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Cancer Sucks. Period.

Cancer Sucks. Period.

As I have mentioned many times, the great life lessons a person is supposed to garner following a cancer diagnosis escape me. I have had no epiphany. Cancer is transforming alright, but not in a good way, at least not for me.

I have not magically morphed into some new and improved version of my former self. And other than meeting some wonderful people, I give cancer no credit for anything other than heartache and upheaval. Cancer sucks. Period.

I remain a resistant cancer learner, and sometimes I wonder why this is. 

These days when a cancer survivor type story floats through my social media news feeds with a headline or title suggesting the writer has learned much from her cancer experience, grown to realize what’s important in life or reorganized her priorities as a result of cancer, I generally don’t click anymore. I just can’t do it.

I try hard to respect how others handle their cancer experiences, but I also have to respect how I handle mine.

After my diagnosis, for a long time I couldn’t figure out why there was this pressure to find the good in a shitty situation like cancer.

I understand why many people think it’s better to search for meaning, to find a reason for the shit storm of cancer. For some, this personal evolution of self is a very real, very important and very worthwhile tool to implement as a way to absorb, process and accept a cancer diagnosis. It obviously works for many.

But the positive transformation theory, or in other words, the “I’ve come out a better person post-cancer diagnosis theory,” just doesn’t work for me.

Early on, I used to wonder why it didn’t. I used to wonder what was wrong with me.

Sometimes I still do.

I wondered why I couldn’t see the lessons I was supposed to learn from cancer.

Again, sometimes I still do.

Then one day, I realized perhaps I didn’t want to see them.

This, too, made me feel like I was doing something wrong, like there was something wrong with me. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see the lessons of a life-altering experience?

And then finally, it sunk in that not only was it okay to not see the lessons of cancer, it was okay to not want to see them.

In other words, it was fine to not want to hand over credit for anything positive at all to cancer. Because again, as far as I’m concerned, cancer sucks. Period.

Even now, seven years after my diagnosis, I still have days when I wonder why I am such a cancer rebel. I still sometimes wonder what’s wrong with me. I still sometimes wonder why I so adamantly refuse to drink the pink Kool Aid. I still wonder why I am such a determinedly resistant cancer learner.

If and when I figure it out, you’ll be the first to know.

For now, as far as I’m concerned…

I am beyond weary of reading about the “positives” of breast cancer. 

Breast cancer did not give me a new outlook on life, it did not make me begin to re-examine my life and priorities and it did not morph me into some new and improved version of myself.

My outlook, life and priorities were doing fine before breast cancer. I have learned no great life lessons. I did not need the wake-up call.

I realize many people view their cancer experiences quite differently, and some see my way as being negative. I’ve been told as much from time to time. So be it.

Breast cancer (any cancer) is an awful disease that far too many still die from. It’s not some grand opportunity to reinvent yourself, at least it hasn’t been for me.

Enough with the spin. Cancer sucks. Period.

That’s my story. And I’m sticking with it.

What about you?

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Have you learned life lessons from cancer?

Do you believe in the positive transformation (post-cancer diagnosis) theory? 

Are you weary of reading about the “positives” of breast cancer, too, or is it just me?

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Cancer Sucks. Period.

34 thoughts to “Cancer Sucks. Period.”

  1. Nancy, I feel the same way you do. I really dislike when people insinuate cancer should have “made me a better person”. It seems condescending too, doesn’t it? And judgemental? (I see a wagging finger.) I don’t see myself ever giving any credit to cancer for anything except for everything it took away from me. I know others feel differently. I guess we’ll always have our differences. xoxo

    1. Rebecca, It does sound condescending and judgmental for anyone to suggest how someone else should feel about her/his experience. Because as you said, we’ll always have our differences. I can’t give cancer credit for anything positive, other than meeting some wonderful people, such as you. xo

      1. Well, if there was any good to come out of this whole horrible cancer experience I have yet to find it. As far as I’m concerned all it did was disrupt my life and upset my family’s and made us all wary of the future. All I can say is I will always try to be informed so I can try to help anyone else going through this mess. Cancer sucks. Period.

        1. Donna, I’m with you. Other than meeting (virtually counts too) some wonderful people (like you), there’s not much I can point to either that’s good. Plenty of shitty stuff though, right? Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this one.

  2. Nancy, I LOVE this! I feel exactly the same way. 5 years out from diagnosis, cancer has not made me a better person, more appreciative, more spiritual, or more of anything in any way. Nor did “having a good attitude” and “staying positive” ensure my survival or enhance my treatment. In fact, like you, I have a pretty crappy attitude about cancer. I believe I was a positive person with a good attitude before BC. I prefer to give credit to my highly experienced and knowledgeable oncologist & nurses, chemo drugs, surgery, radiation and the AI’s that go on for at least 5 years! And further, I believe our attitude honors those who do not survive. Cancer certainly did not make a better life for them.

  3. Everything has changed, and not for the better. I don’t have my small business and therefore living on one third of my income. I hope the new treatment will give me a few more months of life. People interact with me differently and tell me about all the other people who has cancer, and who have died. A conversation is me trying to corral others away from cancer and toward upbeat, ordinary topics. I always feel like I took 10 steps backwards after any visit.
    Thanks for having a place to vent. peace

  4. I think what really bothers me is when I hear friends and relatives describe others who have been diagnosed, as being soooo positive. Are they implying that I’m weak negative individual simply because I choose not to embrace this ugly disease and find a bright side to it? I’ve always lived my life striving to learn from my mistakes and be the best I could be, so I sure didn’t need cancer to grow as a person. I’m coping as best I can and I’m determined to keep going and enjoy life, but to say that’s a positive thing that I’ve learned from cancer is really stretching it. Nope, there is nothing good about cancer. Nothing.

    1. Lennox, I agree with and/or relate to every word you wrote. I believe some of us are wired differently. I don’t expect others to necessarily see things my way, but I do take issue when the “positive spin” is the accepted way, sort of the gold standard on how to do cancer. What BS. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Right there with you, Nancy. What works for me is giving cancer no respect. It left me with bilateral lymphedema. F it.

  6. Oh my gosh, I’m not the only one. That’s what I thought while reading this. I’m a twenty-three year old about 2 weeks into remission. Cancer sucked. Treatment sucked. And constantly I am the token cancer patient in my friend group. There’s also this pressure to be the “happy cancer patient.” It’s the same narrative that is validated and applauded over and over again, and if I suggest anything other than the happy cancer patient narrative, I am being negative and unappreciative of the fact that I’m in remission. Thank you so much for writing this.

    1. Megan, You are definitely not the only one. I will never sugarcoat this disease. You don’t have to either. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  7. Hey Nancy,
    Really I appreciate your this piece of content on cancer, It will surely aware most of the people about the different side of cancer.

    Keep up the awesome work!

    -Rajinder

  8. Right on point Nancy, as usual … cancer sucks period.
    I give others the right and the understanding to have whatever experience is their own. Leave me to mind. I have been slapped (metaphorically) with the demand for happy facedness (what a word!0 too many times, and given far too little empathy. Empathy doesn’t require knowing about a topic….just the willingness to listen and to understand. Now THAT would be healing.

    Thank goodness for Nancy’s point, We are so often on the same wavelength,
    Kate

  9. I HATE cancer, and cannot think of one freaking thing I’ve gotten from it. I got breast cancer in 1984. I was the first person I knew to get cancer. People felt compelled to tell me about their dead aunts or brothers, or whatever. I got treatment, and spent the next 28 years watching people I knew getting cancer and either surviving treatment, or dying despite it. Then, in 2011 my husband of 32 years died of NH Lymphoma. A year later, I got MBC. All I’ve gotten from cancer is loss and pain. I got to a support group,and I try not to seem bitter, especially in front of the “newbies”. But I’m mad as hell, and I need to shout it from the rooftops sometimes. I HATE CANCER!!! I’m not active right now, but experience tells me that I will be someday. And I’ll have to go through it without my husband, my support and lifeline. I HATE CANCER!!!

    1. Vicki, I hate it too. So much. Loss and pain, that about sums it up. I am sorry about your husband and your mbc diagnosis. And gosh, that came 28 years after you initial diagnosis? Wow. I don’t blame you for being mad as hell. Shout from the rooftops here any time you want. Thank you for your comment.

  10. Haven’t replied here before but have to say I love your articles. Feels like someone else feels the same way as me. I joined a breast cancer dragon boat team after my diagnosis and while I absolutely love this group of women, I sometimes feel like I am missing some kind of “feeling” as they think this is just the best thing that has happened to them (which had to include getting cancer) and I just don’t get that…..Cancer took my Mum away about 9 years before I got cancer, sure would have been nice to have her around then, so again not a fan of cancer:) One other thing I do not understand is why people get a pink ribbon tattooed on their body after cancer?????? I got a double mastectomy with no reconstruction and have a beautiful celtic tattoo where by scars are but for the life of me all I can think of is why would someone want a pink ribbon permanently on their body. It baffles me:) Again, thanks for your articles, I look forward to reading them.

    1. Nicole, I don’t get that either…I am sorry about your Mum. As you might know, cancer stole my mother too. It’s been 11 years. And yeah, I don’t know who would want a pink ribbon tattoo either after a diagnosis. To each her own, I guess. Thank you for reading. I’m glad you decided to comment!

  11. Nope. No Epiphany. Some days I wish to turn back the clock which is not realistic, but . . . I told my therapist about your Cancer Sucks attitude and she loves it, says it makes people feel empowered to ‘fight.’. We discussed the warrior terminology, too, but agreed that it might be helpful to think of it as a fight. After all, I love Wonder Woman and she’s a warrior.

    1. Linda, Well, I’m glad your therapist approves. Ha. Whatever helps people get through their particular cancer mess I guess. I just get frustrated with the societal expectations that remain pretty ingrained, especially in Breast Cancer Land. Thank you for chiming in.

  12. This is precisely how I feel. I actually resent it when people make me feel as though I have been given some gift when in fact I have been given just about the worst thing one can receive. Well said.

    1. Jeffrey, I’m glad you relate. Then again, I’m sorry that you do. Those societal expectations lurk, that’s for sure. Be real. Be you. It’s enough. That’s what I always say. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Hi. Agreed. Thanks for expressing it. But that was last year. In June I had a heart attack and stents. Although once again I’m grateful for Canadian health care, I am NOT a better person. In fact I seem to be angry a lot and less likely to smile and agree. Regards.

    1. Donna, Sorry to hear about your heart attack. That must’ve been scary. Canadians are fortunate to have healthcare for all. And yeah, illness doesn’t necessarily transform you into a new and improved version of your former self. Hope you’re doing well these days. Regards to you as well. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Cancer sucks big time and it always will. But I see it also as an opportunity to raise awareness or to just be a friend or sounding board to others as you are doing here Nancy. Through my cancer I have been able to give support to close friends who are going through different kinds of cancer, they can be real with me about their feelings when family and friends don’t understand what cancer is like. As the saying goes “you will never know what it’s like until it happens to you”. So Nancy, no I’m not happy I got cancer and don’t wish it on anyone, but it has changed me as it has you and you use that change with your blog and that is a change I’m glad that you did.

    1. Alison, Thank you for expressing your thoughts on this one. I’d much rather be blogging about a different topic if it meant I wouldn’t have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m glad you are offering support to others going through cancer, though of course, it’d be nice if you didn’t understand so well what a diagnosis means. Cancer can be a catalyst, but it still sucks.

  15. I so agree with your perspective as always! There’s a meme out there to the effect of…”what didn’t kill me makes me weirder and harder to deal with..” something like that and I say yes! Cancer has taken already positive things in my life and affected them negatively, and the negative ones it has fueled. But similar to what you say, I was a pretty cool human before cancer, I didn’t need this shit to adjust any attitude or cause me to be more loving or whatever other thing! You are always on point and I enjoy and cheer your words and resonate with them for sure! Thank you for your expression!

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