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I Was Told ‘You’re Not that Bad’ My Whole Life — Even During Cancer


After being told, "You're not that bad" my whole life, I continued to hear that after being diagnosed with leukemia — which some called "the best" cancer to have.

CLL survivor, Kathleen Harper

I often hear “You’re not that bad.” It started in childhood. My mother rarely let me stay home from school sick. She would say, “You’re not that bad!” I was an average student in school, and I would hear, “You’re not that bad.” I lived my life as an average person. While in grad school I had an anxiety attack presenting a project. I heard “You’re not that bad.”

In 2010 after experiencing some symptoms I went to my first consult at a cancer center. I was told that I had chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). My brother-in law who was a practicing doctor came with me. After being told that I would stay in “wait-and-watch” mode and not receive treatment at that time my brother-in law stated, “You’re not that bad. If you were going to pick a cancer you have the best one!”

Really? I think I would choose not to pick cancer. I did get “that bad” last year and started treatment. In addition, I recently heard that a family friend, my sister’s ex-boyfriend from high school, passed away from cancer. It was sad. The text telling me of the news included how the treatment wore down his body.

I am currently experiencing a lot of side effects. Well, almost all of them. Of course! When I expressed how the wording in the text triggered my own feelings, I was told that my cancer was different than the family friends and “You’re not that bad.”

I continue to work while being treated. I am lucky that I can work at home. I am a behavioral health therapist and utilize telehealth with my clients. In addition, I have a certificate as a cancer coach. I have reflected on my own clients who are going through treatment or other difficulties. I have never said to them that “You’re not that bad.” I allow them the space to feel their feelings to help process them.

Today I am allowing myself to process my feelings. I no longer will hold onto the mindset of “you’re not that bad.” Instead, I am fully feeling my feelings, including all my side effects, sadness, frustration and pain. I know that if I allow myself to go through this process, I will have a better chance of having acceptance for what is. By utilizing mindfulness and learning to take time for self-care, I have discovered that this is an unexpected gift of having cancer. Today I have a deeper appreciation for others, increased empathy and continue to stay in the present while finding joy in the small things.

This post was written and submitted by Kathleen Harper. The article reflects the views of Kathleen Harper and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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