“I Wish I Had Breast Cancer”

Soft, sad music. The screen is dark; a man’s sad face appears. “I wish I had testicular cancer,” he says. His face is replaced by a sad woman who says, “I wish I had breast cancer.” The gentle voiceover, a woman’s voice, says, “Early diagnosis saves lives,” as some symptoms of pancreatic cancer are listed in white letters on the black screen, one by one.

Perhaps in response to a massive backlash, Pancreatic Cancer Action, the UK charity that launched this campaign, has released an “Official Statement Regarding Advert”, which begins:

All types of cancer are horrific and no one would wish for themselves or anyone they care about to be affected by this terrible disease. Our hearts go out to anyone who has been affected by it.

It is important to remember that the advert features real pancreatic cancer patients and all they want is a better chance of survival.

As you know, awareness is key to early diagnosis and this is particularly true for pancreatic cancer. In our case, despite the best efforts of ourselves and other pancreatic cancer organisations, for 40 years, pancreatic cancer patients in the UK have faced the same grim prognosis – only a three per cent chance of survival and an average life expectancy of less than six months.

Pancreatic cancer is horrible; I’ve lost two friends to the disease, and they suffered greatly. I am very glad to hear that early detection seems to be important for increasing pancreatic cancer survival. If that is the case, then the more awareness the better!

That is not the case with breast cancer. About thirty percent of everyone who gets breast cancer, who is diagnosed at any stage—even the earliest–will sooner or later develop metastatic breast cancer, which is incurable.

Like the speakers featured in the advert video, I am a real cancer patient. I wish I didn’t have metastatic breast cancer. I don’t think my condition and that of my brothers and sisters in mets is enviable. Some of us might even have preferred to have a disease that takes us faster over having to endure years of pain and suffering before an inevitable death.

Pancreatic Cancer Action is not, in my opinion, the bad guy here. If there is any blame to be assigned, I would lay it squarely at the feet of the “pinking” of breast cancer. The smiling image of the “warrior” who had a few tough months of treatment and then “beat the cancer” and is now happier and healthier than ever, is a lie. Breast cancer is not a stubbed toe or a head cold. Breast cancer maims and kills. No one can ever be sure they will not have a recurrence. Again, almost one in three of us do.

My plea to Pancreatic Cancer Action and to all such awareness campaigns is this: There is no such thing as a good cancer, a better cancer. Please do not promote your cause by treading on other suffering people. We are all in this leaky boat together. Thank you.


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22 Responses

  1. Excellent excellent excellent.

    No cancer is good cancer.

    My aunt died in her forties of ovarian cancer.

    I have a friend who had testicular cancer seven years ago.

    I have made many wonderful friends online who are part of the breast cancer community.

    I love all of these people.

    No cancer is good cancer.

    This ad was a terrible mistake and a lapse in judgment on someone’s part. It should be taken down permanently,

    Start over, people.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thanks for your kind words yet again, Greg. Yes, this was a bad decision somewhere along the line.

  2. Shari Larsen says:

    Well said; I also agree that no cancer is good. When I was diagnosed the first time (I was “just” stage 2 at that time), I had a few people tell me that breast cancer is the “good” kind of cancer to have.

    I’ve also heard people assume the same thing about skin cancer, a lot of people thing you have it removed, and that’s the end of it. That wasn’t true for a cousin of mine years ago; his turned deadly, and he died when it spread to his brain.

  3. Great post. As you said and Dr. Smith notes, no cancer is a good cancer. In my case, I’ve found that a lot of people think that getting prostate cancer is no worse than having a bad cold. It’s an old man’s disease. It’s easily curable. Most men die with prostate cancer rather than from it. Etc., etc. These are fine statements unless you are the one with it or you’ve seen a man die from metastatic prostate cancer. Like so many other cancers, this is not a good way to die. Yes, mine was caught early and yes it is curable but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is cancer and it isn’t a “good” cancer to get.

  4. Angie Mick says:

    Great communication and point well made. Agree.

  5. Tim says:

    Very well put. That said….I think you’re being too kind. They must be absolute idiots if they didn’t realise how offensive that tag would be.

    • Knot Telling says:

      I admit to having my own opinions about the decisions that were made, but I usually find that expressing them are not conducive to dialogue.

      In fact, though, I think they were more blinded by pink light than anything else.

  6. Beth Gainer says:

    Brilliant. I do agree that the pinking of breast cancer has done colossal damage, and this is one of the results. The whole triumphant breast cancer “victors” unfortunately is all people see. All cancers are horrible, and comparing two cancers — even two breast cancers — is like comparing apples to oranges. Well-said.

  7. Maxine D says:

    Yuk – what an ad :-(. I agree no cancer should ever be regarded as ‘good’ in any way whatsoever!!

    The current emphasis on ‘cure if caught early’ is misleading and I resent it. I applaud your work in trying to get the truth into the public arena that this is not so.

    My DH is currently waiting for the removal of a cancerous lesion on his face, and at a family gathering recently, if anybody asked what the lesion was, and he mentioned cancer, they physically recoiled… if he said it was ‘sun damage’ they didn’t……….. but there is huge tension as we wait for the system to cough up his name on the surgery roster.

    Prayers and blessings

    • Knot Telling says:

      Maxine, that is terrible. Has your husband’s lesion been biopsied yet?

      Thanks for your kind words.

  8. Susan Zager says:

    There is no good cancer. My dad died from pancreatic cancer, my brother esophageal, my best friend breast cancer…the list goes on and on. Saying “I wish I had breast cancer” in this is just so offensive. Yes some of the blame goes to the “pinking” of breast cancer, but still Pancreatic Cancer Action needs to be educated and take responsibility. Here’s an opportunity to correct their mistake and really educate people. I agree with you I am all for early detection for all cancers but this is the wrong way to go about giving the message.

    • Knot Telling says:

      That is a lot of cancer burden you are carrying, Susan. I’m so sorry.

      Thank you for commenting. Although people like you are the real educators, I’m happy I can take a small part now and then.

  9. Paula Sanders says:

    This is a great post Knot. Very well said. How unbelievably insensitive or just misinformed the makers of this ad are!! They should remove it immediately. I honestly don’t think a patient with pancreatic cancer would wish for breast cancer. I think they would be wishing for no cancer at all!! Thanks for bringing it to our attention and making your point.

  10. Maria Ratliff says:


    Very very well articulated. And so very true. My paternal grandmother (the mother figure for me after my mom was killed in a car accident when I was eleven) was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was about twelve. After her radical mastectomy, recovery, and five years cancer free period, she was diagnosed with mets to the liver. And after a year of horrible pain & suffering, she was mercifully released from her pain. Thank you for sharing your gift for words to those in need of them! You rock!!;)


  1. 9 February, 2014

    […]  The Cancer Curmudgeon and Knot Telling bring up an important point, which hadn’t immediately occurred to me, but upon reading it, I […]

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