A Project Manager’s Game Plan for Dealing with Incurable Cancer

Segment Twenty – What if you drank the water at Fort LaJeune, worked with Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), used baby powder, and drank sugar-free soda by the gallon?  The Peril of the Blame Game

As I was coming home from the market this morning, the radio gods conspired to play every single ambulance-chasing advertisement they could find.  No.  I did not drink the water at Fort LaJeune.  No, I was not the recipient of faulty ear protection.  No, I never worked with aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF).  Ad after ad clued me in that I MAY be eligible for compensation for my situation.  I’m sure I’ve done some things that didn’t serve me well in the cancer department.  I smoked for ten years (quitting in 1987), drank sugar-free soda (even back in the days of cyclamates), used baby powder and killed weeds in my lawn with RoundUp®.  If you don’t know, all four of those fall into the carcinogen category.  

Who do I blame for my incurable, very rare, cancer?

The temptation to blame is nothing new.  When I was 14 years old, I was in my mother’s antique shop and decided it was time to hop on my bike and go home.  With a full head of 14-year-old steam, I went for the door, and bade my mother farewell.  The door opened and there was a 50-ish woman standing just outside.  I was too late and too klutzy to avoid her.  I knocked her down like a defensive lineman.  She landed on her back, and began moaning for help. 

(Cricket Shop, S. Main Street, Columbiana, circa 1971)

My mother raced out, then called an ambulance (which was rejected by the victim), and then brought the woman into the shop for a tea.  Long story short, three months later, my mother’s insurance company settled out of court for $15,000.  The woman (Shirley) blamed me.  And I shouldered the guilt of that blame for almost a year, until I had a conversation with my mother. 

Oh, no, honey, she explained, it wasn’t your fault.  According to the insurance company she does this at shops all over the county.  Shirley stands outside the door of businesses, waiting for the opportunity to be knocked down.  We’re her third victim this year.  The insurance company can’t prove fraud, since it’s a back injury.  It’s cheaper for them to settle early than to get involved with doctors and lawyers and a hundred other players.  They’re paying for her lifestyle. 

I couldn’t believe my ears!  These were the 1970’s for crying out loud!  It’s FRAUD! We’re supposed to be a nation of laws! 

As you can likely see, the problem has not gotten any better over the course of 50 years.  Having been on the victim end of this equation, I have the solution.  Stop it.  Seriously.  Just don’t do it.  I’ve had two personal phone calls since my cancer diagnosis asking if I want to pursue legal action.  You can already guess my answer.  No.  No.  Heck, no. 

But Carl, you could get a settlement, just like Shirley!

And that would put me in the same category with her.  I will seriously never know what aspect of my life led to my cancer.  For all I know, it was sniffing the hot plastic sheets from my Vac-U-Form® toy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AP8RMTZBt4) as a child.

Lesson Learned: If you believe there’s an injustice in the world, handle it as you wish everyone would handle it.  Don’t succumb to temptation, and don’t fall into the “victim class.”  If you turn victim, you create a situation where you’re accepting (endorsing?) the situation that put you in that class.  Shirley should not have hit my mother’s insurance company for $15,000.  She should have taken my apology, her cup of tea, and moved on with her life.  Instead, she continued to seek out new opportunities for victimhood.  I cannot imagine hers was a happy life.

The Blame Game

Blaming others is a dangerous road to travel, as eventually, someone will blame you.  (I got that out of the way early with Shirley).  Also, blame takes mental energy, and drains what’s available for more positive things.  While in the process of blame, you cannot be positive.  And the game itself takes a toll.  There are roughly 67 suicides a day in the United States.  That’s the highest level in over 30 years. I contend that part of the high suicide rate is ensconced in the notion that we have no control over our lives.  Someone else is to blame.  Bad road. 

Think of the opposite of that.  I control my life.  I control where it’s going.  I control today.  Wow!  What a wonderful place to be. 

I have incurable, inoperable cancer. I could strive to find out who’s to blame, or I could spend every day thrilled that I’ve been given one more day.  Blaming someone else will not cure my cancer or likely prevent anyone else from contracting the disease. Feeling that today is a gift will help me and my family enjoy life more, relish opportunity and build a legacy of hope and promise.  I think I’ll take the latter. 

Lesson Learned: Find others to blame for the good news in your life.  I blame my father for making me work hard to achieve what I’ve achieved.  I blame my mother for reminding me that there’s sunshine behind the clouds.  I blame my sister (cancer survivor) for showing me that the term “cancer victim” should never be part of my vocabulary.  If we’re going to play the blame game, we need to turn it around.  It’s not about blame.  It’s about opportunity.  Shirley taught me a valuable lesson.  There will always be those seeking blame (and even seeking to profit from blame).  They will never end their lives as icons of hope and promise.  They will be seen for what they are—scavengers, rather than being those who dwell in the rich rewards of opportunity.

Up next?  Open the door.  Give me a call.  But let me know the specifics of what you expect of me! 

If you want to review the previous elements of this e-book or blog, they’re all posted at www.carlpritchard.com/blog

If you have insights you’d like to share or comments or conversations, my e-mail is the best way to reach me at carl@carlpritchard.com.  I’ll always get back to you within 24 hours.  Always.  And if you think I missed the mark?  Check your spam folder.  Thanks for joining me on this journey.