Why did she get cancer?

How to avoid getting anxious each time you hear that someone you know has got diagnosed with cancer

sad woman closes eyes in a gesture of prayer

When a celebrity breaks the news that he or she has been diagnosed with cancer, there are shocked reactions across social media. Fans are obviously distraught; but there are others too, who become anxious on hearing the news.They begin to worry about their own fate and that of their loved ones. After all, most celebrities are known to have an army of experts taking care of their diet, exercise regimen, supplements and lifestyle etc.

Those who are already known to worry about their health become paranoid. They start speculating about the increasing incidence of disease and spread needless panic in the process. Many people start wondering: “In spite of doing everything right, if she or he is not immune to cancer, what chance do ordinary people like me have?” Such feelings are heightened if the celeb in question wasn’t known to have any unhealthy habits and appeared to lead a happy life. People flood social media with posts expressing all kinds of fears and distress. The celebrity’s life is dissected in the attempt to find a probable cause; many hypotheses are thrown around—maybe it was the toxins in their cosmetics or perhaps their erratic schedule is responsible; if nothing else, they blame their relationship challenges.

Can we ever know for sure?

It’s natural to want to know the cause of an illness, because no one likes uncertainty. But here is something to ponder upon: whether it’s a celebrity or someone else, no one can know for sure what causes the cancer, or any terminal illness for that matter, in a person. Sure, medical textbooks and journals enlist probable causes like smoking, exposure to toxins, environmental pollution, processed foods and so on as risk factors. But these are only ‘probable’ causes. The fact is that even if the person is genetically predisposed, not everyone with that same gene gets the disease. Epigenetics tells us that it’s the environment that triggers the gene. Environment here encompasses everything—from your diet to your emotions to the very air you breathe. So we can never know for sure what was the exact cause of cancer.

Not to forget that there are several examples of individuals who follow perfectly healthy lifestyles, only to be diagnosed with cancer or other chronic disease and equal number of those who smoke, eat junk foods and follow a poor lifestyle, yet live to a ripe old age without suffering any serious health issues.

When you approach your wellbeing from a holistic perspective, you are being pro-health rather than anti-illness

So what’s the point?

So does that mean we should throw all care to the wind and stop looking after our health? Actress and model Lisa Ray was once asked why, in spite of being a practitioner of yoga and following a healthy lifestyle, was she diagnosed with multiple myeloma [blood cancer]? Her response: “You don’t do these things solely to avoid disease. But when unexpected things happen or you are diagnosed with a disease, you are able to manage yourself better because you have been already taking care of yourself. I was able to go through the treatment better because of my yoga and meditation practice.”

That’s a very balanced approach to self-care. It teaches us to view healthy living as an attitude of complete wellbeing—living well and aiming for the highest quality of life in all areas—rather than as an effort in preventing illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and so on. When you approach your wellbeing from such a holistic perspective, you are being pro-health rather than anti-illness. On the other hand, if you look after your health solely to avoid disease, you are working backwards and such a mindset is not only counterproductive but keeps us trapped in needless fear. And fear hurts our immunity which, in turn, increases our risk of disease.

So instead of being fearful and anxious about getting a disease, take care of your emotional and physical health lovingly. Live each day with gratitude, resolve your resentments as soon as you can and eat a healthy, balanced diet without being too rigid about it.

And yes, the next time you hear about someone diagnosed with cancer or any terminal illness, don’t look for a ‘why’ nor compare your lifestyle to theirs. Just send them your silent blessings and be grateful for your health.

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