Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
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.

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.


  • Racheli Alkobey moderator
    10 months ago

    What an interesting endeavor you took. I never thought of it this way, Bob! I actually just googled “Young Adult Cancer Patient” and find it so interesting to see what is representing “us” out on the web. You really thought outside of the box with this piece.

  • Crystal Harper moderator
    12 months ago

    Your take on this matter is so interesting. I’ve noticed the same things with the way cancer patients are portrayed in movies. It’s very similar to the stock photos you described and in most, there’s usually a very sad outcome. It always upsets me to see that because all cancer patients need to keep hope and try to stay positive through treatment and when there is so much negativity surrounding cancer, it may make it even harder to do so. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I hope things begin to change with the way the world looks at cancer.

  • Yolanda Brunson-Sarrabo moderator
    12 months ago

    We’re all warriors in this, to say the least. We’re so happy you’re part of this union. Best!

  • Bob McEachern author
    12 months ago

    Always nice to hear that others feel the same way as I do about belonging and connecting here.

  • Amber Lynch moderator
    12 months ago

    I agree the “stock photos” make us look and feel like victims. The community gives us strength. We may all have different cancers or treatments, but we are all members of a club we never wanted to be in, we have all heard those words, “you have cancer.”

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    12 months ago

    @bobtalisker We aren’t alone, none of us is on this wonderful community we have created of which you are a great part. Wonderful post, keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Ann Harper moderator
    12 months ago

    I read what others write and feel a kinship. We all share so many similarities. But ultimately, the cancer is our own with our own unique thoughts and reactions. Ultimately we are all doing the best we can and it is nice to share and know we are not alone.

  • Poll