Cancer is caused by carcinogens, or, in layman’s terms, agents that make cells go wacky: chemicals found in cigarettes, chlorofluorocarbons, radiation, whatever else. Genetics is a factor in about 5 percent of all cancer diagnoses, according to the ACS, with about 1 in 20 cancer patients citing a parent had cancer.
My grandma was a smoker for a long time but quit more than a decade ago after getting mad at paying higher taxes on her Pall Malls.
Most of her life was characterized by good health — the solid, sturdy kind of health fueled by percolated pots of coffee, hard work, fried hamburgers and indoor and outdoor household building projects of all manners.
My grandma is the caliber of lady who would push through colds, the flu and accidents and long, hard days in a factory, the caliber of lady who would amaze doctors that she did not die — or even pass out — after massive, childbirth-related blood loss during which her second baby died.
Save a couple of medications to keep her blood pressure in a good range, she’s been amazingly prescription-free for an 80-year-old. Until now. Now she has a cancer diagnosis, an intruder on her lung for which she’s getting plenty of medication.
At first, she said, she could not believe the diagnosis. “Cancer!” she’d breathe. “Cancer?” After her initial chemotherapy treatment, which was her choice to take or not to take, she was pleasantly surprised, as was I, how well she tolerated it.
It’s that solid, hearty constitution serving her well, I told her.
She’ll be headed for chemotherapy round two in early January. Then a scan to see what her tumor has done. Has it shrunk? Has it grown? And the question with a more crucial answer: Has it spread to anywhere else?