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  • Nicola Niemc

I am NOT a cancer sufferer

Updated: Jul 9



I am currently undergoing treatment (specifically, chemotherapy) for breast cancer. Primary (thank God, it isn’t metastatic and hasn’t spread beyond the lymph nodes), triple negative (grrr, one of the more awkward ones to treat), grade 3 (meaning the cancer cells behave abnormally and therefore may spread at a more random or aggressive pace…sigh...). As you can tell, I am a massive medical nut who loves to know the exact meaning of all this gumph.

But what I don’t love is the idea that because I have cancer, I am therefore a sufferer. Classed as someone who is being hit over the metaphorical head with a metaphorical stick every hour of every day. In Word, if you right-click on sufferer and hover over synonyms, as I have just done, the first option is “victim”. “Casualty”. “Target”. “Martyr”, for pity’s sake!!! These terms, along with sufferer, make the whole process of developing cancer so much more personalised, as if I were targeted for this disease on purpose. I was not. Cancer is not a self-aware entity, able to think for itself and select its victims. It is one rogue cell, which then multiplies and multiples into many more rogue cells (or a “wonky” cell as my Breast Care Nurse so charmingly put it”).

I do not intend to be a victim of cancer, even less so a ruddy martyr! Isn’t the very definition of a martyr someone who willingly sacrifices themselves for a greater good? Cancer does not need my sacrifice; nor is it getting it, thank you very much. The danger of anthropomorphising cancer, or attributing human characteristics or behaviour to it (yeah, I copied that straight from Google), is that we make it a sentient being, equal to and on our level. And cancer is not equal to us. It is on the same level as a germ, in my opinion. Remember, one wonky cell.

I am a cancer patient. That sounds so much more civilised, doesn’t it? People who go to hospital or seek medical aid are patients; ergo, I am a patient. I am not suffering with cancer, I am being treated for cancer – again, factually correct. I don’t know whether it is my Aspie brain, which is able to follow strict lines of logic, which allows me to reach this perspective, but to me, it just seems common sense. And at a time when I am going to need all the level-headed, panic-free thoughts I can muster, it is so much more reassuring to think of these wonky cells, being eradicated one by one.

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