Cancer is Not a Convenient Excuse


Many cancer survivors may feel the urge to use their disease as a convenient excuse for avoiding unpleasant situations, writes a survivor. However, she urges others to avoid giving into that power.

Recently, I was catching up on a few of my favorite TV shows. One of them, “A Million Little Things,” sparked feelings of frustration I didn't know existed.

During the episode, one of the character’s, Maggie Bloom, a breast cancer survivor, currently in remission, received a call from her oncologist. Expecting to hear news that her cancer has returned, she is shocked to learn of an unexpected pregnancy.

Though happy not to hear the dreaded words, “You have cancer,” she isn’t happy about the news she did receive. She says, in a poignant conversation with Gary, another character from the show, she isn't ready to be a mother and explains that her reason for not keeping the child is born out of fear of putting the baby at risk due to recently stopping chemotherapy. Gary, a former lover, who is not the father of the child, agrees to support Maggie in her decision.

Maggie and Gary go to an abortion clinic where she receives medication that will cause a spontaneous abortion.

Back at Gary’s apartment, we see the camera pan in on Maggie's face showing obvious emotional struggle as she takes the first of two abortion pills. What comes next is unexpected. She becomes angry and blames cancer for dictating many of the choices she's made in her life, including this one.

As I listened, I wondered how I would have reacted under the same scenario. Would I have chosen to abort a child due to the possibility of potential health issues caused from chemotherapy treatment? Or, would I have chosen to take my chances and give birth? It's hard to say but I would hope, if I'd been in that same situation, I would have chosen life for my unborn child and have trusted the child's health to the Creator.

Cancer can easily be blamed for many things in a survivor's life, but it isn't — and shouldn't be — a scapegoat. Yes, cancer causes those affected by it to carefully weigh decisions and the consequences that may follow those choices, but it isn't the reason behind every dilemma. And we cannot negate the fact that any type of cancer impacts a life in profound ways.

As a survivor, I have firsthand experience with the physical, emotional and spiritual side effects of the disease. They have been traumatic and yes, on occasion, I’ve played the cancer card to avoid certain situations, but during those times, my reasons were valid. Usually, bowing out of an obligation was due to post-cancer fatigue or post-cancer PTSD. It had nothing to do with blaming cancer for options available to me.

TV shows, as many well know, can overdramatize cancer scenarios to achieve higher ratings. But for those who’ve faced the drama of a real-life encounter, it is something rather to be forgotten than constantly remembered.

Cancer is not a convenient excuse. Life presents choices to us daily and those choices are ours to make. Cancer and the side effects that come with it can certainly affect choices but it’s important to remember cancer is a disease, not a dictator. And, I refuse to give it that power.

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