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A Cancer Survivor's Thought: Does What Goes Around Really Come Around?

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It was another normal day where I was ranting to a coworker about work. It was so insignificant I can’t really remember what I was complaining about. But the comment that followed from my coworker hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Well, don’t worry. Karma will catch up with that person and they’ll pay for what they’ve done.”

Actually, for the last several days, I’ve either been told that karma will catch up with people or heard others wish karma would catch up with a person. Every time I’ve heard it I’ve asked my friends or coworkers, “Does this mean getting cancer is my karma?”

Everyone has denied it, assuring me it isn’t. But at the same time, I don’t think people fully grasp the idea of survivor’s guilt and how it can be triggered.

Since I was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer in August 2016, I’ve been trying hard to cope with my survivor’s guilt. Many nights I have spent sleepless wondering “why me?” Many days I’ve found myself in tears wondering what I could have changed.

As the months have moved on and my treatment has morphed and changed due to varying side effects and newly developed medical issues, I’ve been able to cope with the survivor’s guilt for the most part. It’s become part of me. It’s what’s driven me to survive so I can help others.

But the idea of karma for the last week has set me back pretty far.

And what’s sad is how easily it happened and how easily people wish karma upon others.

I know I’m not the world’s greatest person. I don’t even make the top ten thousand probably. I mean, hell, I defend criminals for a living. That doesn’t exactly make me a candidate for person of the year when I’m helping get what society considers “the bad guys” back on the streets. I’ve told lies before. I’ve done things I’m not all together proud of — those moments that tend to haunt you at 2 a.m. in the morning when you’re desperately trying to sleep.

But did I do something to deserve this hell that has invaded my body?

I like to think I didn’t.

But my mind drifts to those in my past who might have wished pain and ill will upon me because I hurt them. An ex-boyfriend who was hurt maybe. A client who didn’t get the best deal and thinks it’s my fault. A friend who I had a fight with.

Did they hope karma would get me?

The logical, lawyer part of my brain of course thinks this isn’t because I did anything wrong. I didn’t bring this upon myself. I just lost what I call the genetic lottery.

But the survivor part of me, it wonders if I had been a better person, would this have still happened? Would I still have lost my entire reproductive system and several other body parts? Maybe it would have been caught earlier. Would I have had to endure almost 12 months of chemo? Maybe I wouldn’t have needed any if I had been a little nicer.

I’ll never know the answer. And now I have to once again unbury myself from the depths of my survivor’s guilt. God knows how long it will take this time.

All I know is we should be careful what we say, like comments about karma. You never know the effect something like that will have on someone. You never know what’s going on deep inside and what fears you might be bringing back up to the surface.

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Getty Images photo via kieferpix

Originally published: January 8, 2018
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