Turn back time


One of the things you wonder about when you get cancer is not why, but how. You can’t really pinpoint the moment of course when some cell went off the genetic rails but you do wonder what precisely was on the track when the derailment occurred.

Did you breathe in some petrol fumes while filling the car one day for example. Or did it come from working in a laboratory, eating or drinking food or water from a plastic container, standing behind a diesel truck, walking on granite rocks, having an x-ray, photo-copying, being in a freshly painted room, smoking…. and so on. So many potentially carcinogenic agents in our environment these days. Just what was your undoing, and why can’t you go back in time to stop yourself doing whatever it was?

Part of a more general problem for individuals, families, communities, countries, the world, I suppose. Decisions made or not made, turning points, accidents, all of which can set us on a course which, in retrospect, we realise was the wrong one. If only we hadn’t taken that job instead of the other one; moved to that town; allowed that redevelopment; started that war; chosen that energy source.

Can’t really know about those wrong choices at the time, any more than you can avoid having that drink or breathing those fumes. All you can do is try to repair the damage later.

Oh, and learn from it.

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13 comments on “Turn back time

  1. Eric Snyder says:

    You’re absolutely right David, avoid making all the “wrong choices” you can and you’ll still age and eventually die. Our 85 year-old pastor never smoked, drank or spent any time in the establishments where those activities take place and he still developed lung cancer. But, somewhere somehow, something carcinogenic got into his lung tissue and the cells went rogue. He’s trying to “repair the damage” now with chemo but not a real great prognosis.

    A key issue you left out is the next step. What happens after the respiration ceases? That’s when it’s crucially important to not have made “wrong choices!” I hope that’s many years off for you my friend.


    • judyinalaska says:

      I suspect that this kind of scare tactic will not work this time… too bad all people aren’t taught to simply do good and make the right choices out of moral responsibility and caring instead of being threatened with eternal damnation.


      • Eric Snyder says:

        Not a scare tactic at all Judy; rather a “care” tactic. If you drove by a house on fire in the middle of the night, I’m pretty sure you’d stop and make sure the residents were no longer in the home. Wouldn’t you?


  2. judyinalaska says:

    Maybe I am still “back in time” because my husband’s male line have all gotten aggressive prostate cancer. We’re in our early 40s and he is breathing diesel (he’s a truck driver) and eating things from plastic all the time. And there’s little I can do about most of it. So even if you can go back in time I don’t know if you can prevent anything. I haven’t given up, but I do feel somewhat powerless about it.


  3. Don says:

    Having returned to the Watermelon blog, I am again confronted by the rationale for life’s choices by Mr Snyder. If only the lament of John Lennon could come true (ref. “Imagine”). But the views of such as Eric are too seriously misleading, and damaging for many, to be confronted by just a song. Hopefully, time will sort it out. Unfortunately it seems it will be a long time.


  4. Geoff Andrews says:

    Robert Frost (“Road Not Taken”) got it right, didn’t he.

    I saw Richard Dawkins on tele (you probably saw it?) recently arrange for an analysis of his DNA map, which showed that he had a higher than normal chance of developing cancer if he had have smoked.
    Imagine a future society where all embryos or newborn babies have their genetic tea leaves read (as I suspect will eventually happen – very good for the life insurance “industry”),: all will live their lives in fear, dominated by the constant certainty that by inhaling someone else’s smoke or eating, unconsciously, one of the blue printed no-no’s, the odds have shortened from 100 to 1 to 2 to 1 of a premature death.


  5. Toni Blackmore says:

    What if it was nothing you did? Or, like a plane crash was a sequence of events identifiable only in retrospect? What about pediatric brain cancer? Two year olds haven’t spent countless hours on a mobile. I know I’m being strident, and may very well have missed your point, but my sanity’s thratening to melt away thinking one simple action could be squandering any chance of seeing old age. Wishing you all the strength you need to crush those rogue cells for good:)


    • David Horton says:

      My impression is that most mutations have an external cause. On the other hand there are also genetic components. But I wasn’t trying to assign “blame” in any sense. Even the external causes can be things you can do nothing about. Really all I’m saying is that tiny things can, unknown, and unknowable, at the time, affect you badly years later. On the other hand, if only I could tell my younger self not to start smoking…


  6. Cringe, liveware failure this end, thought first comment lost when I logged in. Yep, I’m on the ball and worth listening to:)


  7. Buff McMenis says:

    You have this amazing talent for making me think (and weep just a little) with your introspective glances into your cancer. Clever and smart .. but sometimes I wonder how you can do this and not throw the computer at the wall? So strong, so collected and so much an example of how we could all bear something like this if we just had the guts! You’re a good man.


  8. Geoff Andrews says:

    On the right of your screen, you’ll see a red capital “A” , Eric.
    I may be wrong,but I believe that this would indicate that you have inadvertently stumbled onto an atheist blog site (or one that has an open mind on atheism, left wing politics and most other topics, about which you have demonstrated, over the period that I have followed your contributions on Watermelon, your abhorrence of similar concepts)
    Paraphrasing a critical part of your first contribution above: you hope that David, in drawing his last breath, hasn’t made the “wrong choice” about being an atheist implying that he will not be able to follow you when you have your own final breathless expectancy because you have accumulated the prerequisite brownie points. I believe that this inference was confirmed by your response to Judy in Alaska above.
    At the risk of drawing howls of protest from the readers; I thought your comments were inappropriate and insulting.
    Your comments are better suited to the Born Again Bugle or the Rapture Recorder.
    I’m quite happy to cross swords with you on societal matters – abortion, gun control, national health schemes – just don’t talk about a psychopathic fairy who loves me yet is happy to see me burn for eternity because my rationality, which he has apparently given me, tells me he doesn’t exist.
    If there is a consciousness after this one, we’ll all be there no matter what L. Ron Hubbard or the funny old man in a dress and weird hat in Rome says whatever wrong choice we’ve made.
    Of course, there could be a third and fourth consciousness.
    Peace be with you.


    • Eric Snyder says:

      I enjoy David’s insights to life in Australia, climate change, evolution, etc. Yes, I am aware this is an atheist’s blog site but find it interesting even though I don’t share that belief. Never has there been any attempt to be insulting to anyone, especially David, commenting here.

      You know I don’t subscribe to any fairy tales, brownie points, irrationality, or any other foolishness. Eternal life is simply a concept that cannot be concretely proven one way OR the other. And, if Scripture is correct and atheist philosphy isn’t, then there will be consequences ahead. If not, then there’s no problem. It just seems worthy of consideration.


  9. Alan Phillips says:

    Getting cancer, like so many other things in life, is a matter of chance and circumstance – chance by coming in contact with carcinogens, circumstance by genetic inheritance. Cancer has been killing us (as well as all life forms) for millennia; it’s just the luck of the draw for us all.


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