Cancer Is Not A Gift

Once again the season of gift giving has arrived, so what better time could there be to tackle this topic?

Some cancer survivors believe and proudly proclaim that their cancer was a gift. Without a doubt, this is entirely their prerogative. Everyone certainly has the right to his/her own cancer experience viewpoints. I am not judging anyone else here.

But as for me, I refuse to call a cancer a gift. It’s not.

During a recent visit to a friend’s home, I was shown a newspaper article featuring a woman who had “come through” her cancer journey and was calling her whole ordeal a gift. Regrettably, I copped out a bit and simply smiled, nodded, read the article and said something like, oh how nice for her.

I have since decided I will not be so quiet next time this topic comes up, and undoubtedly there will be a next time because calling cancer a gift is something that is said or alluded to more often than you might imagine.

Calling cancer a gift makes a nice feature story for a magazine or a newspaper article, but it’s not reality – at least it’s not mine.

Perhaps it’s all just semantics, but as I say over and over again, words matter. They matter a great deal.

I will never ever be calling cancer a gift. Such words will not be coming from my lips.

I think I might know what people mean when they call cancer a gift. They are grateful for their new outlook on life. They are grateful and more appreciative for every new day. They are grateful for new discoveries, new choices, new life-styles changes and for the new people they’ve met. They are grateful to be alive. They are grateful period.

I’m grateful for all that stuff too. I really am, but I am not grateful to cancer. Cancer is not the gift. The gifts are those things, those people, not the cancer.

It’s impossible for me to be grateful to a disease that killed my mother in a very slow and painful manner. It’s impossible for me to be grateful to a disease that has taken others I care about. It’s impossible for  me to be grateful to a disease that has taken so many that others care about as well. And it’s impossible for me to be grateful to a disease that might yet swallow me up as well.

It’s unfathomable for me to be grateful to cancer in any way shape or form.

No, cancer is more like a thief. You don’t thank a thief do you?

Another issue I have with this cancer is a gift line of thinking is that as I mentioned in my You Can’t Go Back Post, it often seems as if there’s an unspoken expectation to “come out of cancer” a better person. Somehow one is supposed to be miraculously transformed into a new and improved version of one’s former self. The next logical step is that one should “thank” cancer for this.

I don’t think so.

People with or without cancer are just people, no better or worse; all with flaws.

Even with the flaws, maybe even partly because of them; each life is a gift.

People are gifts. 

Cancer will never be.

What do you think?

Is cancer a gift?

Check out this post via the Cancer Culture Chronicles for her thoughts on the “gift of cancer.”

98 comments


  • Ronnie Hughes

    December 12, 2011

    Hi Nancy, I admire your ability to ‘just suck it up’ when you were a guest in someone’s house. Then come home and write a blog post about it!
    I just can’t do that. This ‘gift’ drivel sends me into immediate rage mode. Which is why I stay away from ‘alternative’ ‘Dandelion’ ethereal types, who seem the most likely to come out with it!

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Ronnie, I don’t know if that’s something to admire or not. It might have been more of a cop-out on my part. Sometimes it takes too much effort to try to change a conversation and one just isn’t up for it. I understand where you’re coming from regarding the drivel. I really do. Thanks for your comments.

  • Laura

    December 12, 2011

    I agree wholeheartedly Nancy! Cancer is NOT the gift. The people, the friendships, the relationships, the thankfulness to be alive and to see the birds sing, feel the wind blow, smell the firs in the mountains for JUST ONE MORE DAY…THOSE THINGS are the gifts. It is those things that I am so grateful for that I perhaps was not as aware of before and am now so thankful for every single day.

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Laura, You are so right. You said it perfectly. Thank you.

  • Teresa

    December 12, 2011

    My favorite response to the “gift” question is: “If you think cancer is a gift, you are not invited to my birthday party.” That’s from Shelley Lewis’s “Five Lessons I Didn’t Learn from Breast Cancer (and One Big One I Did).” I think that sums it up nicely!

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Teresa, It’s good to “see” you! I’ve missed your comments. You’re right, that response does sum things up pretty well doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing it.

  • Greg Smith MD

    December 12, 2011

    Absolutely not.
    Aunt taken by ovarian cancer early in life.
    Seven year old kid of friends battling for his life after four transplants.
    Friend down the street contemplating the use of a forty-five to shorten these last days.
    No, cancer s not a gift.
    It is an enemy that needs to be beaten.
    It is a foe that needs to be vanquished.
    Thanks for your post.
    Greg

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Greg, I’m sorry cancer has infiltrated the lives of so many you know. Sadly, you are not alone. Thanks for expressing your thoughts so clearly. I could not agree with you more.

  • Susan Beausang

    December 12, 2011

    Bravo!!!!! You said it! If cancer were a gift, someone should be retaining the sales receipts, so at least we have the option of returning it.
    Thanks for another great post that gets right to the point.
    Susan

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Susan, Yes, there would be many in line to return this gift wouldn’t there? Thanks for chiming in.

  • Cancer Survivor Cyclist

    December 12, 2011

    One of my doctors once told me the following while discussing this yopic during an appt. “If cancer has made you a better person, then you were a real @$$hole before you were diagnosed.”

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Cancer Survivor Cyclist, That’s a good one! Thanks for sharing that gem!

  • 3laine

    December 12, 2011

    Not a gift. Nothing to be grateful for. Bah humbug.

    I am grateful for my friends and family and for the strength I’ve found in myself, but I didn’t really need cancer to show me these things.

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      3laine, Well, bah humbug back!! ha. I agree, I didn’t need cancer to show me those things either. I’m grateful too, but not to cancer. Thanks for commenting.

  • Skye

    December 12, 2011

    I understand your perspective, but why the anger (rage?) at someone else’s perspective? If it’s their experience, why the strident energy against that?
    If they were “angry” because you absolutely don’t see it as a gift that has nothing to do with your truth does it?
    And I don’t see that if others say that it is pressure on me to feel that.
    Seven billion different experiences happening here on planet Earth.

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Skye, Thank you for your comments. I guess I don’t really think I was being angry or showing any rage in my post. Also, I did acknowledge everyone’s right to their own feelings and perspectives. I would never impose mine on someone else. But, since this is my blog, I am free to express my opinions. You’re absolutely right, if someone else chooses to see cancer as a gift, that is their truth and I respect it. My truth is that it is not a gift. Never has been, never will be. Thank you so much for commenting. I’m actually very interested in hearing from those who disagree with me on this, so thanks for speaking your mind.

    • Lisa Ellis

      December 19, 2013

      I don’t consider cancer a gift; What is maddening about people who call it a gift is when they tell you that you should consider it a gift. They think what is true for them is also true for you and if you don’t agree with them you are wrong. But everyone has their own point of view.

      • Nancy

        December 19, 2013

        Lisa, I know what you mean. To each their own… Thank you for commenting on this oldie.

  • Stacey

    December 12, 2011

    Nancy, I love this post and the tone it takes. It’s opinions like, “cancer is a gift,” that blinds some people to the reality of the disease. I’m not lucky to have had it, although, as you said, I’m grateful for some of the things that have come about. But, this gift needs to be stopped, it’s killing people. Enough with the sugarcoat. We can be grateful we’re still alive, but no one needs cancer for that. Ok, I’m going to stop. I’m getting annoyed now thinking about this. I know my mom and aunt didn’t think it was a gift and in those cases, cancer took from me. It didn’t give. Ok, truly stopping now! Good post.

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Stacey, Like you mentioned I, too, feel gratitude for certain things and people that have come about, but I don’t feel grateful to have had cancer. Not at all. Your word choice of “sugarcoating” seems right on the money here. It seems to me, calling cancer a gift minimizes the person, their cancer experience and their losses. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Caroline

    December 12, 2011

    With a great deal of sarcasm I call cancer the ‘gift that keeps on giving’. I also sarcastically put myself in the category of the people ‘lucky enough’ to get cancer. I cant think about it negatively or it would completely depress me.

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Caroline, Sometimes a bit of sarcasm is a good thing isn’t it? It can help one cope. Thanks for your comments, sarcasm included!

  • For a period after treatment was over I called my breast cancer a gift. I think I was so relieved it was over and that I’d survived treatment and had a good prognosis. Everything then looked fresh and clear and I was so grateful. Now, cancer’s more like getting chewing gum on your shoe. Every step you take you’re aware you stepped in gum.

    XOXOXO,
    Brenda

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Brenda, Stepping in gum, I love that analogy. Sticky and messy, that’s what cancer is alright. And I’m never grateful I stepped in it!

  • Sue

    December 12, 2011

    I’m with Teresa above (and the originator of the quote, S. Lewis) about if one thinks it’s a gift then don’t come to my party. Somehow there is this expectation for us to emerge (if we indeed do) from the cancer experience as some kind of all knowing saint. The only gift I see from it is that so far, I got to survive. But to those who did not survive and their grieving friends and families, it is so insulting to consider this a gift.

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Suzanne, I guess you, Teresa and I are on the same page. I can never figure out either – how somehow we’re supposed to “come out” as a new and improved version of our former selves. And how can it be a gift for me and yet deadly for someone else? That just doesn’t add up for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Lori Marx-Rubiner

    December 12, 2011

    OK, clearly in the minority here, but here goes…

    While I completely agree, Nancy, that words matter, I do think that some of this (at least for me) is semantics. I get the gift part completely. As you have made so clear, I believe it is crucial that we respect one another’s need to frame their experiences in their own way, and I know I anger much of the blogospehere in which we both write when I do acknowledge that I relate to the “gift” part, and I have been, shall we say challenged, by others on a number of occasions.

    I guess, for me, nothing is black and white…and it helps me to focus on the things I’ve gained. Waking up to mets every day, I don’t think I’m sticking my head in the sand or sugarcoating this experience. Nor do I think I was a bad, ungrounded, or shallow person before I was diagnosed. This is ONE way of stating that there are silver linings in even the worst of circumstances, and that I chose to embrace those rather than wallow in the fact that I am living with the disease. It is a shorthand, not for cancer itself, but for all that having cancer can open us up to.

    While you took the time to state your feelings as just that (and thank you!), some of the responses reflect the sense that there is a “right way” to experience cancer. That part I find exceedingly frustrating and I fear it alienates some who don’t as readily find their voice as you and I do.

    With love and respect,
    Lori

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Lori, I’m really glad you decided to leave a comment, especially since you do disagree with me on this one. I most certainly respect your feelings and right to “do” cancer your way. That is one thing I keep repeating over and over – everyone’s truth is theirs alone because there IS no one way to see or grapple with any of it is there? However, I do not think choosing NOT to see cancer as a gift means I, or anyone else who doesn’t, is “wallowing.” I also feel there is a sort of expectation to be transformed and come out better, which I feel minimizes the person’s experience and gives misplaced credit to cancer. Like you, I do feel that people and insights brought to me via cancer are gifts, but I will not thank cancer for them. I just cannot. I can’t thank a disease for anything that so relentlessly and harshly ravaged my mother and others I care about. Thank you for adding your views to this discussion, Lori. I appreciate “hearing” your thoughts.

  • Lori Marx-Rubiner

    December 12, 2011

    Nancy…I agree with everything in your response. And I did not intend to imply that I thought anyone was wallowing, least of all you. But as I reread the comments, the hostility is disconcerting. Most of your readers don’t own their OPINIONS about cancer…they have declared it not a gift. Period. I LOVE the debate and trust you know that, but just as so many can’t accept that I may use the shorthand of “it’s a gift” for “I am grateful for the gifts that have come to me, and which I discovered as a result of having a cancer diagnosis,” I can’t accept that we keep using language that excludes. And maybe that’s my next blog post! Anyway…thanks for “hearing!”

    Lori

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2011

      Lori, Thanks for adding to your previous comments, Lori. I guess I don’t really sense hostility here, merely strong opinions and yes a bit of sarcasm, but my blog is an avenue to vent, so I welcome that as well. I think there is a huge difference in being grateful for the gifts that come to you (people, insights, whatever) and merely calling cancer a gift. You referred to the latter as being ‘shorthand,’ for being grateful for those things brought to you as a result of diagnosis, but I’m not sure that entire message gets delivered when one hears over and over the four words ‘cancer is a gift.’ Like we both said, it’s really all semantics, but still, it’s worth a discussion. Thanks for being part of it.

  • The Accidental Amazon

    December 12, 2011

    Oh, my…I’ve blogged about this so many times myself. CSC, I entirely agree with your doc & have said much the same thing myself — that if you really believe that it took something as wretched as cancer to ‘make’ you a better person, what kind of wanker were you before?

    The danger when too many people believe or interpret this kind of language too literally is that it can invalidate & silence the rest of us & our not-so-wonderful experience. It’s hard enough to get decent follow-up care for long and late-term treatment side effects, to get approved for disability benefits, to deal with mounting bills & shrinking income, without having to prove to friends and healthcare clinicians alike that our daily reality is not a gift at all.

    It’s been a blessing to find out just how helpful my own cussed perseverance is, but I could have figured that out without cancer.

    • Nancy

      December 13, 2011

      Kathi, Once again you articulated quite well the danger that lies with using such simplistic phrases. This particular one seems to make light of the whole range of experiences, but then of course I’m also the first to say, ‘to each their own truth.’ Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Alli

    December 13, 2011

    Oh I love my gift of Cancer. I love waking up with excrutiating pain in my joints that likely will never end. And lets not forget the red bow on the box of Lymphodema…. That just makes me dizzy with anticipation trying to find something that will fit over my left arm to wear….Last but not least neuropathy in my left hand….Having lost the feeling in half my hand 3 fingers pain daily. Yes Sireee Cancer is the gift that just keeps on giving, From this endearing gift I have had nearly 3 years of constant pain…. Good thing I don’t believe in re-gifting, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy….
    I can not even fathom saying cancer was a gift I wonder the same too If it has changed you so much for the better, I can’t imagine you before..
    But that is my opinion….tainted with sarcasm…. Love Alli xx

    • Nancy

      December 13, 2011

      Alli, You are entitled to your opinions, sarcasm and all. I totally understand where you’re coming from. Thanks for sharing.

  • Beth L. Gainer

    December 13, 2011

    Hi Nancy,

    It’s clear you’ve hit a nerve here with this excellent, controversial post. And I appreciate your point of view and your acceptance of the point of view of others.

    I have mixed feelings. When I thought I was through with cancer (how naive), I saw it as a gift in that it really opened my eyes to enjoying life. However, as time progresses, I see that it’s not cancer that is a gift, but the awareness of important people in one’s life, and good quality life that maybe comes from having had/having cancer.

    My friend died cruelly from the disease; it was no gift.

    For me, I suffered and continue to do so from all kinds of side effects. I realize that this is why cancer itself is not a gift, but perhaps a catalyst that can help people realize their own blessings. Having cancer changed my perspective for the better. I left a bad marriage, have a great life with my daughter, and independence.

    However, I can’t say cancer itself is a gift, but at the same time, I can understand those who think it is. Each person has a reality that belongs to him or her.

    • Nancy

      December 13, 2011

      Beth, Yes, I was actually sort of surprised at the nerve it seemed to hit. I’m so sorry about the friend you lost. Sitting by the bedside of someone dying from this wretched disease makes the gift idea impossible for me. I know you understand about that all too well. Like you, I also see the good things that have come into my life, but I just don’t give the credit to cancer. I guess I’m a bit stubborn. I know it’s all semantics, but still… how we say things does matter. I respect each person’s views and I know you do as well. Thanks for commenting, Beth.

  • A great post, Nancy. I also find it impossible to see cancer as a gift, but am enormously thankful for the good things which have happened as a result. Now the tricky thing is, that because these good things would not have come into my life had it not been for cancer, how can I not be grateful?! It is a hypothetical and logically impossible scenario! I hate cancer. Yet I love many things which have happened directly as a result of cancer.

    I guess the key thing is that we can’t change these things. Cancer has come into our lives. Good things have come into our lives. It is a case of acceptin, living with and where relevant, appreciating these things.

    • Nancy

      December 13, 2011

      Philippa, Thank you for your well-balanced comment. I think you get my point and probably re-stated it better that I did. I don’t have a problem with saying “the good things cancer brought into my life are gifts,” but I do have a problem with merely saying, “cancer is a gift.” In my mind there is a huge difference. Using the shortened version minimizes things that shouldn’t be minimized in my opinion. Also, I don’t like the implication that we are supposed to ‘come out better,’ which I also believe comes through in the ‘cancer is a gift’ message. Cancer isn’t/wasn’t/never will be a gift in my eyes. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  • Pink Ribbon Blues

    December 13, 2011

    To me, this question about whether or not cancer is a gift reflects an overarching social theme in cancer culture, a force that sits above individual experiences and seeks to organize us, if you will. If there weren’t such pressure to take on a “positive attitude” and “transcend cancer” then people would have so much more latitude in how to get on with life in the midst of it. Since that latitude is missing in so much of the culture, we are almost forced to take sides. I think the range of responses here speaks to this. Human beings are resilient, and they suffer. This is cancer.

    Much love,
    Gayle

    • karin sa mere

      December 13, 2011

      so true and subtle,
      Gayle !!!

      • Nancy

        December 14, 2011

        Karin, I agree!

    • Nancy

      December 14, 2011

      Gayle, I hate to think there are sides to take in regard to anything cancer, but sadly that does seem to be the case in some areas/issues. The range of responses to this post and others continues to make it clear that there are many ways to experience cancer and no one should be expected to react or behave in a certain way. Everyone’s perspective and experience is uniquely theirs. We cannot be “organized” as you put it. On one thing we can all agree for sure, cancer is a wretched disease that continues to cause much suffering for too many. Thanks for your comments.

  • karin sa mere

    December 13, 2011

    wonderful sharings here.
    I sucked it dry, that cancer, and took everything out of it, strength and confidence included. Not a gift, ever, but a partner now clearly helping me getting stronger, so I find peace. Stronger will to make my way.
    No anger ether, but no thanks. It just is and I’m okay with it.

    thoughts for all ( i wish I could)

    • Nancy

      December 14, 2011

      Karin, Thanks to you for sharing as well here and adding to this discussion. I’m glad to hear you have a partner who is helping you get stronger. “It just is.” That’s actually a pretty profound statement. Have you ever had feelings of anger? I certainly have. My best to you and I hope you find that peace. Thanks again for commenting.

  • Jen

    December 13, 2011

    I have blogged about this (phrased differently) many a time. How I would take my old life back in a heartbeat, that cancer was not a life-changing, wonderul experience. I actually had someone ask, in all honesty, if all of the “good” wasn’t enough? Meaning, because ‘so much good’ happened during my experience, didn’t that make it okay that I had cancer?

    Absolutely not! NOTHING made it worth my while to go through surgery, radiation and then have a stress reaction to all of that! It is not a gift to have to see doctors every 5 years when previously I was completely healthy! I wanted to up my life insurance, now that is up in the air (how’s that a gift?).

    What about all of the bills and the financial concerns? I can’t live for the moment if we can’t pay our mortgage! I don’t understand all of this ‘bright side to cancer’. We weren’t supposed to have it, it kills some of us, it’s not a gift…end of story.

    • Nancy

      December 14, 2011

      Jen, You brought up a very important point, the financial burden cancer so often creates. No gift there that’s for sure. Cancer is a life-changing experience, but the good does not out weigh the bad, not by a long shot. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I need to check out your blog soon.

  • Karen Ingalls

    December 13, 2011

    I just finished reading your blog and the comments you have received. I do not see cancer (or any illness) as a gift, but strictly as a challenge. I had to either learn and grow from my challenge of ovarian cancer, or let it defeat me. I chose to learn and grow by being an even better person; to help others more; to truly make each day special and meaningful; and not waste my time on the shallow and negative stuff.
    A gift can be spiritual, physical or material. The most important gift is that of the spirit…who we are at our deepest level. Such gifts are to be used with loving intent. Here I am talking about kindness, generosity, fairness, and love.
    Our gifts of a physical nature are what we are physically…tall, short, pretty, homely, pigeon toed, knock-kneed, and on and on. How we take care of our physical body and live our lives with it, is what is important. The world is a more beautiful place because we look and are different. We need to appreciate our own unique traits and characteristics.
    Then there are the material gifts we associate with birthdays and Christmas. Hopefully these gifts are given in love.
    So, for me cancer is not a gift in any shape or form, but just one of many of life’s challenges.

    • Nancy

      December 14, 2011

      Karen, Thanks for finding my blog, for reading through the comments of others and for leaving your own as well. Cancer most certainly is a challenge. I agree we need to appreciate our own unique traits and characteristics, and this includes how each of us chooses to make our way through the cancer experience. Thank you for sharing your insights. I’m glad you have found and made the choices that work for you. My best.

  • Lindsay

    December 14, 2011

    This is your best post yet! Awesome debate! I have not had cancer, but I’m still going to say that I definitely do not see it as a gift.

    Cancer is not a gift. It’s not a “battle” and it’s not a “journey.” It’s cancer, and it sucks. Sure, it might make us more appreciative of life, family and so on. I’m pretty sure I’d rather be a bit less appreciative and skip the cancer part.

    • Nancy

      December 14, 2011

      Lindsay, Well thank you. It is an interesting debate isn’t it? Good point. I’d probably be just fine being slightly less appreciative but cancer free. I will never be able to call cancer a gift. From my vantage point it’s just not. Thanks for commenting.

  • ValerieMartin

    December 14, 2011

    no, cancer is not a gift any one wants and I did’t want to find it under my Christmas tree. I do appreciate birthdays and holidays now with more gusto and I am not afraid of getting old. I want to get old and live my life. I appreciate the love of my friends and family, the winter night and the cold air. and the white snow glistening like diamonds in the night glow. No no gift of cancer

    • Nancy

      December 14, 2011

      Valerie, I know what you mean about appreciating those things more and not fearing getting old. I feel the same way, but simply saying cancer is a gift, no, can’t/won’t say that. Thanks for your eloquent comment.

  • lisa adams

    December 14, 2011

    As you know, I agree with almost all of what you’ve said… I think you can live a very different life because of cancer; however, to call that shift a gift seems to minimize the agony of what may have transpired during treatment. Maybe it depends what kind of cancer, what treatment, what experience. Those are empirical questions to study.

    The one thing I differ with is in reacting to the newspaper article. I absolutely agree that there is a time/place for such discussions and that may not have been it. But if that’s true, she shouldn’t have started the conversation in her home.

    When things like that happen, I put on my best diplomatic hat and say, “thanks for sharing that piece with me. It’s completely antithetical to my own beliefs, but I’m glad you found it interesting.” I have gotten to the point in my life where I don’t keep quiet (most of the time… like you said, you made a judgment call about having a chat about it) about my disagreement. I usually say one or two sentences to let the other person know I disagree so that they see there is a variety of opinions and then move on (“I know this isn’t a good time to have a discussion, but I feel otherwise, we can talk about this another time if you like.”)

    • Nancy

      December 14, 2011

      Lisa, I also think calling cancer a gift minimizes things that shouldn’t be minimized. I like your example of how I could have responded to the hostess. I find I’m keeping quiet less and less, but there are still times when I do and this was one. Maybe when I get “further out” like you, I’ll be more adept at coming up with better responses. Learning to do this, too, is a process isn’t it? Thanks for commenting, Lisa.

  • Susan Schreyer

    December 14, 2011

    In my opinion, cancer is a call to battle. It’s a war that takes out the innocent bystanders as well as those at the front line. If you survive, you may well owe your life to people you don’t know doing things you don’t understand. You can be grateful if you live through it, and the experience may very well change your life for the better, but you’ll still be scared — and so will those who love you.

    • Nancy

      December 14, 2011

      Susan, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m not really comfortable with the “battle mantra” either, but I understand why some are and agree with what you said about it. Just like in battle one does come out scarred. That’s certainly true.

  • Carol Garlow

    December 14, 2011

    I have worked in a cancer center as a lab tech. I think that your comment that you do not think that cancer is a gift is true.
    Cancer affects every part of a human being’s existence. Dealing with the physical part of healing and remission is very taxing,to say the least, A cancer patient is not able to keep up with the norm of pre-cancer. As a result, the cancer affects one’s emotional state which then affects relationships. As people, we all go through horrific things, but the gift comes after the small victories of finding deep inside us the strength to go on. The gift of encouragement you give others by just plugging along. You bless lab techs by just saying thank you for performing your lab work. You tells us of your struggles with chemo and we pray. You give us the gift of improvement.

    • Nancy

      December 14, 2011

      Carol, It’s really nice to hear from someone like yourself who works in a cancer setting. I’m sure your job is very trying at times as you deal with everyone’s individual problems, reactions, side effects and all the rest. I guess both sides encourage in their own ways then don’t they? Like you said, that is a gift. The cancer is not. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Mary

    December 15, 2011

    From a religious/spiritual standpoint, it is standard to look for the good that comes from evil. If one didn’t do this, then how could one believe in a God/higher power who allows crap to happen? But cancer will always be a horrible disease no matter how many pink ribbons you tie around it. This “gift” is a box of crap. I do respect the fact that we are all “wired” differently. Some can just be more accepting or peaceful about having cancer. I’m not. I’m one of the angry ones. Just how I feel. Don’t foresee that changing. I told my husband that I don’t love him any more now than before my Dx…I already loved him with all my heart!

    • Nancy

      December 15, 2011

      Mary, Yes, we are all wired differently and that’s exactly why we should all be allowed to find our own path regarding how we cope. I don’t particularly care for the way there seems to sometimes be a “proper way” to do cancer and a “proper way” to be transformed. I don’t want my “cancer path” defined for me. Thanks for adding to this discussion, Mary. Hope you’re doing well.

  • Coco

    December 17, 2011

    Enjoyed the article and want to share with you all my response when this “cancer is a gift” banality that some people pass of these days as an actual conversation

    ” So you consider cancer a gift do you. Well I believe in re-gifting – you know – passing on to others gifts I’ve gotten but don’t want – can I put you down as the #1 person to regift my cancer to then?”
    Always followed by stunned silence and then a profusions of “I didn’t really mean it” to which I respond “then why did you say it?” Just turn it back on them and anyone with any sensitivity at all gets a glimpse of the horror at what they have just said.

    • Nancy

      December 17, 2011

      Coco, I’m glad you enjoyed the article and thank you for taking time to comment on it. I think you have a pretty good come back there. I don’t think people mean to be insensitive and it is hard to know what to say sometimes. But cancer a gift? I don’t think so.

  • Betty

    December 18, 2011

    Loved the pictures. Interesting discussion. I agree with Lindsay. No, cancer is no gift. I still have pains and I’m a 12 year survivor. Pain is never a gift.

    • Nancy

      December 18, 2011

      Betty, I agree with you completely. Pain of any kind, be it physical or emotional, is no gift. Thanks for commenting.

  • Patti

    December 23, 2011

    The comment that always bothered me the most was when people told me how “brave” I was.

    I wasn’t given a choice about my cancer — you can’t be brave without a choice. I did the best I could, that’s all.

    A few people have hinted about the gift part, and wondered what sort of wisdom I have gained. I had to explain last night for a long time to a fellow guest at a Christmas party that I learned nothing, just that death is there. She thought that was wonderful. I have to learn how to phrase things better, I guess.

    • Nancy

      December 23, 2011

      Patti, I know what you mean about the “brave” thing. You’re so right, to be brave you sort of need a choice. Cancer doesn’t give you choice much of the time. Sometimes it’s really hard trying to express our true feelings isn’t it? I’m working on the proper phrasing of stuff too!! Thanks so much for commenting.

  • Caroline

    December 24, 2011

    I call cancer the ‘gift that keeps on giving’. It has royally screwed up my health for the past 30 years. I don’t even know how to be a healthy cancer free adult as I never have been one. Anyone who calls cancer a gift is a blooming idiot who needed a big kick in the you know what to get their life in gear because they never realized what they had in the first place.

    • Nancy

      December 24, 2011

      Caroline, I’m sorry your health has been impacted so greatly for so long by cancer. Everyone has a right to how they want to view their cancer experience. Your feelings are very understandable! Like you, I will never call cancer a gift. Never. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Robin

    December 26, 2011

    Oh, I enjoyed this post! And I enjoyed the commenter who referred to the “gift drivel.”

    (Just found your blog.)

    What I finally came to understand this past year (in the fourth year since my son’s death and in my own year of cancer)is that when people spout this nonsense (“I learned so much, I wouldn’t trade it, blah blah blah”), the implication seems to be that there has been some sort of even exchange, when there has not been any such thing. Of COURSE I have learned things, and even become more patient and loving – sometimes. But I have also become more terse and impatient at other times, and I would gladly unlearn it all.

    • Nancy

      December 26, 2011

      Robin, I’m glad you enjoyed this post. It’s generated quite a discussion and thank you for adding to it. I’m sorry about your son’s death and also about your cancer. I agree with you. Of course we do learn from all things we experience, including cancer, but that doesn’t make it a gift does it? Thanks for finding my blog, reading and leaving a comment. Hope to see you back!

  • Sara B

    January 29, 2012

    I am a religious and spiritual person, and I always try to see the good. GIFT?? Oh baby!! It’s a good thing no one has tried to feed me that one. The very IDEA nauseates me. The concept angers me.

    I am continually trying to accept this new aspect of my journey. GIFT? As if I had the option of saying, “No thanks…I’d rather mot.”

    If this has been a gift, I want to return it…I’d rather have the cash. INSANITY! Is there really anyone who is grateful for cancer? Yes, I’ve learned things and met great people, but I’m not saying, “Cancer…YAY me!”

    • Nancy

      January 29, 2012

      Sarah, Well, I guess you agree with me then about the cancer/gift thing! Thanks for weighing in.

  • Mike N

    January 30, 2012

    First time visiting, and unfortunately I found this post and comments. I can’t believe the slew of negativity here. It makes me sad.

    It’s a gift if you choose to see it as such. Me, yes, I see the experience as a gift, a unique opportunity to learn things about myself. Many days I’m really having to reach deep to pull up the optimism, but I will continue to do so.

    What’s the alternative? To rage against it, and as I see in many comments here to rage against people like me who choose to put the best possible spin on very ugly circumstances.

    Instead I choose to take everything I can from the experience, to grow from it, yes to become a better person (and no I wasn’t an @$$hole before as one commenter states). Cancer absolutely sucks, but if you dwell on that it doesn’t help. Not one little tiny bit. If you embrace it and take it as a gift, then you can get something positive out of it.

    That’s what I’m doing. I find many of the comments here offensive, folks that would speak bad of me for holding a positive attitude. Does this help you feel better?

    • Nancy

      January 30, 2012

      Mike, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I welcome disagreement and differing view points. If you take time to read my other posts, you will learn I never judge others for how they choose to cope with cancer. Likewise, I do not judge you and your choices. I believe every person has the right to tell their own truth about their journey. No one (or at least I’m not), is speaking badly of you. Through my blog, I attempt to tell my truth. You and I do not agree on how we view our journeys and that’s fine. I’m sorry you find many comments here offensive. Another function of my blog is for it to be a forum for others to share and vent a bit. I welcome that. Perhaps some do get a bit carried away at times, but I understand that. As for me, I stand by my words and I will never call cancer a gift. I am learning as I go along. I have made wonderful friends, but those things are the gifts, not cancer. In my mind there is a huge difference. Thanks again for commenting.

  • mimi

    February 12, 2012

    Hi Nancy. Great question. I’m coming in late and catching up. i just wrote a blog about breast cancer being liberating and felt like an idiot after reading your and Rachel’s posts which made me double back to make sure i did not use the word “gift”. I did not and would not. “Grateful” – for the second chance and that i’m still here – that i can relate to. My diagnosis (and my oldest best friend) was the kick i needed to pull the stops out and do what i needed to do in life to really live. Take good care, my friend.

    • Nancy

      February 12, 2012

      Mimi, Thanks for commenting on this topic. I would never begin to tell you how to describe your cancer experience, so don’t worry. I certainly feel gratitude for being here and for the people I’ve met, but cancer isn’t the gift in my opinion. I will check out your post soon. You take care too!

  • AngelLinda Landowski

    June 21, 2012

    Living and feeling like you were tortured and left to die after treatments is no Good “new”. I’m sorry for all that lost their their loved ones. I lost Loved ones too. Including my Mother whom I was stolen from.. Not a Gift at all. In no way.. I wish for “any” Quality of Life after Cancer without recurrence. Cancer prevention & a Cancer Cure so No one has to go through this gift, not.

    • Nancy

      June 22, 2012

      Angela, I agree. Cancer is no gift. It just isn’t.

  • Tracy

    October 1, 2012

    I have just finished what is referred to as the “active” cancer treatment–surgery, chemo, radiation or slice, poison and burn, I, too do not view my cancer as a gift.
    As a recovering addict with long-term sobriety, I have come to view my disease of addiction as something I am grateful for because of the emotional and spiritual growth I may not have otherwise gained.
    I am not so gracious in attitude and emotion about cancer, at least not yet and maybe, I never will.
    Today, I can live with that.

  • usha

    December 12, 2012

    Hi Nancy,
    I agree with you . Cancer Can never be a gift. My Mom always said gift was more about giving than taking. Then How can cancer be a gift that took my mom’s life away leaving back 2 young kids and left my family incomplete for so long. How can cancer be a gift if it has taken away my father and brother’s peace of mind once again with my cancer.not to mention my husband and son’s life turned upside down. And as Ali says if all cancer can “give” is pain and suffering, then No thanks, I can do without that gift. And I definitely wont want to “gift it ” to anyone.
    yes, cancer may have made some of us appreciate life better and not take it for granted, but “never a gift tied up in pretty pink ribbons”
    Have I come on too strong? I guess some words just trigger things deeply.

    • Nancy

      December 12, 2012

      Usha, No, you have not come on too strong! Your comment is perfectly stated. Thank you!

  • Lauren

    November 23, 2013

    Nancy I couldn’t agree with you more and you expressed it well. If I hear somebody, anybody use the words “cancer is a gift” one more time , I’m going to turn away and run screaming from the room (in my head at least) I wish people could express all that many here have described so well as survivors, without using that word. To many of us, that word is just offensive when juxtaposed with the word cancer. I survived cancer, my mother did not and it took her too fast, and too young. We are not bitter and angry just because we don’t like to use the word “gift”. It just rankles and offends our sensibilities.

    • Nancy

      November 25, 2013

      Lauren, You said it better than I did… Thank you!

  • Helensamia

    December 19, 2013

    A gift is something that gives you joy, given by someone who cares for you!!, how does that fit with cancer.. This gift destroyed my Lymphatic system from the waist down and now it appears that the long term effects of radiation are destroying the nervous system in my legs… I have now been diagnosed 12 years later with Lumbar Plexopathy… A rare side effect or pelvic radiation… So rare they do not bother to tell you it can happen!!! So for me this is NEVER a gift.. Cancer takes away your quality of life no matter how you try to make it different.. If it is not a reoccurrence of the cancer it is the side effects of treatment… All I can say is “Return to sender”

    • Nancy

      December 20, 2013

      Helen, I know, right? I’m sorry about your newly diagnosed issue… it’s a lot to try to deal with on top of what you are already handling. Cancer is so not a gift in my book. Thanks for sharing. Good luck with things ongoing.

  • Elizabeth J.

    December 20, 2013

    During cancer, I have received many gifts, but they come from the love and caring of the people in my life, not from cancer.
    Cancer is no gift. The Bible says “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” It does not condemn those who weep. Neither should we judge or minimize the our own or others’ sufferings. And cancer is suffering!
    I can come to a place where I accept the fact of cancer in my life as something I cannot change. I can then move on from there to restore joy in my life, joy from family, friends, beauty, books, music, joy that comes from gratitude for life itself…..but cancer gives no joy, it is not a gift. It steals health. It steals years of life. It stole my grandmother’s life. Cancer is an evil, not a gift.

    • Nancy

      December 20, 2013

      Elizabeth, I agree completely. Cancer is more like a thief. It takes and takes… Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Amanda Hayler

    December 20, 2013

    It is not a gift….simple as that…who would want cancer as a gift. I had primary breast cancer 10 years ago, my dad died of lung cancer 6 years ago, I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer two years ago, and my uncle was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last January. Yeah we love cancer gifts in my family!

    • Nancy

      December 20, 2013

      Amanda, I’m sorry about all the cancer in your family. Yeah, a gift it is not. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Tiago

    May 19, 2014

    If believing cancer is a gift helps some people cope, more power to them, but I certainly can’t see it that way. This effing thing isn’t a gift it’s a disgrace, a curse, a tragedy.

    That said, I am at least trying to see it as an opportunity. Everything that happened (I’m not the cancer patient btw, I’m the helpless husband) turned our lives upside down, and made me realize several things that were holding our lives back but were ignored or unnoticed, things that can be changed and improved. It also brought a whole new meaning to that “live everyday like it’s your last” cliché” that’s cliché for a reason, but few people really practice it.

    So I am hoping to use this disaster and my new perception of things to make as many positive changes as I can, not because cancer is a gift (the very thought annoys me a little), but in a “make the most out of a bad situation”way.

  • Margaret

    June 27, 2014

    Thank you for your perspective, Nancy. I am a person who sees my own cancer situation as a gift. I am careful about who I say that to because I know that it has the power to enrage some survivors but it’s how I feel.
    I wasn’t an asshole before cancer and I had a decent enough life. But my cancer diagnosis (and the treatment that followed) was like a huge magic eraser for me – all the self-doubt, the feelings of “not being good enough”, the living a mediocre life – that all just fell away. When I finished with my chemo and radiation I felt like I’d been given the gift of a new perspective and I’ve made major changes in my life to reflect that. Those things wouldn’t have happened if not for my cancer experience.
    I know that my story is part of the cultural expectation and typical of what people expect from a cancer survivor. And I certainly don’t begrudge people who don’t feel as though cancer was a gift to them. But for me it really was. I find it strange myself when I reflect on my time in cancer treatment and how it was not only the worst time in my life but also the best. Cancer showed me how much I was loved and cared for by the people in my life. It showed me how tough I could be. It exposed me and it healed me. I’m a young woman, in my 30′s and cancer did take things away from me – my fertility for one. That’s a loss and I feel it everyday. So, I relate to those people who feel that there is nothing good about the cancer experience. It’s just not my experience. It’s important though that people who don’t have my experience have a place to share how they feel without judgment. No one who has been through what we have should feel like they have to meet someone’s definition of a “good cancer patient”. There is no right way to have cancer.

    • Nancy

      June 27, 2014

      Margaret, I appreciate your perspective. I don’t think anyone has every said nothing good comes from the cancer experience. I have had some good things happen, but in my mind that is far different than calling cancer a gift. I cannot do that. The losses are too great. The pain is too intense. The hurts are too deep. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • Nancy

    December 17, 2011

    JBBC, Thanks for sharing my post in your round-up, Marie. I really appreciate it.

  • Maggie McDee

    July 18, 2012

    Hi,
    I just found your blog a couple of days ago and am trying to read through as much as I can. This topic is interesting because two people whom I greatly respected told me that my cancer was a gift 15 years ago. I think it was a new concept then. My initial reaction was, “are you nuts? how could you possibly think that?” Like Mike, I have come to believe that the two greatest gifts of my life were my abusive mother and my cancer, neither of which fostered happy, warm and loving feelings with me. I think cancer was the kick in the ass that I needed to wake up and take a close look at how I was living my life and to make some major changes – especially changes in my THINKING. Nothing short of a life-threatening disease would have inspired me to do this much soul-searching and make such significant changes in my life. I can see that my opinion is in the minority here, but I will not take that personally. I am a much more loving and more spiritually aware (not religious) person than I was 15 years ago. My physical body has endured 3 types of chemo (starting no. 4 next week), 4 rounds of radiation, mastectomy, open lung surgery and tons of FEAR. I am choosing to minimize the fear in my life as I am focusing a lot of time and attention on HEALING my emotional, mental and spiritual parts – which I believe are far more important than my physical parts – and which have a much greater impact on my enjoyment of this precious gift of life. Yes, treatments and side effects can be extremely unpleasant, but I believe that if I did not see cancer as an action-inspiring gift in my life, I would probably have died long ago as I have outlived my prognosis – by about 7 years now.

    I feel confident that, when my death occurs, I will go in peace in the knowing that I did all I could to heal myself and help others to do the same. I would also ‘turn over in my grave’ if I heard anyone say I “lost my battle” with cancer. That would be like calling me a loser. I would much rather hear that I used it to grow and become the person I was meant to be and that I died in peace. My life would be on a very different track right now if I did not have this experience. I have no wish to argue as to the rightness or wrongness of my choice to this opinion. I’m just saying that it is possible to have this point of view and it is what feels right to me – for me.

    Nancy, I really appreciate your non-judgmental attitude and will be reading more and more of this blog, while I’m writing my own. I am now writing about the core beliefs I discovered that were causing me all sorts of challenges in life , how I discovered them and how I’m changing them. I was very amazed at how long I’d lived inside of this body with my own thought without realizing what my core beliefs were/are. They can be buried so deeply, yet they heavily influence every thought and decision of my life. Awareness of them has empowered me to consciously change how I think, react and feel. and I like it.

    Here’s my blog http://maggiemcdeeslife.blogspot.com/

    Is there a way I can request emails whenever there’s a new comment here? thank you. peace,
    maggie mcdee

  • Maggie McDee

    July 18, 2012

    OOOPS!!! I am sorry, Mike, I said that wrong. I meant that like Mike, my opinion is in the minority. maggie

  • Nancy

    July 18, 2012

    Maggie, I really appreciate hearing your viewpoint on this topic too. You and I aren’t on the same page on this one, but I certainly respect your right to see things your way. I guess we do agree on the “battle” analogy though don’t we? Right now I don’t have a way to request emails about new comments. Sorry. Hopefully you’ll keep checking back. Thanks much for sharing. Good luck blogging!

  • Nancy

    July 18, 2012

    Maggie, All opinions are welcome!

Leave a comment


Name

Email(will not be published)

Website

Your comment