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Why me, why now?

A question we must all have asked ourselves when we were first told we had Cancer is why is it me and why has it happened now? I know its a thought that crosses my mind several times.

I've heard the suggestion that everyone has cancer cells in them but not everyone has a trigger event for the cancer to come to life.

I don't know if there is any formal research into such triggers, but I'd be curious to know if other forum members can relate the timing of their cancer to particular circumstances in their life.

For me, I was working on a construction project at Heathrow, which meant I was commuting about 150 miles a day and working long days too. This itself made me fatigued. The project was 'airside' too and being surrounded by planes, the stench of aviation fuel was ever present. Add to that a dispute with my company about establishing a reasonable rate for lodging nearby and it was altogether a stressful time.

I can't help thinking this combination of factors gave my Leukaemia the opportunity it needed.

I wonder, can anyone else link the start of their cancer to something that was going on in their lives at the time?


  • hi there, I was interested to read your thoughts on a trigger. I had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in 2011 and I was not doing anything differently in the lead up to my diagnosis (went into remission after the first round of chemo). However, I had a small op/procedure in September 2013 and since then I have had problems, I have been going back for blood tests with some not v good results and a BM biopsy confirmed MDS in February this year (that hasn't developed into AML - yet) so I do believe that the anaesthetic or procedure trigged something with my immune system or my body reacted badly to it (although my consultant thinks its just bad luck and I was lucky to be in remission for 2.5 years!!) So I am now waiting for a BM transplant and keeping my fingers crossed a donor is found soon. Take care
  • Steve - I had an interesting discussion with a fellow MDS patient here at Kings. We found a common link of extensive exposure to printing solvents used in the silk screening industry, Cyclohexanone, Cellulose thinners etc. I worked in a silk screen shop for about 5 years in the early nineties and was pretty blase about health and safety equipment, ie never used a face mask or protective handwear and can see now that my skin and organs must have been soaking this stuff up like blotting paper. Hard to say it's a definitive link, but the guy I was chatting to went through an almost identical scenario...
  • I can't say I've ever been in a situation where I've been particularly exposed to chemicals / petrol / etc, but my wife reckons the two times my leukaemia emerged may have been linked to stress.

    The first time, symptoms started appearing as I was finishing my Finals at uni (though I only realised this later when diagnosed); my relapse came as I was working under a lot of pressure and to very tight deadlines in the office with minimal support (and a terrible boss).

    I'm generally a pretty laid-back person, too, so perhaps my body was telling me to stop working so hard!
  • I was talking to a friend the other night who has been suffering from fits and blackouts and we were discussing how stress and fatigue seems to give illnesses an opportunity to strike and affect us. He put his episodes down to a particularly stressful time in his life and I think the same can be said of my own illness.

    Like George says, sometimes your body has its ways of telling you to stop working so hard. Having gone through what I have I am determined to try and avoid getting stressed any more and now take each day as a bonus.
  • I had just lost my Mother to Breast Cancer a few months prior to being diagnosed with AML. I was helping to care for her. I was also studying at college at the time and working part time as a Truck Driver not as stressful as some jobs but can be very long hours. I've always felt that the death of my Mother was linked to my illness. I'm pretty sure the stress had a role to play in lowering my immune system and triggering the cancer but the doctors think it was just a coincidence. Truth is they still don't know what triggers it!
  • I attribute my Hodgkin's lymphoma to my 2nd pregnancy, it occurred either whilst I was pregnant or in the months after when I was breast feeding and surviving on no sleep! During my treatment a few nurses commented that pregnancy can be a trigger for many cancers.
  • Hi all,

    It's a while since I wrote this post on the forum and wondered, now that we have more members, whether anyone had anything new to add regarding how they felt or what they were exposed to prior to their diagnosis.

    There seems to be a them of people being tired or run down at the time, and to me it seems this gives an opportunity for the Cancer to strike whilst we are weak.

    I guess none of us can be certain why we get our Cancer or what triggers it, but I'm interested to see if there are any common factors that might lead to it rearing its ugly head.

  • Hi Steve,
    I was trying to make Partner in a professional services firm and had 3 children aged 8, 6 and 2 when I was diagnosed, so yes stress and fatigue must have had a part to play somewhere along the way. I have resigned myself to never really knowing though because there are loads of people who are stressed and fatigued and who don't get cancer - it was probably just one of those things. But I am so much more self-aware now about what a human body should be doing - and it isn't working all hours sat behind a desk, not sleeping or eating very well. It might not have made any difference but looking after yourself is more fun than what I was doing before anyway!
    All the best,
  • edited November 2017
    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for that, it does seem to fit with my theory that stress and fatigue in our lives possibly gives an opportunity for cancer to strike though most of will never know.

    I think like you it makes you look at life and avoid those situations that might give rise to heightened levels of stress. I'm all for an easy life now and looking after number one is my top priority. If I feel myself getting tense over anything I sit back and think that there is more to life.

    I'm also conscious of those around me. I work as a project manager in the construction industry and we have a campaign ongoing at the moment called 'mates in mind'. It's all about mental health issues brought on either by pressures at work, or events in our home lives affecting our work life. It's about looking out for others and asking those who seem stressed or tense whether they are OK; encouraging them to speak. I've spoken to a couple of my colleagues recently and told them to take it easy before they make themselves ill.

    Having gone through what I have and reaching an age in my life where it's time to take things a little easier I'm happy with my life and now feel that I have a good work/life balance and apart from dealing with two stroppy teenagers at home, life is good at home too.

    I hope life is also treating you well and that you're keeping healthy.

    All the best,

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