Could’ve Been Worse

A few days ago I re-blogged a post from The Sarcastic Boob called Just. The post made me reflective. In my early clumsy attempts to be a “good cancer patient”, I often thought about things that were not so bad for me.

  • I was Stage III, not IV.
  • My blood count never got so low I needed a transfusion, and it seemed all the other cancer patients I spoke to were getting transfusions.
  • I don’t think I ever actually threw up during chemo (waking up from surgery, another matter).
  • My hair started coming back almost as soon as I finished Adriamycin; the Taxol seemed to have little impact on it. So, my hair issues were not as bad as others’.
  • I did not really suffer any neuropathy. I think one time I had a little loss of sense in my fingertips; I dropped a mug I did not seem to feel (shattering into a million pieces of course). But this did not last long, and I still have feelings in my fingers and toes. In fact, it seems these extremities are more sensitive; I no longer tolerate extreme cold—always were gloves and socks…so much for wearing stylish flats once the temps dip below 55!
  • The few food aversions I developed I got over eventually, except for fast food French fries, and I’m better off having that particular aversion.
  • And finally, I was estrogen & progesterone negative, I was HER2+, meaning 1) I would not have to put up with taking Tamoxifen for 5 (now 10????) years with all its side effects and baggage and 2) I could have Herceptin every 3 weeks for a year, which is super effective in preventing recurrence (pay no attention to that pesky $8,000-a-pop price tag behind the curtain…). So, I could keep on taking birth control pills, I do not have to go through an early menopause.

I feel guilty about being so “lucky”, especially on that last count. See, the girls in my cancer support group either have kids or want them, and all of them can no longer have them, and the ones that do have them also face the reality of knowing they will not be able to watch them grow up—which I cannot imagine how to handle. And I know it is especially galling for them when the issue of “delaying childbirth/breastfeeding” as a risk factor comes up. It annoys me because I would never do something so idiotic as have a kid just to reduce cancer risk when I am so unsuited to be a mother—I cannot imagine the pain of my friends who really did not even “delay” childbirth (they are all a bit younger than I), and yet they still got nailed with cancer. This is the only situation in which I will feel guilty or apologetic for never wanting kids.

Maybe my “it could’ve been worse” attitude, or my making light of some of the more ridiculous aspects of the past two years, are my way of toning down my complaints, because I certainly have plenty of those. Or maybe it is just my “bah, humbug” curmudgeonly way of counting small pieces of good fortune.

Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

4 thoughts on “Could’ve Been Worse”

  1. You pointed out something I can relate to, when realizing “how lucky” we are, it also makes us feel guilty.

    Not having kids for me is a huge deal. I am struggling with making a decision because I also wouldn’t be able to cope with the idea of leaving them while they still need me — life tradeoffs sometimes are unfair. Life is unfair, period!

    Using “it could’ve been worse” statements can be helpful, but it also minimizes how I feel, when someone else says it. Validation is important to me, too.


    1. Yes, the guilt angle vs the validation is a tough one for me. Unfortunately this is a little bit hand in hand with comparisons, a subject that makes me nuts. I think that I had a horrible time of it until I read others’ experiences, then I discount and then feel guilty. But then I’ll read some stray comment about how easy breast cancer patients have it, or how some patients engage in some “I had it worse” one upmanship and I get angry. I’m struggling with a couple of posts about that.


  2. I totally relate to this! I too “breezed” through treatment. I never even got nauseous during chemo. Not even once. I remember saying “At least I don’t….” A whole lot. Great post, as always! xx


    1. Wow, no nausea?! Mine was not bad, but I did take medication for it. That would’ve been great, but the meds caused vivid, disturbing nightmares, that still upset me now 5 years later. So I opted to keep with nausea, comparatively the lesser of two evils.


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