I got cancer because of bad luck?
In Living at Random, George Johnson discusses an idea that is not at all new: "Random, spontaneous glitches ...may be the most pervasive carcinogen of all." But he does it in a way that helps us accept it.
For starters, he acknowledges that "It's a truth that grates against our deepest nature."
Our "revulsion to randomness" drives many patients to play the blame game, striving to determine what they did wrong to cause their disease. Or what some chemical company or virus or other outside agent did wrong to one of their previously healthy cells that set it on a path of cancerous destruction.
Johnson's argument taps into the power of names by introducing "apophenia" -- the psychological term for the human tendency to see connections and patterns that don't exist.
Just as we see a face in a grape juice stain on the tablecloth, a patient may see a connection between their disease and something they did or were exposed to. Why? Because, as explained in My Bed Buddy and Me, "If someone could point out something I was doing wrong, then I could fix it and get well." Or protect loved ones.
Johnson acknowledges "the possibility that what we call randomness will turn out to be complexity in disguise." That said, he still encourages us to embrace randomness and celebrate its role as the engine of evolution.
In the pursuit of Healthy Survivorship, embracing randomness can be liberating.