Cancer-Causing Demons?

You know what I find really scary?  There are a lot of people who believe (subconsciously or consciously) that cancer is caused by some kind of unresolved psychological torment or deep, festering emotional scar.

I don’t dispute that the health of my immune system is directly affected by the amount of stress I experience (this is where it gets a little tricky because having cancer, as it turns out, is very stressful) and I agree completely that reducing stress can help you heal or even avoid becoming ill in the first place.  Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, and try to avoid stress.  By all means, take care of yourself.

Where I get all rankled is at the surprisingly common practice of citing suppressed or unhealed trauma as the cause of people’s cancers.  This is irresponsible, backward, and a pile of merde.  It’s the scientific equivalent of telling the mother of a colicky infant that her baby cries because her “milk is sour.” Which is to say that it’s a theory rooted in the murk of ignorance and superstition, miles from the light of reason.  I take offense to the suggestion that I must have some gangrenous emotional skeleton in my closet and that if I would perhaps just see to it, my cancer would go away. 

Never mind that it’s ridiculous to be put in the position of defending your lack of psychological trauma (Honest, I’m not harbouring any cancer-causing demons!) it’s just plain insulting to people with cancer everywhere.  If it really were as simple as sweeping out the old demons, believe me, no one would opt to instead suffer the excruciating side effects of drug therapies and chemo and radiation.  No one would endure the horror of their hair falling out in clumps, or of having organs or body parts removed whole or in part.  Of depending on feed tubes and catheters, and getting repeatedly sick and feeling miserable and often frightened, for months (or years) at a time.  If it were as easy as a little hardcore psychotherapy, I promise you on behalf of the legions of cancer sufferers – and especially on behalf of those who didn’t make it – there wouldn’t be a vacant shrink’s couch from Nanaimo to Newfoundland.  

And furthermore, if there were any real merit to this cockamamie theory, how do you explain the number of very young children who have cancer?  Some sandbox altercation they never quite got over?  Please. What about the number of people who have suffered horrific psychological traumas and yet remain cancer-free? 

Total bunk. Cockamamie mumbo jumbo, I say.  And next time someone starts with it, you can send them to me.  They want trauma and scars? I’ll give ’em some trauma and scars.



Filed under Living with Breast Cancer

15 responses to “Cancer-Causing Demons?

  1. Anita

    Thank you!!

    When my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, she tried everything from chemo and radiation to alternative therapies.

    I don’t have anything against things like qigong or meditation or eating healthily. They helped my mother feel in control and did relieve stress. But here’s the thing: telling people they’re responsible for their health is wonderful and empowering… WHEN YOU’RE HEALTHY. But when you’re sick – really sick – it’s blaming the victim. My mum spent months beating herself up for not being able to “let go” or “visualize her tumours away.”

    The truth is just too scary for some people, because we like to think if we do the right things and live the right way, we can keep the demons from our door. The truth is, sometimes shitty things happen to wonderful people. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if you’re loving and unselfish and eat organic brussel sprouts until your eyes are green, shit happens and you can’t imagine it away or breathe it out of your third eye and you certainly can’t control it, and that sucks.

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’m sorry for your husband’s ex-girlfriend, and my mother, and everyone else who’s struggling to make it through. It ain’t fair.

  2. Sleepless in San Francisco

    Wonderful to see you feeling so feisty today! And quite rightly too.

    You go get ’em, Leanne, and as usual, take no prisoners!

  3. lcoppen

    It might be a little early for nominations for Line of the Year, but a serious contender is Anita’s “Telling people they’re responsible for their own health is wonderful and empowering WHEN YOU’RE HEALTHY!”

    I also really liked, “shit happens and you can’t imagine it away or breathe it out of your third eye and you certainly can’t control it…” And if this sounds to anyone like giving up, you’re missing the point completely.
    Thanks Anita! I’m thinking about slightly modifying it & having t-shirts made that say “Blow it out your third eye.”

  4. Sandra

    At the risk of “jeter un pavé dans la mare…” I think it’s a pile of merde to assume that science can heal everything.
    What about the people who heal “miraculously” when they are given only a couple of months and end up living 20, 30, 40 years without chemo or radiation?
    I think it can be truly empowering (to the healthy and ill alike) to know -and believe in- the power of our mind and soul (or God or the Universe if you like) and that to write it all off is as silly as it would be to write off chemo, clinical trials or traditional medicine. And BTW “hardcore therapy” and “sweeping out old demons” is anything but “easy”.
    Isn’t it natural for people to have faith in alternative methods especially when all else fails or is failing? Why, pardon my French, shit on that?
    And, why couldn’t young children have unresolved issues, if you please?

    And actually, some of this “mumbo jumbo” says cancer is a solution proposed by the body once the mind has failed to resolve an issue. Haven’t we all ignored being tired and overly stressed until our body makes us stop by getting ill? (Have you even read up on any of this? ) Of course, this kind of theory should be handled with care and by all means carried out in parallel to appropriate traditional medicine. It goes without saying that it should not be forced on anybody nor used to make them feel worse. Any cancer patient should have access to appropriate and professional support.
    It seems pretty logical that unresolved traumas are not the sole cause of cancers and that our environment (what we eat, drink, breathe, use…) is also responsible but , uh, isn’t that also part of what we are responsible for? In a day and age where someone or something else is ALWAYS to blame, I find it pretty refreshing to be able to take ownership of ones loins and their issues.

    And finally, aren’t you playing the cancer card just a little by being above “defending your lack of psychological trauma ” – why would a cancer patient be less vulnerable to life than anyone else?!

  5. Sandra

    Having said that, you are totally entitled to play the cancer card whenever you please… 😉

  6. Anita

    If you make those T-shirts, put me down for twenty! 🙂

  7. leanne coppen

    Well Sandra, if I didn’t know better I’d say you’re sounding a little shrill.

    NOWHERE in my post do I say that only science can heal. NOWHERE do I poo poo complementary therapies. In fact I partake of many myself, including bi-weekly psychotherapy sessions, regular meditation, drinking mountain lentil-water, yadda, yadda, yadda. I’m not going to trot out my complementary therapy resume.

    Trust me, I’m all for whatever helps anyone at any time, and yes, I believe in miracles.

    What irks me is the notion that until I identify and get over a supposed psychological trauma that doesn’t even exist, my cancer will not go away. Must I now search for something to qualify as emotionally scarring enough to have caused me to get cancer in the first place, and then begin to focus all my energy on it? Isn’t that a little counter-productive?

    Anyway, it’s kind of nuts for us to sit around exploring the idea that cancer is actually a manifestation of something else – or, god help me, that cancer could be the “solution” to anything, ever. The fact is it’s a dangerous killer and a destroyer of lives. It breaks hearts and families. And if you have it, no matter what caused it, please do whatever you can to beat it. If you don’t have it, lucky you.

    And to anyone who tells me cancer is a solution, or a result of something I can’t remember but that was nonetheless so traumatic my body literally manifested disease – I have only this to say: go blow it out your third eye.


  8. Sandra

    Well, sorry you’re taking it that way.
    Live and let live, I guess.
    If you ever decide it might be worth looking into – and I do truly hope you will not need to look further than your current treatment –
    the New Medicine of doctor Hamer is pretty eye-opening.

  9. angela

    The last thing we cancer survivors need is a lecture from Sandra, I knew exactly what you meant Leanne and perhaps Sandra could pontificate somewhere else. Love ya leanne, angela

  10. Jane Hall

    Leanne… I think you should be kind enough to send Sandra one of those T-shirts… lol. And then lets hope she never gets HER ass bit by the cancer-dragon… ’cause she’ll probably drive herself crazy trying to figure out WHY since she doesn’t allow herself to get stressed in any way, shape or form from the sound of it. Personally… I think she sounds a bit anal about her “hobby”. She obviously doesn’t live in the REAL world like we do.

    Aside from having 3 bad moments from the Taxotere, I was always “up and positive”. That’s ’cause I’m just too tough to take down that easily. I’m a fighter and even more so now! I agree with Anita that “shit happens” but it doesn’t mean that you have to accept it forever. You make your adjustments and changes and then get on with life. I find that it’s us “survivors” that don’t wallow in self-pity… we are now the fighters in the front line because we’ve already been to hell and back… AND WE LIVE!!!

  11. annikka eder (:

    where to start… Anita, you are so right, shit happens. It happens to everyone sometime in their lifetime in many different ways, and for some people, it just so happens to be cancer. No im not a survivor, but my mom sure is. (:
    and so i kinda know what crap cancer patients have to go through day to day, week to week, and month to month. Obviously, this Sandra girl, hasn’t gone through all this. It seems like she doesn’t know what its like to have a bad day, or to be super stressed. Seems to me like someone thinks they’re Miss Perfect…. (:
    so anyways, thats all i have to say, and Sandra, if all youre going to do is complain and write all that shit down, dont bother wasting your time, you might get stressed . :O
    by the way everyone, im 14 , and dam proud of my mom ! 😀

  12. Lisa Dunn


    Often when reading your blog I feel like you are reading my mind, and when I read this one, it was no exception. After I was first diagnosed in February, I read everything I could about this awful disease. When I came across some articles that said my cancer was caused by some deep-rooted resentment from my childhood I almost laughed. I grew up in an idyllic home, had great friends and did well in school. What on earth could I have to resent? And based on the fact that I started out at Stage IV, I guess I should have a WHOLE LOT of resentment built up! The whole idea is preposterous. Like you said, how are little kids who have cancer able to have deep-rooted childhood resentment?

    That said, I do believe in the power of positive thinking and use many complementary therapies in addition to my chemo. But I don’t think that any one of them is the magic cure. I will fight hard to beat this awful disease, but I certainly would never blame myself. And the idea that cancer is a “solution” to something? Try telling that to my two little kids and my husband. What an awful thing to say to someone.

    Wishing you continued good luck with your treatment. I can tell from your blogs that you are feisty, and feisty goes a long way!

    Take care,

  13. leanne coppen

    Whoo-wee! We’re nothing if not a lively bunch!

    To be honest I love that Sandra stirred up so much discussion – and I’d like to thank her – & all of you for jumping in with opinions and voices and chutzpah and all the wild enthusiasm of a lynch mob. Hell hath no fury like a bunch of people whose lives have been altered by cancer!

    Sandra’s life has been altered by cancer too – her dad has cancer. I know this because she’s my cousin. We’ve lived on different continents for most of our lives, but like me she’s opinionated, tough and more than a little stubborn. It runs in the family. I disagree with her on this point (as apparently do many of you) but I bet there are a lot of people out there who don’t, and I’d like to hear from them too. Although after this frenzy it would take a pretty courageous person to speak up!

    Thanks for weighing in, everyone. Thanks for stirring up the hornets’ nest, Sunny. And by no means should anyone take this comment as an attempt to end the debate – it think it’s an important one!!

  14. Mary Lou

    Hi Leanne, your right Sandra did stir up the hornets’s nest. My first thought was “God if I ever get sick, please do not put me in the same hospital with her” Sounds like she fits right up there with those people when first told of your illness proceed to tell you about how many people they know that have died from the disease. Really positive people!
    Hang in there as you can see there are a lot of us out here and more that have not written that hold a lot of strength, prayers and support for you.

    I like the line “blow it our your 3rd eye”, I am sure I can find a few ways to use it.

  15. Sandra

    It makes me really sad that there can’t be a little debate without people getting personal and downright insulting.
    I happen to disagree with my cousin (who, yeah, has cancer but am I going to treat her differently because of it?) and WHAM! in a second I am “lecturing”, “don’t know what it’s like to have a bad day” “don’t like in the REAL world” etc.


    I must be living on a different planet. I thought that commentators on blogs could disagree with the blogger without being lynched. Or are we back in the middle ages?

    Actually, as Leanne pointed out, my Dad has cancer and has been bravely fighting it for the past three years. As for me, I have had open heart surgery twice (aged 24 and 25) after the first surgery failed and almost killed me. I have spent long nights in various hospitals and I know the anger that comes from feeling helpless and the rage that comes from feeling your body has betrayed you. I still remember the chilling aloneness in the middle of the night when the alarm goes off cause someone is “coding” and you wonder if you will ever be able to leave the hospital. But honestly, even if I hadn’t gone through any of this, I would feel entitled to have my own opinion and to express it. Plus, sorry to state the obvious but I meant it as something that might actually be informative and helpful because what I was talking about actually has helped a friend of mine who has cancer and who is now in remission.

    Thank heavens we don’t all agree… but Pheew!

    Leanne, thanks for being open minded. I am glad we can agree to disagree and I am hoping we live in a day and age where a heated debate will not kill anyone.

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