I’ve been thinking about the cause of my cancer a lot lately. APML is a weird one, with no direct link to the obvious risky behaviors I undertook, starting with a decade-long smoking habit through my 20’s and during the same period working a few months in a warehouse and factory job close to all kinds of toxic chemicals. I also live within a few miles of a nuclear power plant. I ate red M&Ms, washed down pounds of Doritos with gallons of Mountain Dew, and stood way too close to the microwave if edge-case conspiracy is your thing. My oncologists rightly shrug when asked, as science has yet to prove a cause with only the hematologist weighing in that weight may have played a role. Other APML patients are equally lost, but there seems to be one common thread, stress.
First and foremost, there is no scientific data that links cancer to stress. There are many suggestions that it might be, going as far back to physicians in ancient Greece. Stress does lead to behaviors that have clear linkages, such as alcohol abuse and smoking. You can find countless studies on pub med and the internet that are mostly inconclusive in their findings. So, as a smart data-driven person, you probably should hedge your bets towards, they don’t know, with a nod toward the fact that time, reputations, and money has been expended looking at it. Do not look to it as the sole cause of cancer, and do what your doctor tells you.
I believe there is a linkage between stress and my cancer. Our fight-or-flight responses are constantly at work, more so during times of stress, do all kinds of things to our bodies to help them adjust, starting with releasing hormones to get the body moving. Generally, blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar rise to meet the perceived threat. If it’s chronic stress, there are proven linkages to digestive, heart, urinary, reproductive issues, and most compelling to me, a weakened immune system. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think this likely extends to our genetics and may cause a change that kicks starts creating cancer cells. This belief has grown as chronic stress seems to be the common thread in adult APML stories, including my own. It is anecdotal for sure, but it has become more compelling after reading or hearing many APML stories.
Reducing stress is a no-brainer, but the problem is motivation. There is no much in our lives that are not conducive to reducing it. You know this. Good thing cancer is an excellent motivator. I’d say it’s a good quality, but cancer doesn’t have any. So what I can say is, you don’t want it, and I think most APML people feel it’s ok for you to learn from our experiences and not have to learn from yours.
I have found a few things that have helped me deal with my stress. First, take stock of it. Take a look at your life and see the incremental things you can do to help. Small things like limiting screen time and going for a walk helps. Maybe lose that FB account. Second, if you had big things in your life happen, get help. Professionals are educated and are emotionally invested in a different way than your friends and family. They can also prescribe meds. Third, meditation has changed my life. It isn’t hocus-pocus. It takes patience and practice but has helped me step back and evaluate my thinking. I have used an app with guided meditations for well over a year, and it has well-surpassed the cost.
I hope this helps.
As per my last cancer posts, this is the usual disclaimer. I’m not a doctor or licensed medical professional. Nobody should construe what I post as medical advice. I’m just an APML patient trying to help others through my experiences.