Cancer isn’t cute! (repost)

What with one thing and another it seems like a good time to bring back this post from two years ago. 

Cute Kitten

This kitten is cute. Cancer is not.

Cancer isn’t cute. It isn’t big smiles and noses crinkled in mirth. It is a mortal illness. It disfigures. It kills. The treatment involves cutting off pieces of your body, killing living tissue with radiation, poisoning your system with chemotherapy. The treatment can have life-long effects on your health and well-being   And that is still no guarantee. Thirty percent (almost one third!) of women diagnosed with breast cancer AT ANY STAGE will end up with distal metastasis.

To be clear, distal metastasis means Stage IV breast cancer. Stage IV cancer is terminal breast cancer.

Cancer isn’t cute, and breast cancer isn’t “the good cancer”. How can anyone possibly call a disease that kills almost one-third of the people who become ill with it “good”? This isn’t about boobies or tatas—it’s about a killer disease. When I was first diagnosed I didn’t give two toots about saving my “girls”; I wanted the cancer out of me.

When I was first diagnosed, I experienced and conceptualized the cancer as a rapist inside me. GET THIS THING OUT OF ME! There was nothing cute about it.

When I had my breast and lymph nodes removed and sat with surgical drains coming out of the incisions and I couldn’t lift my arm high enough to hang up the laundry, there was nothing cute about it. When I was having my first round of chemotherapy and all I could vomit was bile and I could barely hold down water – there was nothing cute about it. When I had radiation burns over two-thirds of my chest from the daily radiation treatments – not cute.

The rapist is still inside me. I have not learned to like him, but I am learning to live with him because I want whatever time is left to me to be as pleasant and productive as I can make it. I do not want to waste precious time and energy on howling at the moon. That doesn’t mean I’m not angry; it means I can accept my emotions and move on.

Well-meaning as they may be, pink ribbons and cutesy “awareness” campaigns make me angry. To me, they feel belittling. They make me feel ignored. They make me feel cast aside because I have a a disease that is killing me. Go ahead and have a great fund-raising campaign and use the best PR tricks you can, but please don’t ignore the reality.

Cancer isn’t cute, not even tiny little Stage I tumors. It bears repeating: thirty percent (almost one third!) of women diagnosed with breast cancer AT ANY STAGE will end up with distal metastasis.

I am one of the 30%. Awareness is nice; research is better. If you donate to a breast cancer cause, know where your money is going. Give to organizations that are actively funding research. You can always buy a pink ribbon at the notions counter.

12 Responses

  1. Rebecca says:

    This post was right on!! I can’t stand when people call my cancer “the good kind.” It suggests bc doesn’t kill. That it doesn’t take away. That it forgives and it is gentle. Better than all the others. It isn’t!!

    I get tired of seeing all these campaigns where bc is portrait as being all pretty. It isn’t taken seriously enough. Part of that has contributed to the messed up culture we have today in cancerland: all the comparisons and competitions among the different kinds of cancers. It’s all awful.

    I agree research needs more funding. Stage 4 needs more funding because that’s the only one that kills. And yes, all stages are ugly.

    Thank you for posting about this topic.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thank you, Rebecca. I agree, of course. Writing a blog like this is pretty much preaching to the choir, but I always hope it will be a new and convincing idea for someone.

  2. Joanne says:

    This is so true! Being a lifer…pink makes me sick….it’s starting here already in Canada, notably the cosmetic counters!

    • Knot Telling says:

      A “lifer” – what a good way to express it. The “pinkiness” hasn’t really taken hold yet here in Israel, but the Internet is international, so…

  3. Elizabeth J. says:

    You are so right, cancer is not cute!
    I also hear people say that being metastatic isn’t so bad, there are so many treatments. Sure, some people survive over 10 years, but the median survival for MBC is still below three years past metastatic diagnosis.
    Breast cancer kills. Something that kills is neither pink or cute!

    • Knot Telling says:

      Not so bad? Some people really need to get a clue. Oooh! Do you want to write a guest post about why that remark is completely off base? If you don’t, perhaps I will.

  4. Maxine D says:

    I hear you Knots – not that I didn’t the first time. When I think back over all the women I have known with BC, and those who have and have not survived the statistics are no pretty reading. Pink is already irritating the bejabbers out of me this year…. and I preach it hard when i have a chance, that 30% of those diagnosed go on to develop MBC. Funny, folks don’t like hearing that!
    Blessings and prayers

    • Knot Telling says:

      Bless you, Maxine. Nope, folks don’t like hearing it. I have been known to say (less than graciously) that I like having it even less than they like hearing it! Reality isn’t always sunshine and cotton candy. And I know that you know that, all to well. <3

  5. Stephanie says:

    Yesterday I had the opportunity to “be” with my Commonweal Cancer Help Program (CCHP) friends to celebrate and reflect on the 30th anniversary of the program.

    I agree cancer isn’t cute.

    It’s killed many of my CCHP friends.

    I wondered about the health of those who didn’t attend.

    Yet, I knew at least one person with mets was out river rafting.

    No, cancer isn’t cute…but I saw a dozen of folks with mets who sure are awesome and awe-inspiring.

    Even if you can’t afford the time or money for the program, many podcasts are available for free at their website.


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