Really? You wish you had cancer? You wish you had cancer instead of mental illness? What is this? The illness Olympics? As a person who has been diagnosed with cancer, I’m wildly offended. You can check out the Postsecret postcard expressing a desire to have cancer instead of mental illness, here. This isn’t the first time this sentiment has come up. Others have said it to me, too, notably one person before I was diagnosed, complaining about ongoing medical issues and the cadre of doctors who could find nothing wrong. A year or two before I was diagnosed, we attended the wedding of a mutual friend. And clear as a bell, I recall her saying, “You know, I wish it was cancer. At least then they’d know what was going on.” Funny the things you remember. As soon as I was diagnosed, there was her voice in my memory, telling me she wished she had cancer.
Look guys, it’s not the misunderstood illness Olympics. I’m sure your mental illness sucks. I bet it is horrendous to not know what’s going on in a body that doesn’t feel good. But don’t throw me, and my experience under the bus. That’s what you do, when you set up a comparison between cancer and your issues, especially when it’s set up such that you are “wishing for cancer.” It makes it sound like I should be grateful, and damn it, I’m not grateful. I don’t know too many cancer patients who are. It makes it sound like we cancer patients get our illness served on a silver platter of understanding, when in reality, people blame me for my cancer all the time, they misunderstand and pity, they dismiss and derail and are generally bad at supporting. It makes it sound like whole body hair loss, discussing my own morality rates every six weeks with a doctor, and feeling nauseated for four months straight is a walk in the park. It makes it sound like everything it isn’t.
So say something about your issues. Advocate. Activate. Ask for help.
But don’t compare to cancer. You don’t want cancer.
You have no idea what you are asking for. None. So stop asking for cancer.
By asking for cancer, you make ACTUAL people with cancer invisible. You force us into a discursive box where we must behave in grateful, happy, thankful, hopeful, ways. You are not helping yourself or your cause. And you are especially hurting us, and our cause.
Also- people with cancer actually die. Stop joking about that. People who are young, die. And they don’t want to. It’s more complicated than “die or recover.” Recovery involves constant screening, with technologies that are basically known to fail and for many of us, me included, failed to detect our cancers in the first place. Recovery involves permanent damage- numb fingers, aching bones, differently colored hair. Recovery involves wondering if you should come out of the cancer closet, always. Recovery or death, huh? Trust me, you want neither choice.
Stop asking for cancer.