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Does Anyone Else Find It Annoying Having To Re-Explain Having Cancer All The Time?

February 11th, 2019 |
Young Adult Cancer, Survivorship

by breannemadeline | Survivor: Bone Cancer    Connect

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it super annoying to have to re explain constantly every detail about you having cancer?


I currently moved again. I am originally from Albury and for you that don’t know where it is, it’s on the good old border of New South Wales and Victoria. I would travel the 3 and a half hours to Melbourne when I was going through my cancer treatment or I’d just stay there because travelling and ending up in a regional hospital wasn’t too much fun. Anyway, I moved to the big smoke in 2017, to Melbourne that was my second home away from home. Unfortunately, my wandering self didn’t last long there. I had a vision I would go into the city every weekend and live my best life. Sadly, my weekends consisted of work and university. So I jumped state lines again and now I’m living my best life in Adelaide, a bigger version or Albury, but a way smaller version of Melbourne.


Back to my initial point.


I didn’t realize how frustrating it is going to a “normal” doctor; you know those ones that are supposed to fix other problems you might have (quite a foreign concept after having cancer doctors around all the time). I always end up going in to a random bulk billing GP because I’m a poor university student and I go in with a cold hoping for antibiotics. Instead, I get interrogated about when I had cancer. I don’t particularly want to fill out a new doctor’s form and put my medical history on it, but you have to. Generally, instead of them asking what’s wrong with me in the present, I get the whole, "So tell me about when you had cancer." So then I briefly go over, I was 14 when I was diagnosed with an Osteosarcoma and had 12 months of chemotherapy. At this stage you would assume that they would go, “Okay what’s wrong with you today”. NOPE. I get, “So what was that like at a young age”? This isn’t a therapy session, I came to get antibiotics and leave.


Other questions or remarks I have gotten are “So how was chemo”, “Wow, that’s a rare cancer”, “What famous people did you meet”, “ What do you mean they took your humerus out”, “I’ve never met someone who has had that cancer before”, “ That’s one big scar” and my favourite was, “Wow, all the odds were stacked against you. That’s a rare cancer and you shouldn’t be here”. 


Thanks doctors. 


I understand all doctors have to learn, but I unfortunately am not the cancer dictionary and shouldn’t have to talk about it constantly when it isn’t relevant to what I have gone in there for. It’s frustrating that even when I go in about something different, it still revolves around me having cancer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a cancer advocate, but when I’m sick or in pain I don’t really want or have the time to talk about in-depth about my past when they have my history sitting right in front of them that they can read at their own leisure. They often get that face and most people who have had cancer or have cancer have experienced the face not only with doctors but with other people. The face that goes from happy to concerned real quick. The I’m sorry’s come and the questions start. Or because I have a big scar that noticeable I get the whole "So what happened to you", and let me tell you the amount of stories I have told because the explaining was just too hard at that time or I just couldn’t deal with the face or that other people around you pipe in and say “oh you had cancer, my auntys bestfriend's sister had cancer so I know what you went through”. No unfortunately you don’t and I wish you never do.


It’s the over explaining that gets to me. It’s like I should have a massive sign on my head that reads “Cancer survivor here come ask me all about it”. It’s been 8 years this year since I finished chemo (YAY!!) but unfortunately for me it feels like yesterday I was sitting in the hospital and the memories are as vivid as ever. I love spreading the word about the importance of adolescent cancer to cancer professionals, don’t get me wrong. But the interrogation from people that don’t quite understand is the thing that frustrates me.


Does anyone else feel the same?

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breannemadeline's picture

Bree currently resides in Melbourne but is orignally from a small town called Albury on the border of NSW and VIC in Australia. She was diagnosed with an Osteosarcoma in 2011 and is now 6 years cancer free! She has travelled many places in life and always seeking new adventures. She is a Social Work student wanting to pursue her dream of closing the gap of adolescent cancer care!