Skip to Content

Post-Cancer Diagnosis, Where Is My Epiphany?

Have you ever wondered what great lesson(s) you’re supposed to have learned from cancer?

I have.

After all, this is another cancer expectation that’s out there and continuously perpetuated. We’re supposed to learn from, and therefore, potentially be grateful for the life “detour” that is cancer, are we not? (Umm. No!)

We are supposed to be transformed into a new and improved version of our former selves, right? (Not necessarily.)

I often read articles about cancer survivors proclaiming to be transformed, enlightened, improved upon, bettered, or whatever. It seems many have experienced some sort of epiphany. I’m happy for those individuals. I mean that. That is not sarcasm. But it just hasn’t worked out that way for me.

What about for you?

Sometimes, I wonder if perhaps I’m a slow learner or something. Sometimes, I wonder if someone forgot to give me my copy of the, “how to properly do and learn from cancer,” handbook. (That is sarcasm.)

After five years, actually after ten years if I count my mother’s cancer experience, I sometimes feel I should be enlightened about many things by now. About what I have no idea. I wish I did. I really want to know…

Where and what are my cancer lessons? 

And what is an epiphany anyway?

In this context, it’s generally defined as a revelation, a sudden manifestation, or realization about the meaning of something; an illuminating discovery.

Well, that has not happened for me.

Sure, I have picked up some nuggets of wisdom during the past five years, but a lot, maybe even most of the stuff I have learned from and about cancer, is totally shitty stuff.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post with that exact title – “10 Shitty Things Cancer Has Taught Me” – or something like that. (What do ya think?)

There are way more than ten things too. But I probably shouldn’t publish such a post if I should end up writing it. Maybe I shouldn’t have even published this one. Because you know, the Positivity Police are always out there lurking.

Update:  Here’s that post I mentioned above, 15 Shitty Things Cancer Has Taught Me. I finally got around to writing it, and it’s actually one of my personal favorites. Maybe you’ll appreciate it. Or not. You decide.

Okay, so I’m being rather sarcastic in this post and cynical and maybe even a little grumpy.

So what?

Sometimes, I get weary of all the cancer expectations and cancer language nonsense out there, much of which makes no sense to me. And okay, sometimes I get cranky too. (Again, so what?)

I sure would like to know…

Where the heck is my epiphany?

Have you had yours?

Following your cancer diagnosis, do you sometimes feel pressured to learn ‘great life lessons’?

Do you feel you are a better person post diagnosis?

What’s something, good or bad, you have learned as a direct result of your (or your loved one’s) cancer diagnosis?

Don’t forget to sign up for the latest emails/newsletters from Nancy’s Point right here.

Post Cancer Diagnosis, Where Is My Epiphany? #breastcancer #cancersurvivorship #advocacy

Christina Jue

Wednesday 26th of January 2022

I've been thinking about this one. Ever since I got diagnosed with mbc, people are to some extent expecting me to be have gained wisdom and serenity. I think cancer granting people serenity and wisdom is a nice narrative for movies, but not so much for real life. What was on my mind this morning was "how much money do I need to never do dishes or laundry again", not "what lessons have I learned from my proximity to death".

Not that I can't be wise and serene, but being diagnosed with cancer didn't grant me these blessings. Or, if I'm to be honest, any blessings.


Thursday 27th of January 2022

Christina, Well said. Thank you.


Thursday 2nd of September 2021

I really resonate with this post. I survived bowel cancer and I certainly didn't have epiphany. While I managed to get rid of the cancer, I've had pulmonary embolisms, considerable weight gain, hernias popping out like a whack-a-mole.

I still have my life, my family, and my job. But my net position is possibly worse. The media is always pushing feel-good stories about people who made life-changing decisions. I wonder how many just take the bump and keep going.


Wednesday 8th of September 2021

Rob, Sounds like you have been dealing with a lot. I am weary of the feel-good stories, epiphanies and the like. Reality is quite different for many, maybe most, of us. Hope you are doing well these days. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this one.


Tuesday 12th of May 2020

I've thought about epiphanies in life alot lately. I believe I'm the same person I was before. I remember how trivial things like losing my hair during chemo the first time was such a big deal. Two of my 5 kids were graduating from high school and university. Having hair at those occasions was essential to me. My long hair was part of me. I did have it cut shorter for those 2 occasions. In almost ritual fashion I decided to shave my head one day as it actually physically hurt. I pretended to be long to a group of Hare Krishnas. I sang "hair is gonna, hair is gonna" in front of a mirror. How liberating this was. I know I have not changed to any great degree since then. I now have 7 grandchildren and another on the way. I was diagnosed stage 4 several years ago. I don't even count anymore. This diagnosis was as shocking as the one 12 years earlier. I will be and have been on some sort of treatment for the rest of my life. It's a fact. I was blunt before. I was realistic before. I may be a little more mindful of the feelings of others. At least I try. No epiphanies here either. Just life, how ever long it may or may not be. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy most of my life. I hate treatment. But it's only a part of my life.


Wednesday 13th of May 2020

Shelley, I appreciate you sharing your insights on epiphanies. Sometimes it seems like I'm the only one who's not had one post diagnosis, so it's always good to hear that's not the case. Enjoy those grandchildren and the new little one coming soon. How exciting! Thank you for sharing.


Saturday 18th of January 2020

This is where I’m at. And it’s so refreshing to hear someone else feels the same way. I have cervical cancer and am 5 days post op, that I’ve described as being “scooped out like a pumpkin”. (And given much side-eye at my description). Everyone swears this is my new lease on life, that I’ll see everything differently, I’ll be happier! But so far, all I’ve done gotten more comfortable with death, and have an insane amount of guilt that my daughter may have to go through this too. I don’t feel like a warrior, or a survivor. I just feel heartbroken, and I’m terrified that I’ve lost my sexuality. Maybe in time, that will change. But it’s hard when everyone expects you to have that epiphany! It really feels like it negates the hardship. (Ah, this was way more negative than I intended it to be!! But this seems like a safe space) I’m really hoping to find acceptance and support in other women, as time goes on. Seriously, thanks for sharing. And I really did enjoy your other post you mentioned. ❤️


Monday 20th of January 2020

Erin, Thank you for your candid words, which btw, are not negative at all. This IS hard. And those expectations do not make things easier. Your surgery was very recent and you have a lot to process. Take your time. Be gentle with yourself. Don't be afraid to tell someone their comment isn't helping or to tell them what you really need. I wasn't able to do that early on. This definitely is a safe place, and I'm glad you felt comfortable sharing here. Wishing you all my best. Btw, still waiting for that epiphany...

Carolyn Thomas (@HeartSisters)

Saturday 18th of January 2020

Thank you for this, Nancy. Almost every essay you write for cancer patients can be so applicable to the heart patients I write for, or to anybody who has faced any type of serious, life-threatening diagnosis.

The notion that this diagnosis (no matter what body part it's affecting) is somehow a GIFT - after which we can now "live life to the fullest" - is a very unfortunate platitude offered by the well-meaning when they don't want to say the truth, which is almost always more like: "I'm so sorry - what is happening to you really SUCKS!" Dismissing the awfulness and terror a person is going through is neither kind nor inspiring...

I'd also like to add that SOME patients may choose to genuinely believe this platitude is true for themselves. That's the important difference: patients cope with a catastrophic diagnosis in whatever way seems to help them through it. My concern is for well-meaning others who misguidedly assume the role of (as your reader Ellie K wrote here:) "officer-in-training of the positivity police." I want to yell at these police officers: "JUST STOP ALREADY!"

Or better yet, why not take a look at the Empathy Cards of Emily McDowell who creates "real, authentic ways to communicate about sickness & suffering. I love her cards, mugs, all kinds of accessories that - instead of dismissive platitudes - carry sentiments like: "Let Me Be The First to PUNCH the Next Person Who Tells You Everything Happens for a Reason!"

I know that you wrote the book (literally!!!) on this perspective, and continue to spread the word! Preach, girl! hugs, C.

%d bloggers like this: