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Cancer Is the Scourge, Not You!

When I was watching Part 1 of the PBS documentary, Cancer:  The Emperor of All Maladies, I heard a statement in the opening segment with a certain word in it that immediately hurled me back to when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Guess the title of this post is a giveaway as to what that word was. But you might be wondering why I had such a strong reaction to it.  

In a weird twist, a magazine article with the title, “Cancer, Mankind’s Greatest Scourge,” or something along those lines, ended up in my hands at the time of my diagnosis.

I remember staring at those words and feeling the weight of them, or rather the weight of that one word, scourge.

Well, of course, cancer is an equally weighty word and putting the two words together was like a double whammy. I remember feeling sad I was now associated with two such despicable words.

It’s funny how I had forgotten about that strong reaction until I watched the documentary.

So what is a scourge anyway?

The dictionary calls it something that causes terrible trouble, pain or suffering.

Yeah, cancer is a scourge; that fits.

No one wants to be associated with a scourge. No one wants to be the cause or reason for someone else’s suffering. No one wants to be a scourge. And certainly no one wishes to have a scourge growing in her own body.

Yes, the word scourge is a heavy, thorny word that conjures up images of pain, unpleasantness, disgust, death and shame.

Cancer patients have felt shame and been shunned for centuries. There can still be feelings of shame, and yes, shunning still happens even today.

In Part 2 of the documentary, there were many more profound statements/questions made and asked.

The following ones stuck out for me:

Cancer is a disease that does not strike from the outside, but consumes from within.

Nothing is more horrifying or primitively terrifying than us killing ourselves.

How do you make peace in your mind with what is going on in your body?

Pretty unpleasant sounding, right?

Why am I writing about these things?

Because May is Mental Health Month, and it’s important to separate yourself from your cancer or whatever disease or condition you have.

Sometimes, a patient needs to remind herself (or at least this one does) that she is not the scourge. Cancer is.

You are not defined by your cancer. Sure, it’s part of your definition, but define you?


Sometimes, a patient needs to remind herself (again, at least this one does) that there is no shame in having a disease like cancer (or any other).

Never blame yourself for getting cancer.

Getting cancer was not my fault.

And it’s not your fault either.

Cancer is the scourge, not you.

Have you ever felt shame regarding your cancer?

Have you ever felt, or has anyone every implied, that getting cancer was your fault?

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Cancer is the scourge, not you. #cancer #mentalhealth #breastcancer #selfcare

 Image via May is Mental Health Awareness Facebook Community

Meredith Clark

Wednesday 12th of May 2021

Your use of the word "shunned" nails it. It is a startling, more honest description of what many of us have experienced, more real than "forgotten" or "ignored". I will use that word from now on to describe the hurt.


Wednesday 19th of May 2021

Meredith, There are degrees of shunning, and I suppose it's all semantics, but shunning does still happen. Sadly. Thank you for sharing your reaction to my post.

Kristie L Konsoer

Wednesday 12th of May 2021

This is hitting hard today. Making peace with what's happening inside just doesn't seem like an option. I want it OUT!


Wednesday 19th of May 2021

Kristie, I hear you. Boy, do I. x

Kat lau

Wednesday 8th of May 2019

Read your post. I am trying to rid myself of anxiety and depression almost 3 years from treatment. Last night i dreamt about holding my son and putting him in the bed nextbtobme, but he was all grown up and i woke up to pat him i remembered he was grown up. Doctor is increasing my medications. He thinks that taking more will help. God help me. I really need God help now. I feel i am being punished. What to live but keep thinking abou dying.


Thursday 9th of May 2019

Kat, You are not being punished. I hope the increase in your medications helps. Hang in there. Keep communicating with your doctor and others who care about you.

Linda C. Boberg

Wednesday 8th of May 2019

How do you make peace in your mind with what is going on in your body? What a great question! I'm a member of NAMI - National Alliance on Mental Illness and I teach caregivers of the mentally ill, of which I am one. I'm pretty strong, but this recent bout with cancer mets made me realize that I need help, too. T

he psychologist is wonderful and asked me what it is I want. I want some peace, I want my (usually) positive attitude back. And although I know I'll slip into unhappiness and despair, I want PEACE.


Thursday 9th of May 2019

Linda, Yes, making peace in your mind when your body is dealing with a metastatic diagnosis has to be so hard. Of course, you need help too. Who wouldn't? I'm glad you have a wonderful psychologist. And I didn't know you taught caregivers of the mentally ill. What an important job you have. Hoping you find that peace. Thank you for sharing. x


Friday 19th of June 2015

its and painful and deadly decease

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