Kiana is 5 years old and is questioning why on everything. It’s cute and has made me do tons of research on certain things but there was one recently that I heard about that was both moving and fascinating. She was with my cousin Sara and asked her why people get cancer. Sara responded that it’s when cells reproduce like they aren’t supposed to. She answered “No that’s who gets cancer. Why do people get cancer?” My cousin answered that we really don’t know and Kiana responded with “Well, when I grow up… I’ll figure it out… if I want to.” That story was definitely both heartwarming and tough to hear.
The first person I was asked to speak to a few months ago, to encourage them to cheer up more to fight cancer back more, and who passed away recently was very surprised when I answered that I’ve never questioned, “why me, why did I get cancer?”. It was something I didn’t do then nor have I done it now. I’ve tried the how a few times and come up with a variety of theories. I volunteered in the South Pacific in the Marshall Islands where the US tested the atom bomb on the Bikini atoll and it’s a country that has a high rate of cancer and child deaths (they don’t teach you that in American History Class) but not this type of cancer.
The mysteries of life, some are some that if you don’t think about at all, you’ll lose your soul but if you think about too much you’ll lose your mind. I sometimes get through the day with the little whys and how: I did my longest cycle ride ever today, 65 miles in just under 4 hours and got a whole lot more respect at cyclists both abilities and intelligence. Apparently there is something about big gears versus little gears versus cross chaining that I’m going to have to get better at. The bike goes back in a few weeks and I’m going to miss it but I went and fixed my own bike so that the ride’s not completely over when that one is. I got my teeth cleaned and the dental hygienist wanted to know how things were with going with my cancer. It’s an odd appointment when they have to start have you had any significant medical changes since we last saw you and the previous time the answer was brain surgery and this time the answer was, I was found collapsed on the side of the road and had to do a bunch of tests. Why the dental hygienist is so sweet and caring I don’t know. The receptionist there, no clue about the situation, wonders why I’m not doing everything on the schedule the dentist is suggesting immediately and I just smile because you can only take on so many medical bills at once. I can see how she got her job though because she’s definitely frenetic and emphatic and thorough about what they are recommending. I spent my first entire mother’s day with my daughter. Her mother not being there when that was definitely the norm everywhere we went was another thing she asked why about and there wasn’t any good answers. Still, we made it as special as we could. I got more texts, emails, and phone calls about happy mother’s day than I’ve ever gotten on father’s day which was both flattering and humbling. I think anyone who spends 10 minutes with me could imagine why I’d get dumped but why someone would not even spend the time a decree allots them with my princess… well I have no apologies for the emotions I have about that.
Why, oh why, I hear several times a day and that’s one I’ll never have an answer to so I work on some hows. I am still trying to raise money for the Brain Power 5k which goes into brain cancer research and while I’m a dreamer, I have to acknowledge that we are a long way from figuring out the brain so probably further from figuring out a disease that takes over it’s cells. But the organizer of the race’s daughter says she is going to be a brain doctor and mine says she’s going to figure out the why, not how of people get cancer so maybe there’s hope.
On the good days, when I’m striving for things like training for a new ride my why’s are closer to a Shaw quote that RFK made famous “you see things and ask why? But I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” On the bad days, when I look at the odd things in my life and my humor coping mechanism goes in and thinks more like Mart Twain: “Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.”
But there has never been a day if I’ve wondered the why that Kiana is asking about cancer. I’ve always been asking what she described as how. But today, I rode a bike longer than I ever have, and did some brain rehab apps, and went to a friend’s mother’s day concert and Kiana called my mom, her mom, and her mother’s mom. And why did I do all that? Because it beats the alternative.