Walking in Your Shoes: Karen Marshall’s Asbestos Story

Karen & Her Mom

When I sit down to write this blog every week, I try to put myself in your shoes.

Here’s the thing: I may have been in your shoes. My loved one may have died because of asbestos exposure. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Nagging Questions about Cancer

In my early blog posts, I described my family’s experience when my mom battled stomach cancer. I described how she picked advocates to support her. I also talked about the financial burdens my parents faced.

I didn’t say much about how the disease impacted me. My mom’s planning helped ease the burden while she was dying. But some suffering is unavoidable in these situations.

I struggled for years to support my parents and also hold on to my career, my new marriage and the rest of my life. As hard as I tried, I simply couldn’t do it all. When I think about life after cancer, “collateral damage” comes to mind.

During it all, the same thing kept nagging at me: What caused the cancer? I was so frustrated. But it was more than just wishing cancer hadn’t happened.

Deep inside I knew it shouldn’t have happened. My gut told me someone was responsible. I needed answers.

But no one ever explained the cause to my satisfaction. I looked at the risk factors, but none seemed to apply. So we just did our best to deal with what little information we had.

Did Asbestos Cause My Mom’s Stomach Cancer?

Today, I know there is a strong link between asbestos exposure and stomach cancer. But that’s not why I started working for the Mesothelioma Center.

I joined the team because I wanted to put my legal skills to work for cancer patients like my mom. I wanted to provide helpful information and resources to patients and their families. I wanted to offer at least one person the kind of support my family needed.

I expected the work to touch me personally. But I didn’t anticipate how much.

You see, my work led to a shocking discovery. While researching something for Asbestos.com, I saw a familiar name on a list of asbestos defendants. It was my mom’s employer before I was born.

She mentioned it when I was little, but I didn’t know what they did. I definitely didn’t know that the work may have exposed my mom to asbestos.

Apparently, my mom didn’t know either.

Answering My Questions and Yours

Community Holds HandsI’ll probably never know exactly what happened to my mom or why we had to go through so much. But having a bit more information actually made me feel a little better. For some reason, the nagging questions don’t haunt me anymore.

This isn’t a blog about me, so I usually focus on legal news or explain some part of the legal process. But the upcoming month will be a little different. It seems like a good time to get very personal.

March marks the sixth anniversary of my mom’s death. I tend to search for answers more than usual this time of year. So now seems like a good time to consider questions like:

  • What if we had known about a possible asbestos link?
  • What would I have done, as a daughter and a lawyer, to help my own family?
  • What would my family have done in your shoes? Why might you want to do something different?

The answers may surprise you. So stay tuned.

Meanwhile, visit Asbestos.com to learn more about links between asbestos and diseases like stomach cancer.


Karen Marshall has more than 17 years of legal experience and is an attorney with The Peterson Firm. She has been contributing to The Mesothelioma Center since 2011 and writes about asbestos-related legal issues and blogs for Asbestos.com.

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