When Cooper was diagnosed with leukemia, I was hell-bent on figuring out what caused his cancer. I was his mother, and it was my job to protect him. Therefore, if he was this sick, surely I had done something wrong.
So, when a friend messaged me some crazy email about how red dye can cause cancer, I was sure I had discovered the source of the problem. It was an important lesson in learning to let go.
Cooper was diagnosed in February. The Christmas before, he had been obsessed with candy canes. Despite my efforts to limit his consumption to a reasonable level, he had still ingested a ton of peppermint-flavored red dye over the holidays.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. After all, the timing worked out. That’s what it had to be.
A Red Herring
At our appointment, I gave Dr. Jill Beck the history of my “research” (aka the crazy email from my friend). Then, I explained Cooper’s candy cane obsession and pointed out the timing would line up.
Dr. Beck is one of the sweetest, kindest doctors we could ever ask for, but the reason I truly love her is her sense of humor.
On that day, I presented her with all the evidence for what we now refer to as the “Candy Cane Theory.” I credit her with a powerful level of self-control as she held back her laughter and gently pointed out the holes in my theory.
Red Letter Day
She started out by explaining that the red dye that was found to cause cancer was removed from our food decades earlier.
Then, she reminded me that hundreds of scientists have been researching the cause of cancer for 50 years. And if the cause was as simple as candy canes, they probably would have figured it out by now.
I don’t know if it was the sheer relief that I hadn’t caused my child’s cancer with candy canes—or the sudden realization of how ridiculous I sounded—but I could not help but laugh at myself.
That was the beginning of the end of my obsession with figuring out what caused my son’s cancer.
Even now, when I am tempted to get sucked into the vortex of guilt and obsession over the cause of Cooper’s cancer, I go back to the Candy Cane Theory.
I remind myself how easy it is to completely convince yourself of something that has no basis in fact or truth. And then, I do my best to let it go.