The Hierarchy of a Cancer Patient

Well, this might be a little controversial, but I don’t think I’m going to be saying anything that isn’t true. It’s something I have and still experience regularly in the cancer world – especially when dealing with the press and national brands.

It seems that there is a check list that gets run through when they are looking for people to feature. 

I assume this is so the myth of what a cancer patient looks like can be carried on, but I can’t totally say……

So lets take a look at the hierarchy of the cancer world as seen through the press calls I received l for BCAM. 

First, lets start with the type of cancer you have.

Obviously, during BCAM you hear the story over and over again, that having breast cancer means it’s the ‘good’ cancer. You know, the one they can do lots for. I heard
a lot about the ‘good cancer’ when I was first diagnosed. Because everyone knows breast cancer is the best one to get. It’s the one you don’t die from, right? It’s the one they can cure. Sure it is!

And then when I got my metastatic diagnosis I heard something similar – ‘at least it’s only in your bones’. Yup.

At least the cancer I have, that has spread and is now incurable is only in one
of the places that it can go to kill me. Yup, still super lucky.

And do not get me started on the people with or after a primary cancer who have told me that ‘at least I don’t have to live with the fear of my cancer coming back’. Because living in fear of your cancer returning – which, granted I only had 8 months of, is worse than living with the knowledge it has and is trying to kill you!!

Then there’s the issue of your hair.

Now, any self-respecting cancer patient will know that unless your hair fell out during chemo, you didn’t really ‘suffer’. 

Or that’s what is portrayed to us in the media. I know I’ve never had to brave the shave so I don’t quite know what it’s like to be bald. But take a minute to recognise that those of us who cold capped suffered just as much. We had to sit with that ice pack on our head  AND then we’ve had to deal with the crappy regrowth afterwards. So far I have had 2 full blown party in the back mullets in my lifetime, and neither were given to me by Toni and Guy in the 2000’s.

And don’t get me started on the drugs that don’t make you lose your hair that so many of my friends are on. How do they equate in the “bald is beautiful” world that has been created?

But so many of the emails asked for a photo of you with no hair……….

And, if it’s breast cancer – your boobs

It seems the like the best way to make people aware about breast cancer is to ask you to get your tits out. Because it’s a tricky situation, figuring out which bit of the body breast cancer affects. Or so it would seem that the national press thinks, given the amount of emails that go out asking for people who are willing to supply a page 3 style shot. 

Which leads me to believe if you get your tits out, you definitely rank further up the hierarchy when looking to get your story out there. Especially if there are scars to get out too.

I wonder when bowel cancer, or lung cancer, or brain cancer patients will be asked to get their affected areas out?

A London-centric address

Yes, we all know that nothing happens outside of London, and if you can’t get to London by 4pm tomorrow for the photoshoot, you’re no use to anyone! 

And now, lets chat about a legacy……..

Yup, there is nothing the press like more than to talk about how sad it is that someone with cancer has children. As if it those of us without children don’t quite make the grade on their sadness scale. Lets ignore the infertility we’re facing. lets ignore the fact that we have full lives without children. Lets ignore that our cancer is still affecting those around us to a crazy degree. 

So, yes, I know, this isn’t ALWAYS the norm in the press, but if you’d have seen some of the emails I’ve had over the last few years, you’d be amazed or horrified. One, last year, by a major international fashion designer sent out a casting call for people with 1. A mastectomy. 2. A bald head. 3. Visible scars………. which all just perpetuates the myth around what a real cancer patient looks like – right? 

But all this explains why, of all the press opportunities I’ve received of late, I’ve only taken part in one of them!


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