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A “Typical” Cancer Diagnosis, What’s That?

I read somewhere (unfortunately, I threw out the magazine where I read this in one of my rare cleaning-out moments of the New Year) that a typical cancer diagnosis eats up about a year of a person’s life by the time all is said and done.


Is that all?

What is a typical cancer diagnosis or experience anyway?

I’m not sure what typical means exactly. In this particular reference, I imagine it refers to the period of time beginning at initial diagnosis and ending upon completion of initial treatment(s).

If you happen to be one of the unlucky, atypical persons living with metastatic breast cancer, forget about it. You will never be typical again.

My case is not classified as typical either, so I’m not sure where that leaves me…

My oncologist often reminds me of this when we discuss BRCA stuff. In fact at my last appointment when we were discussing my BRCA status, he said to me, “Do you realize just how rare your case really is?”

If we weren’t discussing such serious topics like BRCA and cancer, being called rare might be a good thing.

In this case, not so much.

Roughly 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary and not all are due to BRCA mutations, of course.

Regardless of statistics, I don’t believe anyone’s cancer experience is typical.

Also, I don’t think cancer “eats” up a year. It steals it. And it steals way more than a year, even if you’re typical.

Time is quite literally taken from you. It was supposed to be your time. Your life. But somewhere in there, cancer sneaks in like a thief in the night and takes bits and pieces of your former life and self. And sometimes, it seems like it’s all a bit of a crap shoot just how much time and how much of your life cancer gets to take from you.

You often wonder if you “caught the culprit” early enough or have put it in its place for good. You spend way more than a year diagnosing, treating, recovering, picking up the pieces, adjusting and then looking over your shoulder more frequently than you’d like to admit.

You never really know if and when the “theft” is completely over. You spend at least moments of the rest of your life on guard watching and waiting for the “cancer criminal” who may or may not show up on your doorstep again.

Cancer is a thief

You remain on guard wondering if you have done all the “right” things to keep the “thief” away for good.

You try to take better care of yourself by eating right and exercising. You go to appointments and have scans and tests when called for. You diligently try to take the drugs you are told will help in this mission, despite their nasty side effects. You try not to worry or complain too much to your family about every little ache and pain you get. You try to make adjustments to living in a body that sometimes doesn’t feel like yours at all. You try to just sleep at night and not think. You try really hard to not get labeled as paranoid or just down right annoying.

Yes, you learn to live again, but you remain on guard forever.

You wonder if you will be one of the lucky ones and remain typical.

You hope and pray you will and feel guilty when others do not.

A typical cancer diagnosis eats up a year of a person’s life.

Hmm. If only…

How do you react to the phrase, a typical cancer diagnosis?

What has the cancer thief stolen from you?

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A "Typical" #Cancer Diagnosis, What's That? #breastcancer #cancersucks #cancerdiagnosis

E Archer

Saturday 9th of April 2022

Going through life minding my own business, and discover a lump in my left breast. Quick action on my doctors part saw me at the cancer hospital and surgery, followed by radiation. All clear was announced and a year to the month of surgery, I found a lump on the incision. I showed it to the doctors who all thought it was scar tissue. It didn’t seem right to me and I persisted until an Oncologist ordered a mammogram and they didn’t like the results which lead to a biopsy which lead to another surgery. The plan was to do a mastectomy but a CT scan before revealed the cancer had spread to both lungs. Now they are trying to shrink the spots. It has been a long journey with much worry. Evelyn


Monday 18th of April 2022

Evelyn, That's a lot to deal with -- a long journey with much worry indeed. I hope you're doing alright now.

Donna Funkhouser

Wednesday 6th of April 2022

I don't think anyone's cancer diagnosis can be considered typical. I have yet to meet anyone who's experience is exactly like mine, or even close really. We all face our own obstacles in our own way. We're all unique in our own way. And as for cancer eating up one yr...well, if that were only the case! For me, I didn't feel any where near like myself again for at least 5 yrs. And even now I still struggle with poor body image and fear of the future, although I will say, the latter has gotten easier with time.


Thursday 7th of April 2022

Donna, I agree completely that no one's experience is typical. And that one year thing, yeah, totally not true. I don't think there are too many of us who've had our breasts amputated that do not still struggle with body image. When you think about it, how could we not? Sure, our breast don't define us, but they were part of us and for a long time too. I don't fear the future, but I never really did. I just don't worry about recurrence much as I've done what I can to keep the cancer at bay. So much is a crap shoot. Thank you for taking time to comment.


Wednesday 31st of March 2021

Hi Nancy, I just wanted to say thanks for re-posting this. I always appreciate confirmation that I'm not alone in my post-diagnosis and post-treatment thoughts and behaviors. Maybe they, all the thoughts, feelings and behaviors, are what is typical, but not the cancer.


Wednesday 7th of April 2021

Leslie, You're very welcome. Always nice to know we're not alone, for sure. And to your last sentence - yes!


Wednesday 31st of March 2021

No one has ever used the word "typical' concerning cancer. "Ugly" was used as a first descriptor and it was really the wrong word. But that's another blog. As is the word "normal." I haven't felt any of these since my original diagnosis and it sucks.


Wednesday 7th of April 2021

Linda, Yes, that does suck. "Typical" probably isn't a good word choice for anything cancer related. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Abigail Johnston

Friday 26th of March 2021

No such thing as typical in the world of cancer and the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis is long lasting and impactful.


Monday 29th of March 2021

Abigail, Typical is not a good word to describe anything cancer related. And yes, the aftermath is long lasting and impactful, for sure. Thank you so much for commenting.

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