The Good Cancer

If you broke your leg, I would not say, "oh! You broke the good bone! You could have broken your neck!" because your life is still affected by your broken leg. You feel pain. You feel broken and tired and maybe you feel scared. You need time to heal. You don't need the implication that you should be grateful that you only broke your leg.

If you caught a cold - a horrible, sniffly, lose-your-voice-from-coughing-so-much cold, I would not say, "oh! You're so lucky it's just a cold! You could have caught the flu!" because you are still dealing with your cold. You have sinus congestion and a sore throat and your nose is raw from blowing it so much and your abs hurt from coughing so hard and you're so tired. You have a cold! You don't need me telling you that it's not okay to feel so poorly because you could be feeling so much worse.

I'm in this weird sort of limbo right now. The first stage of my treatment is complete. My surgeries are done. The hardest (physical) part is over. Now I'm just waiting for January when the plan for the next stage of treatment (radioactive iodine) will be determined.

I'm okay with the waiting. I chose the waiting. I'm happy to be in limbo because it gives me the space to find my way back to normal(ish). But what I'm not okay with is the increase in "yay! Good cancer!" sentiment I am once again receiving.

I've thought about this a lot and I've narrowed it down to two scenarios where people can tell me that I have the good cancer. So before you tell me (I won't presume to speak for other thyroid cancer sufferers but I imagine they'd feel similarly, so if you know someone else with thyroid cancer, take note!) that my cancer is the best cancer, I beg you to ask yourself these questions:

Am I an oncologist? Do I study cancer? Do I treat multiple types of cancer on a daily basis? Do I treat people with inoperable tumours? Do I treat children with cancer? Do I treat people with aggressive, fast-growing, recurring cancers? If the answer to these questions are no, I want you to ask yourself the following:

Do I have (or have I had) two types of cancer (one of which being thyroid cancer)? Am I comparing my experience with thyroid cancer to my experience with another cancer? When I say that thyroid cancer is the good cancer, am I drawing on my personal experience fighting thyroid cancer and another type of cancer?

If you can answer yes to any of the above questions, congratulations! I won't want to smack you if you tell me I have the good cancer. If you answered no to the above questions, I'm sorry but I need you to stop telling me I have the good cancer. Even if you mean it to be reassuring. Even if you think it's a supportive thing to say. Even if you're just fumbling for something to say because cancer is scary and awkward and sometimes it's hard to know what to say. Let me make it easier for you: it's better to say nothing at all than to say that thyroid cancer is the good cancer. 

Cancer is cancer. Cancer is disruptive and painful and terrifying. There is nothing good about it. Nothing. Don't talk to me about odds or survival rates or treatments unless you've been here (or I've asked for your thoughts.) Do you know what I hear when someone tells me I have the good cancer? I hear "you have the easy cancer. The not real cancer." I hear "stop complaining, Hillary. Other people have it far worse than you." My fucked up, terrified, tired brain hears "stop talking, Hillary. Until you have something worthy of complaining about." 

Look, I admit that I am overly sensitive about the topic. Maybe I'm being bitchy and unfair to people who just want to say something positive about a shitty situation. I ... am not going to apologize. This is my reality. I am allowed to get all het up about people dismissing my experience, even if it is unintentional on their part.  

I appreciate the love and support I've received. I am grateful that so many people are reaching out and offering words of encouragement. I don't mean to sound shrewish and unkind, I really don't. I just want everyone to recognize that the hardest thing I've ever had to do is not good or easy or the best.