“Everything Happens for a Reason” and the Judgment Zone

Throughout the last two years of living with the big “C” and delving into the big “C” world, I’ve met countless other survivors.  I’ve joined several support groups.  I’ve become heavily involved in various cancer charities.  Now, I’m blogging and finding other bloggers opening up about their big “C” lives.  Basically, from the moment of my diagnosis, I pushed myself right through the cancer club door, no questions asked.  I anointed myself a member of a club I never wanted to be a member of, and obviously, I never expected to be a member of.

Within this cancer club sphere, a topic that constantly comes up is the notion that “everything happens for a reason.”  I’ve seen that the reactions to this phrase run the full gamut –  we either embrace it unwaveringly, or it makes us want to punch people in the face.  (See below – this is a card I actually received from one of my favorite snarkiest friends)


[DISCLAIMER: This is a “judgment free zone.”  I never judge any cancer survivor’s reactions, feelings, etc. to their situation.  Our cancer is our cancer and no two are the same.  While I may personally feel different from others, and I may embrace my experiences in certain ways, neither is right or wrong.]

So, for me, I do in fact believe that things happen for a reason.  After seriously contemplating life and death, and facing a potentially terminal disease, not to mention 3 complex brain surgeries, you can’t help but think, “What does all this mean?”

I was not always a very positive person throughout my life.  I was very cynical, even at a young age, and many times unhappy, really for no legitimate reason.  I frankly had a fantastic life.  Who knows where all that came from?  However, immediately after my diagnosis, everything changed.

I never got angry.  I never questioned, “Why me?”  Did I make jokes about how insane it was that a perfectly healthy person, who had never even been admitted into a hospital before, wound up with one of the most serious conditions you can get?  Hell yeah I did.  Some of the typical phrases I used were, “I can’t do anything simply.” or “Go big or go home.”  Every time I was asked about previous medical conditions, my standard reply was, “Nope.  Just brain cancer.”  My tumor is also so rare that my husband loves to say, “I always knew you were one in a million.”  (turns out I’m even more than one in a million, as approximately only 72 adults are diagnosed in the U.S. every year with my specific type and with all my factors.. yay me!)

I took on an unwavering positive attitude that I was going to beat this no matter what, and despite whether the end would come quickly or years and years from now, I would fight every single solitary day.  I would never ever give up.

[SECOND DISCLAIMER:  Another “hot topic” is the use of battle/war phrases to describe our cancer experiences.  There is a school of thought out there that by using those terms “fight” and “giving up” it implies that those we’ve lost didn’t fight enough, or did give up.  In no way do I believe that!!!]

So, I decided that Yes, this did happen for a reason.  I came to grips with the fact that I very likely would never know that reason.  I believe in God, and I do believe that throughout my life, every stage and every step has led to the here and now.  While I am here, continuing to breathe, continuing to get up out of bed every day and face this, there is a reason.  I mean, if there isn’t, then that REALLY sucks! All of this for nothin’????

So, while I harbor no ill will or judge those who feel differently, I don’t always feel that sentiment returned.  I have actually had relatively confrontational exchanges with survivors who do not in any way see that there is a reason for this.  In a circular-type argument though, those survivors tell me they have felt judged because they don’t embrace the notion “it happened for a reason.”  Yet, in the same breath, they roll their eyes and make slightly nasty comments towards people like me who actually do feel there’s a reason.  Hence, they’re sitting there complaining about being judged, as they’re looking me in the face judging me.

Again, I feel the way I feel.  It’s my coping mechanism.  So, along with that, I tend to distance myself from those who I feel judge my way of thinking/coping.  I understand how they feel.  Cancer is awful.  It’s bullshit.  It can kill us!!!  However, if I’m going to walk along this Earth, for however long that may be, I’m going to continue embracing every moment and believe that Yes, there is a reason.

God gives us only what we can handle.  Apparently, God thinks I’m a bad ass!

5 thoughts on ““Everything Happens for a Reason” and the Judgment Zone

  1. Thank you for this post. I have definitely felt the tension between members of my local cancer club that comes out of “incompatible” approaches. A good friend who was diagnosed the year before me with the same form of breast cancer as me basically needed to stop being my friend after she had a recurrence. This is someone I have known for 20 years, our sons were best friends when they were little. It was really hard, and continues to sadden me. I think that it was intolerable for her to be friends with me while she was feeling so bad and I was basically having a transcendental experience after the end of my year of treatments. So while I do tend to think there is some reason for everything, I really don’t know why any of it happens. While I was in treatments I realized that even though it was actually pretty improbable that I would have a “good” outcome, that if there was a chance then I would choose to believe in that. I decided that I would personally rather die wrong and happy then spend the remainder of my life miserable proving my negative assessment right. When my friend had her recurrence I brought her a posey of self heal flowers, I wanted to encourage her to believe in miracles, I wanted her to know that I would believe in miracles for her. She was in a very different place of needing to face facts, to be realistic. I think she probably wanted to punch me in the face. The intent of our words and actions do not equal their impact.
    I like what you say about everyone dealing with it the best they can, framing it as makes sense in the context of their life experience. Usually the way we choose to deal with our life has little to do about others, though our choices do impact others.
    Obviously you have struck a cord with something I have been struggling to come to terms with. Thank you for bringing some clarity to my situation for me. BTW I agree, you are a bad ass.

    1. Thank you so so much for your comment, and opening up about your experiences.
      As for your friend, I am so sorry she chose to leave your life. It’s not about you – it’s about her. I also had someone in my family completely disconnect when I was diagnosed. It’s hurtful, and hard, and sad. Yet, ultimately, people come in and out of our lives for a reason.
      Plus, you never know – there may be a time when she looks back and realizes that your support was what she needed.
      I love your quote about I’d rather “die wrong and happy.” (Shouldn’t we ALL live our lives like that).
      I have become very close friends with a fellow survivor, who before meeting me, did not talk to anyone about his cancer. I was beyond honored when he told me that I struck a deep cord with him during one of our first conversations. I told him, basically, that I choose to be happy and positive because whenever I look back on my life, however soon that may or may not be, I want to say I lived life to the fullest. I don’t ever want to look back and think that I didn’t do the things I wanted, or that I spent my life miserable. After our conversation, he told me that his whole perspective on our lives with cancer changed. He also found the courage to talk about his experience with cancer because frankly, it is/was a huge part of his life.
      I am so glad that I was able to bring some clarity to you! That makes me so so happy. It’s amazing how our writing, and our experiences, can connect us so much.
      I wish you much love.

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