I’ve been thinking about bad luck a lot in the last couple of days. I’m not particularly superstitious, so I don’t really believe in “luck” as such, but I do seem to be suffering from quite a lot of bad luck at the moment.
This train of thought kicked off primarily because of conversations about genes and their role in cancer, and diet and its role. Diet first. There is a whole industry out there aimed at selling diets to cancer patients, along with people who swear by particular diets and who happen also – surprise surprise – to be selling a book about it. If you were to believe all of this, you would end up a raw vegan who never drinks alcohol. Dairy, red meat, sugar, chocolate, caffeine, booze, most fruit – these are all out. You have to drink green juice. Lots. I wish beating cancer were this easy – although it would be pretty miserable. Some of these people try to suggest that there is a huge conspiracy out there, hiding the secret way to beat cancer and forcing you to have chemo, radio and so on instead in the knowledge that you will still be sick. The conspiracy is apparently run by the government and the pharma companies. I get the anti-big-pharma piece, but not the government – surely it is cheaper for the government to tell us all to drink green juice than it is to fund treatment through the NHS??
I do believe, however, that cancer is in large part down to our genes – and therefore to bad luck. A couple of days ago a good cancer friend found out that the reason she and three generations of women before her have had breast or ovarian cancer is down to a faulty gene called PALB2. Nothing she did or did not eat, do or inhale – just bad luck in her genes. A day later, some Cambridge scientists published some research which indicates they have possibly found a genetic cause for triple negative breast cancer – the type I have. This is the bad type of breast cancer. It is aggressive. It means that the targeted therapies that have been developed for hormone-positive breast cancer (Tamoxifen) and HER2+ breast cancer (Herceptin) don’t work on my cancer because it is hormone negative and HER2 negative. Triple negative isn’t so much a type of breast cancer, as an absence of other types of breast cancer. So the news that scientists may have discovered a gene that seems to account for 8 in 10 cases of triple negative breast cancer is great news indeed – for knowing what causes it is the foundation for developing a therapy that treats it. Hooray. My bad luck to have developed triple negative breast cancer.
And then I look back at the past few years and at all the health crises we have been through – and each of them is another case of bad luck. Bad luck that Tali has the incredibly rare abdominal situs inversus (though incredibly good luck that it is self-correcting). Bad luck that Elliot developed severe pneumonia and pleurisy that left him slightly weaker in the lungs even now. Bad luck that Joey inherited two defective copies of the Connexin 26 gene and so is profoundly deaf (though wonderful that cochlear implants help him to hear). Bad luck that during Joey’s cochlear implant operation a piece of medical equipment was left in his head (although more fairly this was human error – but bad luck that this particular human error happened to us). Bad luck that Tali didn’t start breathing again on her own after a routine grommets/adenoids operation – due, as it turned out, to a genetic inability to metabolise the anaesthetic she was given (although good luck that we found out before Joey had his cochlear implant operation, as we had him tested and he too can’t metabolise the same drugs). Bad luck that I developed triple negative breast cancer. Bad luck that chemotherapy didn’t work and the cancer had the chance to spread.
And bloody bad luck today – when an idiot crashed into the side of my car. I’m fine – not injured – and the car is repairable – but more bad luck. And I’m just cross. Cross that it was MY bad luck yet again. How much more?
Please don’t get me wrong – I’ve had a lot of good luck in my life too. Lucky to have had such a wonderful childhood. Lucky to have had such a wonderful education. Lucky to have met and married such a wonderful man. Lucky to have fallen pregnant twice without difficulty and to have had two such wonderful, brilliant, amazing, adorable children. Lucky to have such a good job that I enjoy so much. Lucky to have a beautiful home. Lucky to have such a wide circle of amazing friends. I really do appreciate all of these things.
But I also feel that I have had more than my share of bad luck. So I am now hoping and praying and focusing on that bad luck coming to an end, on the coin flipping, on the universe getting on my side, on the chemo working, on having some good health news for a change. Fingers crossed.