Why People Treat Those With Cancer Badly

Lately a lot of people have been talking about how people treat you when you have blood cancer. Family, friends, at the doctor’s – it doesn’t matter where. Suddenly, things look completely different when you get that diagnosis and I’m here to say – I get it. I’ve experienced it myself and it’s surreal. It makes for an added layer of stress to deal with when you are already in a fairly stressful situation.

Cancer is one of the most stressful things

No one is going to argue that having cancer is stressful. I mean, there’s probably one person out there who wrestles with honey badgers for a living or does dental work on live alligators who is gonna disagree with me and I say more power to you Mr. or Mrs. Crocodile, DDS. The rest of us, though, can agree that cancer is probably one of the most stressful things a person can go through. Not only is it a test on your body, but it’s also a huge mind f… well, you know.

A big part of that stress comes from how the world, and specifically those closest to us, treats us when they find out we have cancer.

People respond negatively to those with cancer

I’m sorry to say that in general the response the world has when it finds out you have cancer in general usually ranges from near-apathy to downright revulsion. I’d love to tell you the world opens up like a flower and welcomes you into its loving bosom and treats you with the coddling and reassuring love that you deserve, but we don’t live inside a Disney movie. You can tell by all the trash cans. It’s true – next time you’re watching a Disney cartoon try to point out a trash can. I bet you can’t, but I digress, the point is, the world generally defaults to the negative side of the scale when it comes to treating those with cancer.

Why does this happen?

Cancer reminds others of their own mortality

Well, I have several theories and the first is that cancer is so scary that the scariness fills you up and then spills out and splooges onto whoever is nearest to you. Suddenly your spouse, friend, or parent has a blob of cancer fear oozed onto them and they begin to think about their own mortality and how anyone can get cancer – even them. You are a constant walking reminder that the grim reaper can visit anyone at any time – without an appointment – and doesn’t even have the courtesy of bringing a coffee cake or a bottle of wine when he shows up.

Interestingly, it seems that people don’t like to be reminded that humans can and eventually all do die. I know, right? Seems insane? Who wouldn’t want to be reminded of the fleeting nature of human life?

Cancer's portrayal in the media

Another reason that I think cancer makes people uncomfortable is that years of TV shows, movies, books, podcasts, YouTube vid….  well, you get it. Veritable eons of media have programmed people to think cancer and especially chemo is the most vomit-filled, hair-destroying, hospital-bed-in-the-living-room causing experiencing that a person can endure, and they simply don’t want to be around puke, poop, and smelly-non-showered hospital-bed-lying people.

The truth, though, as most of us know, is that cancer and chemo isn’t really as bad as all that. I mean, yes, sometimes, it gets that bad and that’s awful, but modern chemo isn’t the puke life-sentence it used to be. My chemo wasn’t like a pleasure cruise or anything, I wouldn’t give it 5 stars on TripAdvisor, but it wasn’t ZERO stars. It did save my life, after all soooo….. I’d say a solid 3-3.5 stars. Like, I enjoyed my stay somewhat but wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else – you know? You know.

People sometimes get jealous of the attention

Finally, I think there is one more reason people seem to treat those with cancer so badly and that’s jealousy. I know, you are saying how can anyone be jealous of someone getting cancer and it’s completely counter-intuitive, but just go with me for a second here. When you get cancer pretty much everything stops and the entire world starts revolving around you. I mean, rightfully so, don’t get me wrong, but still, it happens.

This could, possibly, maybe, make some people around you a little envious of all the attention – especially those close to you who like to be the center of attention. You know who I mean – it’s the person who immediately and instinctively came to mind when you read the last sentence. Yes, that person. This jealousy can lead to inadvertent and unconscious feelings of resentment and there you have it.

As you can see, there is no shortage of reason why people with cancer get treated poorly by those around us. I hate to even say it but there’s actually more reasons for others to treat us badly then there is for treating us well, which is the greatest reason for doing anything at all – simply being kind. Unfortunately, kindness has kind of fallen out of fashion a little lately but, well, let’s try to bring it back! Talk soon.

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