This is based on personal observation and experience rather than any empirical data. The headlines lure us in….Prevent Breast Cancer with Six Disease Fighting Foods. The next headline…Prevent Breast Cancer Avoiding Six Toxic Foods. Hmm, two foods are on both lists, what now? Preventing any disease seems like a common sense goal, but prevention not being absolutely possible, it seems that taking steps to reduce the risk of contracting everything from the common cold to cancer is the best one can do. Even the most diligent is likely to be somewhat confused by the overwhelming and often conflicting information available.
But there you are, with that dreaded cold and flu or worse, a fearsome disease. And what are you asked by your medical professional? Have you been careful to wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer? (Wait didn’t I read somewhere about the dangers of hand sanitizer?) The questions for the cancer patients can be even more egregious; dietary habits, pregnancies, breast-feeding, Hormone Replacement Therapy. Honestly, I don’t think it is the intent to point a finger in most cases. I would hope that it is either to educate the patient in the case of the cold and flu, or to gather relevent statistical information in the case of cancer. But sadly there is occasionally the undertone of, “you missed something so here you are”.
I think this may be the medical establishment trying to wrap their minds around the idea that not everything is fully “preventable”. It is simplistic to think that with the complexity of the human organism and the diseases that attack it with all of their subtle variations and resistances, that one can somehow figure out exactly the right combination to achieve prevention. Forty thousand new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed annually in the US, that number only adjusting with the population. With all the information, campaigns to raise money and awareness; if this were a preventable disease, wouldn’t something change, even slightly? There are so many variables with health and illness that it will never be something as simple as following a laundry list and you will be immune.
The worst offenders are the companies that make billions selling supplements, diet plans, books, and more to further push us into the belief that if we do all the “right” things we will be safe. Recently I heard an ad for a supplement to “protect your eye health”. It went on to say in fairly straightforward terms that acting now was imperative, your eyesight is at grave risk and you don’t even know it! Yikes! I’m on it.
There is a fine line between taking responsibility for health, personal safety and all other aspects of one’s life, and being found at fault when all the best efforts fail us. To know that there is more than just one’s actions at work, that the other half of the equation is the action of nature, we all die; or the actions of individuals who have less that other’s best interests in mind gives some balance to the argument that each of us is fully responsible for every outcome.
Striving for a best result without obsessing, recognizing that how one handles the end result is a piece of the intricate puzzle of heath, and refusing to be painted as either a victim or one who deserves blame should be enough. For those who insist on pinning an illness or disease on some overlooked or conflicting recommendations, their motives must be viewed as suspect at best and undermining and cruel at worst.
Take responsibility, but do not take blame. For some there is a need to find fault. That “fault” then provides some sense of security and immunity for themselves. But none of us is fully secure, completely immune. Approach anyone in your life dealing with any illness, even if it may be directly linked to a behavior, with a kind and gentle understanding. We all stumble, we all fail, and hopefully we continue to try to do our best and handle the outcome with grace.