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Is ‘Cancer’ Still a Dirty Word?

I’ve come to realize since battling cancer over the last 18 months that not all cancer sufferers want others to know they have this disease. It may be words like “disease,” which in my opinion makes our cancer sound awful and something to keep well away from. I’ve learned through observing, talking, and listening to others that there are many people out there that feel almost ashamed of their cancer and will keep it a secret at all cost.

The shock of not knowing about a friend’s cancer

A friend I’ve grown up alongside and known for over 35 years passed away last November. Apart from his close family members, myself along with many others weren’t aware until he was placed in a hospice that he had been living with cancer. It dawned on me during his funeral that the main topic of conversation amongst the attendees was about the shock of not knowing he was ill. I felt a lot was lost in these conversations, instead of us reliving some of his special moments while he was alive. It was, of course, his choice to keep his cancer a secret, but for me, most people only remember him now for dying of cancer and not how he lived his life despite the cancer.

I am not going to deny or hide my cancer

I sometimes watch the behavior and body language of the cancer patients at my urology center. It’s amazing how no one hardly talks to each other, even though it’s quite obvious that we are all there for similar reasons. I do my best to engage with others while there, but it feels very awkward at times trying to get others to talk, while all I’m trying to do is offer support. So I’ve asked the question, “Is ‘cancer’ still a dirty word, that should never be spoken in public?” What is the real issue with people knowing that you have cancer? Of course, we don’t need to go about our day publicizing the fact that we have cancer, but if the situation arises, I am not going to deny or hide the fact that I have cancer.

Or will I?

Or will I? I’m saying this because a few months back, I filled in an application for a new job. While doing the application, the question was asked why I left my previous job role. I innocently replied because I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. My wife, aghast with what I declared, was adamant that no one would employ me if I stated this, and as a result, I omitted it from the application. It left me feeling like a victim, with a dark secret to hide, but I suppose in certain circumstances hiding the truth is necessary! Although, I’m still not quite so sure.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.