Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bad Manners or Good Etiquette?


Well, at least it’s not c-a-n-c-e-r! 
So many times I hear this pronouncement when someone shares the travails in their life or that of a person close to them.  What does this self-assuring phrase mean to the utterer? What does it mean to the hearer?

It harkens me back to the victorian age when C-A-N-C-E-R was hissed in hushed tones, as if saying it in polite conversation was unseemly, bad-form, or worse – made the disease communicable.

To the one sighing in relief, “well…at least it’s not cancer”, it is comforting as if this means the sufferer in question has somehow dodged a terminal bullet.

To the recipient of this sighed utterance, it can mean further isolation – especially if you yourself has C-A-N-C-E-R. Those of us with C-A-N-C-E-R do not have a red letter on our chests (or a pink, or a purple…but I digress).

It may mean that in the minds of the speaker anything is still better than c-a-n-c-e-r … that O-T-H-E-R disease. It may mean that C-A-N-C-E-R is still the feared death-sentence that it has historically been. It may mean that subconsciously people do not b-e-l-i-e-v-e the propaganda perpetuated by the C-A-N-C-E-R   I-N-D-U-S-T-R-Y. They may not believe the rhetoric that “awareness” is somehow a cure. They would accept anything but c-a-n-c-e-r.

I don’t buy into the billboards, TV commercials, print ads, direct-mail advertising, pop-up ads, runs, walks, retail-awareness. I do, however, understand the fear and the loneliness C-A-N-C-E-R can engender in a person. I would not wish C-A-N-C-E-R on my worst nemesis. Yet, I will not be hushed when I say C-A-N-C-E-R when speaking about myself, because it is part of life and reality.

What do I say in return when I am privy to the sighed utterance, well at least it’s not….     ?


I nod.

It would be unseemly and bad-form to do otherwise. One social faux-pas in a conversation is quite enough.


  1. Nice Metaphor! But Cancer is one of the most feared diagnoses in the world. As humans we sometimes forget that we’re not the only ones to face this difficult and deadly disease and people are still in search of the best alternative cancer treatment that is known to and i hope it really does.

    1. NormanFor8 ~ cancer comes in so many forms and sizes. And the causes have proliferated to the point that it can be developed from breathing the air and drinking the water in our own backyard. If only we could channel the commensurate fear from this reality into cleaning up our environment. That may do more for staving the rates of cancer than the cancer industry in pushing toxic cocktails.

  2. Oh yes, "At least it's not cancer." I've heard that one too.

    It always makes me think whoever is saying stuff like this really means they haven't done anything to deserve THAT. So far they've been spared. Things could always be worse.

    Lots of mind games go on, right?

    1. Nancy,

      There is a great line in the Marigold Hotel movie: "It all works out in the end. If it hasn't worked out yet it is probably not the end." Funny how cancer is still, the "worst" that we would have all liked to have side-stepped. Despite a lifetime of "healthy" choices, it still can be an unforseen "event."