Cancer is attacking my body and my life. A recurring and obvious question is how did I get sick. In other words: why one day my immune system no longer neatly cleaned up the foreign cancer cells. Research has shown that in my case there is no hereditary cause. Also, I am not aware of previous exposure to scary substances or a particularly bad lifestyle. The most common answer is ‘that’s bad luck’. Absolutely true, although every cancer patient will experience it that way: even those who are hereditary or who have drunk too much alcohol.
There is a more nuanced statement on the Dutch website kanker.nl: the cause is often still unknown and several risk factors are likely to play a role. Worldwide, many scientists are studying this issue and even more patients are willing to cooperate in their studies. Still, it will take years before all the pieces of the complex puzzle are put together. That is of no use to me for the time being, so I – completely unscientific and without any microbiological knowledge – randomly think of possible connections.
After a happy childhood, nice student days, nice work, warm contacts, loving years of marriage and many more wonderful things, things changed. In the past ten years, in addition to even more beautiful things, also events have taken place that I found quite intense and exhausting. Not in the least of course the illness of my tall, dear beloved husband and the way in which he died. I know that while these events are not the cause of my cancer, I have a looming suspicion that they were also not supportive of my immune system. Or to put it more precisely: The way I reacted to these events or what I felt about them may have weakened my immune system a bit.
It is good that a large medical team is now working on targeted poison attacks on my cancer cells. I am grateful to them. However, I also see a task for myself to encourage my immune system again. A well-known way is healthy food: high in fibres, proteins, etc. In addition, at my request, the case manager arranged an intake for me a few weeks ago at the rehabilitation department of the hospital. An onco-physiotherapist, occupational therapist, social worker and a clinical psychologist have taken all the time to familiarise themselves with my situation. A new world opened up for me. We have jointly decided that I will work with the onco-physiotherapists and social worker.
That is quite intensive and sometimes confronting, especially in addition to chemotherapy and side effects. But the help of these people with their broad vision already does me good. Until then, all attention had logically been mainly focused on the cancer cells. A necessarily reactive approach, because we are running behind: those cancer cells already had a frighteningly large lead. On the other hand, together with the team of the rehabilitation department, I focus on a proactive approach to strengthen myself physically and mentally for what is to come. It is also less about cancer cells and more about me and my life. That feels good.
I’ve always shunned sports as much as possible, but over the past two weeks the warm and skilled onco-physiotherapists actually managed to get me to their gym with pleasure for the first time in my life, even twice a week!