I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but sometimes I think about who gets cancer and who doesn’t. It is hard not to think about this after having three different cancers.

According to scientists, we know of some things that can cause cancer, such as certain environmental exposures. Exposure only means that one might develop a cancer. Remember, many more people who also with the same exposure, will never get cancer.

Then, there is the genetic component. How important is this factor? I am a middle child with three separate cancers. Neither my older brother or younger sister have ever been diagnosed with any type of cancer. There is no other people in the universe who are more genetically closely matched to me.

After meeting and talking with many cancer survivors, reading many blogs and their follow-up comments, I believe that there are a number of people, the ‘Others’, those without cancer, who actually blame cancer survivors for their illness.

When I was diagnosed with my third cancer, one of my doctors, a well respected oncologist, made an off handed comment. Shockingly, he said “you must have been one evil guy in a past life”. Many people do believe that those of us with cancer deserve our cancer because of something that we have done wrong, either now or in a past life (in deference to the oncologist). We are responsible for and therefore we deserve the cancer.

I have heard all too often about women with ovarian cancer being asked; didn’t you have a pap smear? Well hello, a pap smear does not show ovarian cancer, there is no test for ovarian cancer. Then the follow up question is often; why didn’t you catch it earlier? Come on, who thinks that stomach problems and menopause means you have ovarian cancer?

We periodically hear that our prostate cancer is a result of either to much masturbation, or too little. It cannot be both. at least I don’t think so.

The great loaded issue is lung cancer. It is shocking how many people think that if you have lung cancer you probably deserve it. Even though lung cancer is the largest cancer killer in the United States, no matter how many people die from it, lung cancer struggles to get research funding. We blame lung cancer on tobacco smoking, so why isn’t tobacco illegal if it is so evil? Why do we sell a carcinogen if we then blame people for having lung cancer? Don’t forget, many people who never smoked even once in their life end up with lung cancer, did they do something so evil?

Can it be that the ‘Others’ want to find a reason that separates them from us? The ‘Others’ are actually saying they are better than us because they don’t do {you fill in the blank} or they do {you fill in the blank}. Is their separating themselves from us a system designed to deny their own personal vulnerability to cancer? Or is it a psychological maneuver of one up-man-ship? I believe it reflects their fear; they are scared to death of this thing called cancer and they want to believe that they can’t get cancer.

Those of us that have cancer know that it is mostly a random happening. Take note, cancer does not discriminate. Murders get cancer and so do clergy members. Good people get it and bad people get it. We all can get cancer. Cancer does not see skin color, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. It is actually very simple; cancer invades our bodies and just wants to kill anything or anyone it can.

Someday, it may be proven that some cancers are cause by something specific, but I stand by my initial statement, NO ONE DESERVES CANCER!

I do get annoyed when people with cancer have to justify to the ‘Others’ that they don’t deserve their cancer. NO ONE DESERVES CANCER! Having cancer does not mean that a person was good or bad. Whether you are a Satanist, a fundamental Baptist or an atheist you don’t deserve cancer.

The ‘others’ will look for a reason why you deserved cancer instead of them. None of us should ever have to say ‘I didn’t smoke, or I was a vegetarian or I never masturbated’. We do not have to justify our life nor should we ever have to say ‘ I have been a good person’, NO ONE DESERVES CANCER!

Joel T Nowak MA, MSW