Hamster Wheel

I think a lot about the risks and statistics regarding cancer. I think a lot about past post topics, like how folks in the kingdom of the well just want people who have/had cancer to move on already, just “get over” all the cancer. I don’t think about these things on purpose, they just pop up, unwanted. This post is about how these seemingly unrelated ideas mesh.

For those of us lucky enough to be former cancer patients, as in NOT Stage 4, our lives become about reducing risk of recurrence—diet, exercise, eliminating bad habits, taking up yoga/meditation/acupuncture (if you can afford the organic foods and things like acupuncture). Do all these right things and maybe cancer won’t come back. Then again, maybe it will.

What no one ever seems to mention (at least as far as I can tell) is another percentage or increased risk. The more former/current cancer patients in my social circle (in addition to or in place of those untouched by cancer? I don’t know) the more chances are I will hear bad news more often.  It is just the way the odds are.

Sometimes with the various blogs I read or the few folks I interact with on the interwebs, plus those IRL, it means I hear more bad news than average, meaning more sadness.

Make no mistake, my sadness is NOTHING compared to what is felt by those whose news I’m hearing.

All I’m referring to here is the fact that by hanging out in Cancerland even while I have no evidence of disease, I am still wallowing in cancer, quite the opposite of “getting over cancer” which so many of those untouched by cancer wish I would do: “get over cancer”—snort of derision.

Being in Cancerland is like getting on a hamster wheel I cannot seem to escape. Every time I turn around, someone else is getting bad news, because that is the increased risk that comes with knowing cancer patients. Maybe in 7 years I can exit the wheel—after I get through my next 2 years of bi-annual onco visits, after the following 5 of annual visits, and hopefully after that I never see him or another oncologist again. And after I stop interacting online with other cancer patients. But right now I run on that wheel like a furry critter, chased by cancer, Cancer, CANCER. Whereas before October 2010, cancer was hardly a blip in my consciousness.

I don’t know what to make of my increased risk of hearing bad news, either for myself or for others. In a conversation with Tumblr buddy Greg, he pointed out we have to celebrate the rare bits of good news, because they are indeed so rare in Cancerland. Most of the news for me has been good, but I find myself thinking often of those who keep getting hit with the bad news.

I’ve often pointed out on my blog that I am not sentimental, that I do sarcasm far better than true emotion. It is difficult for me to express words of encouragement or support or any of the other things those in pain need to hear. I think I never come off sincere, even when I am at my most sincere. So I tend not comment to others these messages, because I find words so inadequate at those most awful times. But I am heartbroken for all the sadness I hear about, I want the reason for the sadness to just STOP already. It really is that simple.

So to those reading who are Stage 4, and/or who’ve had recurrence, take this post as my message of support.

And I’m not stepping off the wheel today. I’ll keep my risk for increased chance of sadness high for now.

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.

13 thoughts on “Hamster Wheel”

  1. Everybody swings a bat differently why would dealing with cancer be an exception. What makes life cool is we are not all the same. otherwise it would be boring because we’d already know what to expect. You are who you are, unique and special in your own way.


  2. On my THYCA website I just compared myself to a guinea pig, as I have an aggressive form of thyroid cancer called Tall Cell Variant, and the doctors are so far apart in how to deal with it that I said I felt like a guinea pig – being both the researched and the one doing the research – what is it with our little furry friends!!! I hear what you are saying, however I see it almost in a different perspective…Since my diagnosis/surgery, I do seem to hear more about others having cancer in various stages…(I am stage 3 Thyroid, basically stage 0 or so they say, with my DCIS 9 years ago). When I hear it, I can empathize with them because I realize that none of us really have anyone to talk to about it, and that’s why your site and the THYCA site are so good, because we can talk about intense things, yes, mostly bad, we can vent and scream and yell and rant and rave and remain anonymous – which is very good, but also has it’s downside. The good is, it gets it out. The downside is that we might not share with those around us. As my year approached last week, I was also getting a 3D mammo for the first time since my THYCA surgery and I didn’t realize how scared I was til I got the “letter” in the mail telling me everything was OK (deep sigh of relief and laughter) because I’ve read that DCIS and Thyca appears to be linked somehow..Anyway, I find people open up to me more…I’ve always enjoyed hearing people’s stories…I’m the person who will know a woman’s whole life story while waiting on line for the bathroom at a concert!!! Or the one who will know labor time, natural or C-section, sex, weight, length, name, hair color, eye color and my husband will just say, yes, they had a baby!! Or the operator on teh phone who I talked to for over an hour about the problems she was having with her teens. I’m the one who can get people to talk – about their fears, about their hopes, about their problems. Sometimes I think it’s easier with anonymous people or people who are not your friends but rather acquaintances. However, I like to think I leave people who talk to me about their issues, a little better off, a little more educated (that is the biggest surprise how people don’t know that they need to keep track of all their tests, etc!) As much as I “hear”, I am also the one who no one likes to listen to….


    1. Goodness it is true what you say about sharing…certainly many share their stories here on my blog and on others, it is lovely to read. But I get some strange sharing in other aspects of my life as well. As a pet sitter I spend lots of time walking dogs and chit chatting various people, all over the place, and people do share quite a bit with someone walking a lovable dog. Those crazy stories are for another day and another outlet I’ll create. Some things have crossed over (see my post Slurp!)


      1. Pet sitters who do it for a living are a different group of people – more empathetic, more compassionate and more loving – that’s why animals love them. If my dog doesn’t like you, there’s a reason for it! HAHAA! (That’s a “you” in general, not you as you)


  3. Excellent post! OMG I have SO many posts on my blog where I promise to “get over cancer” just to try to explain that it just doesn’t work like that. Some people understand, some don’t. xx


    1. I am starting to think that urging by others to get over cancer is because of the things I listed in this post–just simple not knowing so many people with cancer the way people who have or had cancer do.


  4. I SO relate to this post! I am 2.5 years out, and BC is still very much a part of my life. I have a small group of friends who met on BCO (all diagnosed at the same time) and we started a private FB page and we chat daily. Well, up until about 6 months ago. Slowly, as everyone finished treatment and recon, they slipped back into their lives. It’s the only way they are able to NOT think about cancer. I am the opposite. I’m an information person. I need to know stuff. I still blog, and will continue to do so (though I hit a wall a few months after my BCO group started to crumble). I think I stay involved in the cancer world for 2 main reasons: 1) If I stay up-to-date on everything, I feel I have more control over spotting anything troubling down the road, and 2) I’ve found my advocacy voice, and getting real about breast cancer (and all cancers) is something more of us need to do. So by continuing to immerse myself I don’t get to “forget” about cancer. But that’s a conscious choice I’m making. Crazy to some. Just my thing. 😉


    1. While it is tempting to slip back into life pre-cancer, I’m simply too aware of it for that to be possible. I too prefer to keep informed about cancer/health issues–although I grapple with the concept of control in cancer–I’m sure that will be a future post.
      I’m glad you could relate to this post–I know you are pretty active in the cancer social media realm and I’ve often considered the frequency bad news of recurrence pops up in that realm, and wondered how others felt about that.
      You are right, finding your advocacy voice and urging more of us to get real about cancer is much needed.


  5. Thought-provoking post here. For me, putting cancer behind me isn’t possible. It’s just not. Like you said, we’re just too aware. Cancer is part of my past since I went through it with my mom, lived and live in the aftermath (which does not allow me to forget it anyway) and it looms over my kids’ future since I am BRCA2+. Unfortunately, cancer is literally in my DNA. Blogging is my outlet. Advocating, communicating and yes commiserating with others who get it is my therapy. It’s my safe place. I’m so glad you are part of it all. Well, I’m not glad you’ve had a cancer diagnosis, but you know what I mean. And yes, we do hear more than our share of sad news here in Cancerland, but since I reside here, it comes with the territory and I want to be here for all those others who “reside” here as well, especially those who are stage IV. Thanks for the terrific post.


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