Before you read this:

This could be perceived as offensive to some cancer patients. On the other hand, if you have cancer, you may have had a similar experience, and had a similar reaction, so I write this to let you know you are not alone, nor are you some mean freak. Some of us just choose to deal with life by confronting realities, not reciting platitudes. To read it or not, is a risk you’ll have to take. Sorry.

When my aunt’s cancer came back shortly after she and I both finished our treatments, Mom was talking to her about the next steps her in treatment. During this conversation my aunt said, “Oh I’m just glad it was me, not (your daughter)”. A few weeks later I was in a conversation with some newly diagnosed women (not exclusively breast cancer patients), and one older woman said, “I’m glad it was me, rather than one of my children or grandchildren.”

Nice sentiments, but excuse me, WTF? Just because this fellow patient got cancer does not mean one of her offspring will not get it 20 years, or one year, or even one month from now. Although my aunt’s cancer was ER positive and mine was not, the fact hers returned does not bode well for me. Cancer is not a trade off. When one person gets it, it does not exempt their loved ones, ESPECIALLY their kin, from getting it. I’m not trying to be mean here, just pointing out an unpleasant reality.

(Yes, I realize how incredibly selfish I sound, worrying about how my aunt’s recurrence will predict my own future. This is why I am so glad for my support group, despite the fact I am not a “joiner”. We admit to each other our sadness when one of our members has a recurrence, and simultaneously acknowledge that we immediately think, “well, that could be me”.)

Sometimes I think the phrase “shit happens” was coined because of cancer—it suits so well, maybe it should be the cancer patient motto. Nothing else so accurately sums up the way cancer strikes at random, despite anyone’s best defensive efforts, or any stray desire to have it not happen to others. Those with cancer in their family need to be prepared that it will likely happen to them, but that does not mean those with no or little cancer incidence in their family get a free pass.

I am not necessarily against all platitudes; just the ones that don’t make any sense or have no basis in fact. Just because I am a realist does not mean I did not do everything in my power to eliminate my cancer, and it does not mean I expect any less of others while they “battle” their own cancer (yes I dislike the fight and battle metaphors, but I’ll go with the flow for now). If anyone wants me to cheer them on while they do it, I am 110% with you on that. I can and will restrain myself from pointing out the unpleasant facts in person if you wish—I’m not like The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper, incapable of stopping himself from always pointing out the check engine light to Penny. (Yes, I held my tongue when my aunt and the other cancer patient made those comments that were just mind-boggling to me—my mother’s Southern Woman manners installation at work there). That is what this blog is for—to say yes there is some extreme horribleness in cancer, and maybe the only way to beat it is to confront it, expose it for what it is, then move forward.

Just don’t ask me to spew out any banalities either, ain’t gonna happen.

Thanks for reading another one of my dumbass rants.


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.

2 thoughts on “IT’S NOT A TRADE OFF”

  1. No, cancer is not a tradeoff. When I read your post, my first thought was that some of what you’re quoting from others here may be coming from something I have heard outright from my Mom. That it’s harder for her that I’m the sick one than it would be if she were sick.

    I can understand this POV. They love us and want more than anything to fix us, but they can’t. That helplessness is terrible – I’ve felt it before when hubby had an accident and broke his back. They love us and listen as best they can, but maybe it feels more like a passive thing and doesn’t satisfy that need to Do Something.

    As patients, the Something we can Do is submit to the surgeries, show up for the chemo and radiation, take the medications, research, etc. It is (obviously) a more active path than simply loving from the sidelines.

    I will not put words in anyone’s mouth. Is it possible that those statements may come from that perspective?

    And no, even if I’m guessing right – that does Not mean that someone else won’t get it Too!


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