How Would You Answer, “Why Me?”

I was touched a few weeks ago by a conversation I had with a client of ours, the Executive Director of a Family Counseling Center.  He asked about my progress in treatment.  I told him all was going well.  I told him that I was healthy and I believe well adjusted with a sense of humor in tact.  I told him the words I was told were:  Cancer Free!  But I said that with a little guilt.   I explained how much respect and admiration I had for some of the more seriously ill and terminally ill cancer patients I’d met during my radiation treatment.  I was touched by their grace and power.  And most importantly by their lack of lamenting over how difficult or painful their lives were.  The thing that struck me most was their sense of peace and desire to encourage and support others in the waiting area.  I explained that it was a rare privilege to witness their lives in such an intimate way.  Their strength gave me strength.

Because he is a mental health professional, I believe a PhD (guess I should know specifically as he IS the head of the agency and our client!), I found myself sharing a little bit about what I was struggling with.  I was fortunate to not have faced chemotherapy, mastectomy, or reconstructive surgery.  I was fortunate to not face metastic cancer.  I was unscathed by most accounts.  The burns?  Those would heal.  The scars?  I had a great surgeon.  In my mind (and my husband’s!)  my breasts looked even better now than they did before surgery…even with the burn scar!  What I was struggling with was:   “Why Me?”

Now I’ve heard that many women upon learning they have breast cancer ask themselves, “Why me?”  And I’ve witnessed honest as well as dishonest responses to the “Why me?” question.  The heralding of, “WHY NOT ME?” is nobel.  But I don’t think most women with healthy personalities and reasons to live jump to that stance quickly.  Women held down by men or abused in relationships often jump to:  For the Glory of God!  Even Jesus Christ asked his father in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Why me?”  After hours of anguish he accepted his fate.  “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Got it.  But, because Jesus was FULLY HUMAN so as to understand our struggle, I’m pretty sure he thought, “This can’t be happening!”  He might also have used a few choice words.  I recall he was pretty pissed in the Temple.  Tossed a few tables and things about.  It’s documented!  Anger is a natural human emotion when faced with pending death.

My “Why Me?”  question was more like:  Why me?  How did I cause this?  Why me?  What did I miss?  Why me?  How could I put my family in jeopardy of going through life without a mother.  Those, I learned quickly, are most women’s reactions to learning they have breast cancer.  Self blame.   Most of us women are trained at birth to do it  .  Great oncology doctors are on the lookout for and trained to address the self blame.  My Dr. Bob stopped me in my tracks in his office during our first appointment.

There is no woman I know, though they may exist, that would trade her diagnosis out to another unsuspecting, innocent woman.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  There are plenty of us who’d think about it!  But I’ve been lucky not to know any woman who’d actually think, “Why me?  Here.  Tag.  You’re it, be-yach!  Boom baby!  Dodged that bullet! …and we’re walking…”

Once I passed the “How did I cause this?” Why Me? query and began meeting others in treatment, I went to a different “Why Me?”  query.  Why was I spared the heartache some women must face in fighting breast cancer?   I struggled for several weeks with that one.  And I didn’t discuss it with anyone.  I journaled.  I eventually blogged it out of my system.  My answer now to the “Why Me?” query is simple:  because.  God didn’t give it to me as a burden or a punishment or an opportunity to get attention or to feel special or to be a martyr.  In fact, God didn’t GIVE ME CANCER.  It happened.  He knew I’d get pissed.  He knew I’d fight back.  Because HE MADE ME.  And I am His until I take my last breath.  And He knows when that will be.

So “Why Me?”… “Why not?”