three people holding hands, with their arms making cancer ribbons

Not Your Typical Blood Cancer Patient

I’ve read’s “A Moment to Reflect” a few times now. In case you don’t remember, it’s the piece that the editorial team wrote that looks back on 2018. It got me thinking a lot about the community that makes up

Reading it made me go back to reread “The Life-Changing Impact of Blood Cancer,” which reports on the results of a survey of over 2500 people affected by blood cancer.  In both of those pieces, there are some themes that come through. As blood cancer patients, we are very different. But at the same time, we are really very alike.

Bad stock photos

A few months ago, there was a trending hashtag on Twitter: #badstockphotosofmyjob.  A “stock photo” is one of those generic photos that are sometimes used to illustrate a piece of writing on the web.  People who played the “bad stock photo of my job” hashtag game would search online for stock photos of people in their profession. Then they would comment, usually sarcastically, on how little the photo represented what they actually did. So a woman who owned a farm might show a stock photo of a woman in the back of a pickup truck, sitting on a bale of hay, looking perfect. The real farmer would note, sarcastically, how often she spends a day at work with perfect hair and makeup, casually sitting on a hay bale.

I tried the same exercise, but searched for stock photos for “cancer patient.” The results were interesting. What I found were mostly photos of women, usually bald from chemotherapy (or head covered with a scarf), usually looking determined (though sometimes looking sad).

It’s interesting to think about how the world sees us. A stock photo is supposed to represent us in some way. But like the photo of the farmer with perfect hair, it never does.

We are so much more

As blood cancer patients, we are more than the “typical” pictures online. We are women, and men, too. Old and young. Many different colors. Cancer affects us all.

Some of us have had chemotherapy. Some of us have had other treatments – monoclonal antibodies and stem cell transplants and kinase inhibitors. Some of us are watching and waiting. We have experienced a whole bunch of different side effects. Some mild, some hard.

And some of us are determined. But some of us have had some bad days. (Some of us have had many bad days.) Some of us are having a bad day today, and it’s hard to look (or feel) determined.

Different, but the same

We’re all different. There really isn’t a single stock photo that can represent us all.

But at the same time, we all have so much in common. To me, these are the two things that bind so many different people together:

First, we’ve all heard those words – “You have cancer.” We’ve all made that first frightening trip to the oncologist. We’ve all had hard days because of it.

But more importantly, we’ve all found others who have heard those words, too. And we’ve realized we are not alone. We’ve found others who have thought and felt that same way. Hopefully, we’ve found comfort in numbers.

I’m so happy to be a part of this community. I hope you are too.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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