Skip to Content

Do You Ever Feel Like a Cancer Misfit?

Do you ever feel like a cancer misfit? 

If you do or ever have, you’re not alone.

I have written about the walls in Cancer Land. The divisions. The rifts. The hierarchies. Today, let’s talk about fitting in, or rather, not fitting in.

Cancer or no cancer, have you ever struggled to fit in? 

Who hasn’t, right?

Share about a time you struggled to fit in with a comment below, if you want to.

I’ll go first.

As an awkward preteen, I stood half a foot taller than my older sisters. I’d often be asked, why are you the tallest if you’re the youngest (of the sisters)?

Yeah, dumb question.

When you’re already feeling awkward for umpteem reasons at that age, getting asked a ridiculous question like that sure didn’t make me feel better about being tall. And btw, I’m not even tall. It’s just that in my family I am.

And do you remember high school?

Yeah, me too.

Flash forward a bunch of decades into my post-cancer diagnosis life.

Sometimes, even today, I feel like a cancer misfit.

What about you?

Do you ever feel like a cancer misfit?

What do I mean?

Well, let me give you some examples.

As a brca2+ person, I belong to a couple online groups that were set up to support others like me, meaning other brca+ people. I sorta fit in. I sorta don’t. Sure, I embrace that whole knowledge is power idea. But heck, I didn’t even want to find out about my potential genetic mutation at first.

(Long story. Read my memoir, if you’re interested.) I procrastinated about all that, too, and look where that got me.

Yep. Sometimes I feel like a misfit.

I am not an advocate who travels across the country attending conferences or one who deciphers the latest scientific articles as so many of my fellow advocates who I greatly admire do. I traveled across the country once to attend a Living Beyond Breast Cancer advocacy event. It was a good experience, but the traveling advocate role is not for me. I just wanna stay home. I choose to advocate via my keyboard.

So, perhaps I’m an advocate misfit too.

I wasn’t young when I was diagnosed. I wasn’t old either. Okay, not that old. Younger than the “typical” breast cancer patient at diagnosis anyway.

Yep. Misfit.

I am not a fan of the rah-rah, wear pink, sisterhood camaraderie sort of groups.


I have chosen never to sugarcoat my cancer experience. I believe sharing the ugly sides of breast cancer can be uplifting in a weird (but necessary) sort of way, too. Lots of people will never understand my approach or even try to understand because they don’t want to understand.


I cannot find silver linings in this cancer mess. Heck, I don’t even want to find silver linings in cancer. I still say, cancer sucks. Period.

Can we just stop trying to re-frame it as something it’s not?


And the labels. I rarely refer to myself as a survivor, in fact, the label sorta makes me cringe. And yet, even after nine years, I have yet to come up with a label that fits that non-cancer people understand.

And don’t label me as strong, brave, courageous or anything else either. I was pretty much a wimpy cancer patient. Still am.


My heart and soul is with my sisters and brothers who are metastatic, but I don’t completely fit in with them either. (Not that I want to.)


Only a handful of bloggers who were blogging when I started are still blogging.

Why am I still at it?


I am the only one of my siblings who’s had a cancer diagnosis. (Thank God.)

But still, misfit.

I know I’m supposed to be more grateful for my reconstructed chest. But honestly, I’m not all that satisfied with it.


People assume I have moved on and just shelved all that cancer stuff. I’ve moved forward, but on – that’s another matter.


I could go on and on, but you get my point.

And yes, of course, I know I’m supposed to follow my own advice and “do cancer” and cancer survivorship my way. Ditch the expectations. Ditch the guilt.

Be real. Be me. I mean, I’m always telling you, Dear Readers, this.

And yet, why is it still so hard?


I wrote this post because like usual, I am wondering if you have ever felt the same.

If you have, please tell me about it.

If you want to read more articles like this one, Click Here.

Do you ever feel like a cancer misfit?

Or maybe just a misfit in general?

When you feel like you don’t fit in or don’t measure up, what do you do?

If you liked this post, please share it. Thank you!


Do You Ever Feel Like a Cancer Misfit? #breastcancer #cancer #patient #womenshealth #mentalhealth


Wednesday 29th of June 2022

Hi, I'm a misfit in a few ways but the strangest thing happened to me when my oncologist no longer visited my nearest hospital and I decided to travel to the hospital he was still going to, about a two hour drive away. I live in a rural area that I moved to when I was in my 20s with no experience of rural life or small town life. Anyway, on oncology visit days I use to like to dress how I like to dress,which means a skirt, leggings, blundstone boots or plain sandals in the summer. I'm very tall, for around here.

When I get to the hospital, I start down the corridor to the cancer clinic and a bat out of hell nurse comes out from her cubicle to within 12 inches of my face and says, with her arms crossed in front of her and standing as stiff as a board "Can I help you?" I was stunned. I was well liked at my local hospital could joke with the staff and was certainly never a difficult patient. I just said "I'm your one o'clock." I got through the appointment but it was horrible. I never went back. I had heard from another patient who drove 4 hours one way, to avoid that hospital, that a lot of the staff are awful to people like her. She was a lovely person but clearly had a hard life. Anyway if fitting in means being mean, and expecting patients to fit some bizarre unsaid standard, I'll stay a misfit.


Tuesday 5th of July 2022

Alison, I'm sorry you had that bad experience. Good decision to not go back. No one deserves to be treated poorly by staff or doctors. I appreciate you taking time to share. Thank you.

Ellen Tannenbaum

Wednesday 29th of June 2022

I too have always been a misfit in many different ways. In all the work related or self improvement personality quizzes that sort people into 4 or more groups, I always am in the one category with at most a couple of people.

Cancer-related misfit include: first dx at 45, so youngish (while going through orthodontics as their oldest patient), with 2 subsequent dx - all three times the cancer types were distinct. Had one single mastectomy, no reconstruction when it was more the norm to get reconstructed, then my second single this past year. Immediate family was supportive but no more than for anyone having any surgery or medical issues. No group of friends making a big deal about being there for me or throwing various milestone parties.No genetic mutation so can’t identify with that group.

When I think of who I am and what defines me, having gone through three bouts of cancer is not highest on my list. I dislike “warrior” more than “survivor” because I have made it through so far. After going through my complete medical history and current chronic (and thankfully not life threatening and none requiring prescription medications) medical issues, for admission for my second mastectomy, the clerk commented that I am one of the healthier people she’s seen.

I just had a colonoscopy and they found one Adelina which is considered pre-cancer, and literally the total treatment was removal of the lesion during the colonoscopy. I have as already in the 5-year recheck list. But no oncology referral or additional scans etc like we all have gone through with breast cancer. All cancer sucks.


Tuesday 5th of July 2022

Ellen, I relate to everything you said. Also, just had a colonoscopy myself and will need to go back in three years after a large polyp was found - also considered pre-cancerous. Everything about cancer sucks. As you know all too well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about being a misfit.


Sunday 1st of August 2021

I had lobular cancer. Just completed 5 months of chemo and am recovering from a bilateral mastectomy. I work with cancer patients in a leading cancer center so my treatment has been wonderful and I have had lovely caregivers to support me. But right now I am angry. This isn’t a “journey” or the “big C” or any of those other awful euphemisms. It’s cancer and it sucks and quite honestly I could have gone my whole life without this first hand experience! I don’t wear pink, walk in cancer events and don’t belong to a support group. I may consider therapy sometime down the road. Unfortunately I have a sibling with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. The family’s focus has been on him as it should be. Family dynamics amount the siblings are a little strained so I have chosen to be somewhat quiet about my health. Just sharing dates of treatment, surgeries and outcomes. Avoiding the stress has made life easier. So because I am quiet about my experience, share with only a chosen few and don’t buy into the labels and breast cancer agenda I have been labeled odd or ungrateful. My life is good, I have an incredible husband and I am receiving great medical care. I guess I am a happy misfit.


Sunday 1st of August 2021

Just dawned on me that I am both angry and happy. I guess it’s possible


Wednesday 30th of June 2021

"I am not a fan of the rah-rah, wear pink, sisterhood camaraderie sort of groups." Well thank goodness I'm not the only person who feels like that! I tried a dragon boat group once, all women who have had BC. All well and good until the 'let's stand in a circle and hold hands thing and praise the Sisterhood'. Okay for some, not for me, never went back. Cancer does not define me or my life. I also hate 'survivor', especially as I just lost my big sister to it, who lost her son to the rotten disease a year ago. I can't even celebrate my ninth anniversary of remission because I feel bloody 'survivor' guilt right now. I also think some people find me confronting about my experience because I am very frank, I don't faff around the edges, just tell it how it was for me. When the old chestnut comes up, 'you've got the all clear now, haven't you', I reply that I will be all clear when I die of old age.


Thursday 8th of July 2021

Helen, Oh gosh, you are most definitely not the only one. That's an interesting story you share about the dragon boat group. I can understand how that made you not want to go back. I'm sorry to hear about your sister and your nephew. Survivor guilt is pretty common even though we know we needn't feel it. I hope you can ease up on yourself regarding that. I say, good for you for being frank when speaking about your experience. We need more of that. Thank you for sharing.


Wednesday 30th of June 2021

Diagnosed young, but not BRCA+. Misfit.

Had a double mastectomy with no chemo or radiation (thankfully), and then, more or less, got on with my life. Misfit.

Really can't figure out how to fit in with the "sisterhood" squads. Misfit.

Also feel weird about the "Survivor" badge. At stage 1, survival was not in question. Misfit.

Sometimes I feel like I had it too easy, like I'm some kind of fraud to wear the cancer badge. And yet, I don't fit into the normal, healthy crowd, either.

Menopause, joint pain, and other health issues in my 30s from Tamoxifen. Not normal.

Cold, unfeeling reconstructed "foobs" with unnatural ripples when I bend over. Not normal.

I could go on, but in this crowd, I know I don't have to. Thanks for reminding me that I'm not the only one feeling this way.


Thursday 8th of July 2021

Ash, You are definitely not the only one feeling this way. And you needn't feel like you had it too easy. Marginalizing your experience is not fair - even when you're the one doing it, maybe especially then! Thanks for chiming in here with your fellow misfits. :)

%d bloggers like this: