The Cancer Card: Rules for Use


Playing the cancer card, if you haven't done it yet, more than likely you will soon.

The cancer card. If you haven’t heard of THE cancer card before, you probably don’t have a clue what it is, but before I tell you what it is, I’ll tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t an actual, physical card you can hold in your hand. It isn’t a greeting card related to cancer, although, there are some cards you can send to cancer patients. Some of them are quite serious with heartfelt sentiments and some are hilariously funny. THE cancer card isn’t funny unless the user knows how to use it in humorous or awkward situations.

So what is the cancer card? The “cancer card” is a term coined by those affected by cancer in some way, shape or form. The cancer card is kind of like a “get out of jail free” card in the game of Monopoly. It’s like a secret weapon you keep tucked in the back pocket of your jeans for special occasions. There are no rules for using the cancer card other than those the user decides are appropriate at the time of use. The cancer card is powerful, but must be used carefully and only on an “as needed” basis. The cancer card trumps everything.

I don’t know when I received my cancer card. I don’t remember anyone slipping one into my hand. Maybe someone tucked it into my bag at the hospital when I wasn’t looking. I didn’t find the cancer card until some months after I’d had my breasts removed and I didn’t even realize I was contemplating using it until a few minutes before I did. Of course, without knowing the rules of playing the card, I had to make them up on my own. I followed my gut. I timidly slipped the card onto the table. Cautiously, I made my move. As I placed the imaginary card face up in front of my family, I heard words coming from my mouth that gave the card its power. “I just can’t tonight,” I said, “My body isn’t the same since surgery. I’m just too tired. Cancer has taken my energy.” Just like that, BAM! I’d played my very first cancer card. What a relief! My family bought it. The cancer card had worked! That night, I discovered the cancer card was magical. It could replenish itself at will. Although I’d played one cancer card, I still had a full deck of them at my disposal. I felt them in my pocket and I was going to keep the deck handy just in case.

How do we use the cancer card? It’s best to use the card in low-stake situations and if used properly, it can help others understand how terribly, horrible cancer is and how sucky it is to have it. The cancer card should be played with fingers lightly holding one corner of the card in case a quick recoil is necessary. The cancer card doesn’t always work. Use of the card must be weighed carefully by the player. It isn’t wise to play the card often.

Why does anyone use the cancer card? For one, it’s convenient. If an excuse is needed to get out of doing something, the cancer card buys your freedom. The card never gets used up or worn out. For the most part, people are understanding and accepting when you play the cancer card. Most of them don’t even realize the card is being played but after a time or two, they may wise up and start to reject it.

Does anyone really enjoy having to play the cancer card? The jury is out on this one. Some may find the power of the cancer card too compelling to disregard while others may hesitate to pull a card from the deck. It’s a personal choice to play, but if you do play, please play responsibly. Remember, although cancer has affected your life in a dramatic way, using cancer as your way out of difficult situations by playing the card isn’t always a good thing. Your loved ones are probably aware of the physical limitations cancer has placed on your body. They want to be understanding and accepting of your disabilities. They want to support you and help you. And remember this: The cancer card can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Feelings can be hurt and misunderstandings can occur.

The cancer card should always be played in jest. Cancer, though nothing to laugh about, needs a little humor added to it on occasion. The cancer card can do just that. When played with the right spirit, a smile should always accompany the card while in play and sometimes, a little added laughter doesn’t hurt either.

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