer”.

Ultimately, I don’t know why I got cancer but it’s probably a mix of lifestyle factors; not being mindful of toxic chemicals, smoking and not managing my stress effectively. Let’s see if a combination of healthy lifestyle factors can also help lower my risk of it reoccurring. What about you or your loved one?

*Statistics from www.wcrf.org   **Statistics from www.cancer.org