Cancer Guilt

I hate mice! As an elementary school teacher, students loved to bring critters to school for show and tell. I didn't even flinch when a student brought in a giant spider in a glass gallon jar. When a student brought in a wiggling garter snake in a shoebox, it didn't bother me. But when a little girl asked to bring her pet mouse, I made up an excuse on the spot. "Our classroom is close to the cafeteria," I explained. "If your mouse were to get loose, somebody might report our cafeteria to the health department. Why don't you bring us a photo of your mouse?" Hey, the kid bought it!

A few years ago, I discovered a mouse in my house! "Don't get upset," the exterminator explained. "Mice can fit into a hole the size of a dime. They are seeking food and shelter, so don't feel guilty. Your house is clean. They can hide easier in a dirty or cluttered home."

I have taken this explanation to heart. Cancer likes to come into a healthy body, too. Cancer can hide longer when someone doesn't have medical care. I have always credited my primary care doctor for referring me to an oncologist in 2016. Consequently, my MDS was discovered early at low risk because of the bone marrow biopsy done in 2017. Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is a type of blood cancer caused by bone marrow failure.

Cancer judgment

Do you ever feel like some people are judging you when they find out that you have cancer? I overheard one woman say, "God takes care of me because I eat only healthy foods, get plenty of fresh air with exercise, and have a close walk with Jesus." Seriously? What a thing to say! Jesus and I have been close for years. When I was nine years old, I visited a church with my friend. The Sunday School teacher asked, "Do you know Jesus, Connie?" I replied, "I know Him real good. My mama and I go to the church down the street."

For those who claim cancer is a punishment from God, I don't believe it. Children get cancer and even babies. As my grandpa would say, "That dog won't hunt."

"How do you get myelodysplastic syndromes?" a friend asked me. I wish I knew. My mind questions what I could have done differently. I was never a smoker, so that's not it. According to authors Jason Gotlib and Lenn Fletcher, "In the overwhelming majority of cases, there is no clear reason why a particular individual might develop MDS." 100 Questions and Answers about Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), published by the MDS Foundation.

Why me? Why not me?

Each year, the American Cancer Society estimates the number of new cancer cases. In the United States, in 2017, 1,688.780 was the number. Wow! That's a lot of people. I keep telling myself: 1. People are living longer, so cancer rates will increase as the population ages. 2. Doctors are catching cancers earlier, which is excellent news. 3. People are more proactive regarding their health. I have some dear friends who have fought breast cancer and won! Way to go, girls!

Some oncologists have noted that fighting cancer is similar to having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I can understand this connection because having cancer makes me anxious, and many people don't understand. "You must be in remission. You don't look sick at all." I have heard. It would be nice if I were in remission, but no.

"The worst kind of failure is when you don't try" I used to tell my students, so I have to keep going and keep learning more about MDS. Maybe I will never know why I have it. By the time I get to Heaven, I probably won't remember to ask. They say the streets are paved with gold, and I doubt if there are any mice.

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