I don’t look sick enough, sorry not sorry


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. 

You may also enjoy these similar and related articles:

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

Poker Face or Cancer Card – click here

I don’t look sick, sorry not sorry – click here

Dear Doctors – there’s no such thing as a good cancer – click here

You must be doing OK, you’ve not had chemotherapy – click here

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One thought on “I don’t look sick enough, sorry not sorry

  • I live in a very small town (population about 800). When someone is diagnosed with cancer, almost everyone hears about it. The normal expectation is that either they’ll die or be cured. Most people don’t realize that many of us live in the middle ground… not curable, but not dying, or at least not anytime soon. When they see me living a normal, active life, they assume that I’m cured; that my cancer is a thing of the past. I do my best to reeducate anyone who mentions it to me.

    I also experience survivor’s guilt when I walk through the cancer clinic or even sometimes when I see postings on your amazing Facebook page. I’m extremely thankful that I’m doing so well even compared to many NETS patients. Sorry, not sorry is right!

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