Jayne Dawson: It’s official - life and death is just a matter of dumb luck

LADY LUCK: We are all in her hands.
LADY LUCK: We are all in her hands.
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The truth is out then, if you choose to believe it, and I think most of us do.

Cancer, that most feared and emotive of illnesses, is mostly down to ...bad luck.

Research has been carried out by experts, results have been microscopically examined, and the conclusion is that whether you develop the majority of cancers is just a matter of dumb luck.

There are a few - a few - that can be encouraged by the way we live our lives, but mostly it’s down to the throw of the dice, the turn of the wheel.

The vast majority of cancers don’t depend on our genes, on the number of half marathons we run or the amount of green juice we drink.

Nature might as well take us all to Las Vegas and leave us there on the one- arm bandits, it’s all so capricious and cruel.

In a way it’s a relief. Especially for those of us who think what the Bible calls manna from heaven is really pastry, and who use the treadmill to air the washing. Our way of life has been vindicated.

Live a little, enjoy yourself. For the blow, if it comes, is random and senseless.

For that other type of person, the news might not be so welcome: the type who wear a device around their wrist that monitors their healthy life.

These people know the number of steps they take each day, they know how much of their sleep has been restful, they know the calories they have ingested and expended.

Turns out though, that they don’t know whether the Big C will fell them or not. Just like the rest of us.

Maybe, just maybe, we can turn this blunt news to our advantage. Because there are far too many people who blame themselves for their cancer.

“If only I hadn’t stressed about the unimportant stuff” they think. The belief that they are to blame, because they have worried themselves into cancer, runs on a constant, secret loop in their head.

The same pointless self blame goes into their recovery too. Sufferers are encouraged to believe that their recovery hinges on their ability to remain cheerful and their will to keeep on battling.

I have always believed this to be nonsense. I think recovery is down to medical intervention – and luck.

Some cancers are deadly, some are not. Keeping a smile on your face throughout your ordeal will not make the difference between living or dying.

So it’s all Lady Luck. And not just in the matter of cancer. Luck is a powerful force in all our lives.

Listen to any successful person and, with a self-deprecating smile, they will put their success partly down to luck. We take it for false modesty, a way of saying: “I’m just better than most people, but I’m too nice to say so.”

But I think, when those people say luck has eased their way, we should believe them.

There’s a lot of good luck and bad luck about, isn’t there? Where you are born, who your parents turn out to be, the job you get, the people you meet. Who couldn’t say that chance and luck is involved?

There are other, complex factors also at work, of course there are. It’s down to us to make our world a fair and decent place where people have chances and choices, because an unequal world knocks luck right out of balance.

If you are born to an affluent family, in a rich country it isn’t just luck that will make your life immeasurably better than that of a child born into grim, third world poverty, it’s the way we humans have organised our societies.

But still, I think it’s time to take the pressure off ourselves just a little - and acknowledge that it isn’t all down to what we do - some of us are just lucky and some are not.

Sarah Champion MP

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