Cancer as Contrition

When this all started I was tested for the BRCA gene mutation, as well as 21 other known breast cancer gene mutations. I don’t carry any of them. Yeah?

In some ways it is a major ‘yeah.’ I don’t have to preemptively have my ovaries removed, as I am not genetically predisposed to ovarian cancer. I am also at a lower risk for a secondary breast cancer on the very little remaining breast tissue and skin I have left.

In other ways, it is very frustrating to not have something to pin my diagnosis on. Why did I get breast cancer at 36? I wasn’t genetically predisposed, I wasn’t overweight, I was living a healthy lifestyle, I don’t knowingly drink toxic water…

Despite the fact that I am a college educated, realistic woman who has a pretty firm grip on logic most of the time, with this situation, I spend way too much time wondering what I may have done that could have caused me to get cancer.

Realistically, I know that there was most likely nothing I could have done, but you’ve got to wonder. Did I drink too much Diet Coke? Did the stress I have as a mom to 3 young kids contribute to some healthy cells going rogue? And, worst of all, is this karma?

I think I have been a pretty decent human, but I have most certainly made choices that were morally corrupt. I know I was bitchy to people who didn’t deserve it in my youth, I probably cheated on tests (though I can’t remember any exact instances) and I even stole a shirt from the GAP once in high school (statute of limitations). And, like I imagine most people have, I have made mistakes that despite my love for you dear readers, will remain between me and my conscience.

And of course I have had terrible thoughts that haven’t turned into actions. Thoughts of revenge, corruption and plenty of ill will against others.

In my brain, I understand that these things do not scientifically result in cancer. But what about the cosmos? I don’t really even know what I believe in, in terms of religion and a greater power, but I do believe in karma. Is she out to get me? Who am I to argue that karma didn’t have a hand in my disease?

Is breast cancer my penance? It makes zero rational sense, yet I can’t stop my mind from going there.

And then there is the flip side. Have people forgiven me things that I have done that have hurt them, just because I have cancer?

Like, are there people out there who I have wronged, or maybe just people who don’t like me, who have felt compelled to bring me a casserole because that is what the social contract tells them is the right thing to do?

That concept feels almost worse to me. Is cancer my get out of jail free card?

Empathy is such a wonderful trait that I have seen in action thousands of times since diagnosis, but what if it was actually pity? Someone out there thought to themselves, ‘well, she might have deserved it.’ The thought makes me shudder, but I am also present enough to know that even the best of us have hurt people in our past.

I hate the idea that someone may have gotten mad at me either due to something I did or said before or during my treatment that they swept under the rug so as to not exacerbate my illness.

This whole blog post is probably why all oncologists tell us to see a therapist regularly after active treatment is finished. We have suffered a great deal of emotional trauma along with the physical and maybe I am crazier now than I was before. Or, maybe, my mind is clearer and I am able to see things I wasn’t able to before cancer.

I wish I could say that this introspection will allow me to never make selfish mistakes again, but I know better. I am still human, after all, and I will do things that end up hurting others, though hopefully inadvertently. I remain a fallible being, but karma is listening. ‘I think one cancer is enough for a lifetime, right pal?’

Photobombing a sleeping child isn’t a cancerable offense right?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. lindseasnow says:

    No one deserves cancer, even if they stole thousands of shirts from the Gap.


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