The Downside to Cancer

It’s hard these days to get away from the media barrage about all the perks a patient or caregiver gets out of a cancer diagnosis. Heck, with all the promised government handouts, it seems like everyone is going to want to get in on the action. But it is important to realize, in spite of all the hype to the contrary, that there is, in fact, a downside to cancer.

Why You May Want To Avoid Cancer

It’s true that easy access to handicapped parking can make life a lot easier, and a significant progression of disease is a sure-fire way to qualify for fancy license plates or those special passes you can hang from your rearview mirror. Some cancer diagnoses are practically like getting free money thanks to liberal disability benefits. But did you know that to take advantage of these special opportunities, a patient is required to spend literally hours of his or her personal time filling out paperwork? As if it weren’t bad enough dealing with the required documents and dancing through flimsy strands of red tape, the patient must also keep payroll records, IRS forms, and proof of the medical condition. Warning: if you hate paperwork and record-keeping, cancer may not be for you! 

Lying back in the chair for a chemotherapy infusion.
Settling in for a long winter’s nap.

While we are on the topic of busy work, it is probably important to mention other ways in which cancer can suck your time away. Treatment is time-consuming. While this well-kept secret is the shame of the medical community, it is undeniable that doctors, clinics and pharmaceutical companies have conspired to generate lots and lots of billable hours in the form of repeated scans, surgeries that require lengthy hospital stays, and infusions that can take up to ten hours at a time — and then have to be repeated over and over again. This doesn’t even touch on going in for biopsies, radiotherapy or any of the ancillary tests that might be required to “ensure a complete understanding” of a patient’s condition. Warning: if you have other things you’d rather do with your time, cancer may not be for you!

On the other hand, cancer is a great excuse to lounge about on the couch. If a patient has just gotten out of treatment, chances are pretty good that no one is going to complain about that lazy couch potato who keeps the Kardashians on all day long. Unless there is a lot of vomiting. Most people don’t like to be around a patient who vomits a lot, but there are so many pills for that these days it probably won’t pose much of a problem, even in the most intimate of relationships. And for those living in states with legalized medical marijuana, there are even more options to control that nausea with occasional recreational benefits, especially good if you are actually watching the Kardashians all day long. However, spending too much time on the couch can lead to muscle atrophy, general malaise and can actually lead to more fatigue rather than being truly restful. Warning: if you want to stay in really good physical condition, cancer may not be for you! 

Caregivers Might Also Want to Rethink This Cancer Thing

Being a caregiver sounds like a fun gig. After all, you get a lot of the sympathy directed at cancer patients without actually having to deal with symptoms of the disease or the side effects of treatment. It is much easier to get out of jury service when you carry the full burden of care for a terminal patient, for example. And no self-respecting boss will give you grief for taking time off to cart your loved one to that out-of-state clinic for a last-ditch attempt at some specialized therapy — even if that means a week or two in sunny Southern California. But what they don’t tell you when you sign on to this caregiver gig is that those special trips with the cancer patient turn out to be a lot of work. It’s often the caregiver doing all the heavy lifting, carting luggage, handling the complicated scheduling and often being practically tethered to the patient during treatments while the patient gets to basically sleep the time away.

Even at home, a caregiver doesn’t always have it easy. Sure, living with a cancer patient is a great excuse for avoiding office parties or other awkward social events. It also works well for getting out of annoying things like your kid’s school functions, parent-teacher conferences or PTA meetings. But suddenly a caregiver becomes a nurse, cook, and housecleaner, without all the respect and appreciation that those positions usually carry on their own. Now, a caregiver is often simply expected to fulfill all these functions selflessly, at all hours, while still holding a job and maintaining any other responsibilities that existed prior to the cancer diagnosis. Surprisingly, this may lead to high levels of stress for the caregiver, in spite of all the leeway the position offers.

These examples alone may not be enough to dissuade everyone from either becoming or caring for a cancer patient; hopefully, they offer some food for thought that will encourage a well-reasoned decision. If you have other examples you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments section below! I’m sure that there are plenty of other reasons not to get cancer that other potential patients could benefit from learning about. I, for one, would probably have thought twice before rashly going ahead and getting diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. At the very least, it would have been prudent to consider something in an earlier stage, if not an entirely different organ. But, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

While there are few things that will get you to the front of the queue at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar faster than telling the manager “I’m on chemotherapy and might throw up any minute, I don’t think I can wait for 2 1/2 hours for someone to look at my laptop,” and not many excuses for forgetting to turn in that last assignment are as acceptable as just shrugging your shoulders, smiling awkwardly and whispering “chemo-brain,” try to remember that cancer (and its resulting treatment) is still a 24/7 consideration. As with all things in life, it is easy to be blinded by the promise of instant gratification, short-term benefits, and easy excuses. Considering the long-term potential of all options may prevent bigger headaches, both literal and figurative, so pull on those thinking caps and plan ahead!

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5 thoughts on “The Downside to Cancer

  1. Also, Warning: If you want to keep your current wardrobe, cancer may not be for you! A little known fact about cancer is that it can cause your body to go through changes, such as dramatic weight loss OR weight gain!

  2. You forgot that caregivers must remain ever cheerful while taking on all those responsibilities. Because, well, THEY don’t have cancer….

    Hang in there my dear. Your writings and posts on chemo brain are vastly superior to reading updates on Trump any day

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