Despite earlier diagnoses via more technology and screening, many people have a perception about people with cancer, it includes many things including but not limited to, lack of hair, ill in bed and being infused regularly with chemotherapy. Another perception is they die. All of that is clearly terrible but it’s not the norm.
Many people live with cancer, many people with cancer go to work many people go on holiday, many people with cancer do normal stuff. The crazy thing about this perception is that the cancer story is changing, more and more of us are going to come into contact with cancer, either through our own experience or the experience of a close relative or friend. We live longer nowadays and as cancer is essentially (but not always) an older person’s disease, around 1 in 3 of us will have a brush of some sort with the disease (forecast to move to 1 in 2 in the next 20 years). So, if you’re walking around town, shopping, having a coffee, in the cinema, on a beach, riding a bike. Some of the people you see will have cancer, they just don’t look sick enough for you to have a different perception.
I’ve written a few posts under the banner of “invisible illness”. Some cancers can be seen as an invisible illness, or should I say some people with incurable cancers can look quite well but are dealing with many issues which are masked by their attempts to live normal lives. This applies to many other conditions, not just cancer.
It even works the other way with cancer patients feeling guilty they don’t look sick enough. In my article “You should see my insides” I told a story of my own guilt when I attended a chemotherapy ward to be given an injection to treat my own Neuroendocrine Cancer. I felt guilty at the lines of infusions beds populated by people who looked sicker than I did. Some wore headwear to disguise the loss of hair. I wrote the above article after I reflected on my experience.
I also wrote “Shame on you” which was a true story about a cancer patient whose car was daubed by paper posters complaining they were wrongly taking up a disabled parking space. Clearly if they were able to drive their car to this location and then walk unaided into the building then they clearly were not disabled. Some disabilities can be invisible too.
I have incurable cancer, but I still do all the normal stuff, I regularly cycle and walk, and I frequently go on holiday. I don’t look sick enough, sorry not sorry.
Things not to say to a cancer patient – click here
Shame on you! – click here
I look well but you should see my insides – click here
Things are not always how they seem – click here
Not every illness is visible – click here
Not the stereotypical picture of sick – click here
An Ode to Invisible Illness – click here
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