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Dear Doctors – There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ cancer!

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Good-BadAt a follow-up meeting during my diagnostic phase in July 2010, the specialist who was investigating my referral condition was clearly suspicious that I had cancer but as the results of my liver biopsy were not yet in, he was not in a position to declare his findings.  However, following my revelation about flushing during this meeting, he immediately guessed the biopsy would confirm Carcinoid (the most common type of Neuroendocrine Tumour (NET)).  I can’t remember much of the conversation but I vividly remember him indicating that of all the issues out there to get, this was one of the better ones.  He was using a meter analogy action with his hands swinging towards the ‘good’ reading!  I hadn’t gone there that day to receive a cancer diagnosis but he was clearly trying to put me at ease and I’m sure it was with the best of intentions.  A little bit of me thinks this scenario is OK but the definition of ‘Good’ before treatment is known might just set expectations too high!

This is a very topical subject on forums and some patients are not happy being told their cancer is a ‘good’ cancer or one of the ‘better’ cancers to get.  Whenever this subject comes up it tends to overlap and extend into associated areas including the deception where people look so well so how can they possibly have a ‘bad’ cancer. If I had an opinion, I would say that no cancer is good but it’s true to say that some are worse than others, e.g. certain cancers will kill lots of people quickly and that’s awful.

Some cancers can be declared in remission after a period but some cancers can stay with you for the rest of your life. Some cancers can result in long-term debilitating side effects. Additionally, the consequences of treatment for certain cancers can be difficult to live with, meaning significant lifestyle changes in the long-term or for life. This is precisely why many cancer patients who live with these ‘consequences’ are angry at the suggestion their cancer is a ‘good one to get’.

Dear Doctors – There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ cancer!  They’re all bad?

Thanks for reading

Ronny Allan

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10 Comments

  1. Laura Hoke says:

    It just invalidates us when they refer to it as a good cancer. I’ll never forget my daughter saying to me, Why couldn’t you just have gotten breast cancer?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Andrew says:

    Talk about luck, while we were working out my flushing symptoms and found a small carcinoid in my duodenum we also discovered I suffered from MDS that has advanced to Acute Myeloid Leukemia, all within three months from me starting with flushing and itchy rash. The tumour was excised and graded as gr 2 stage 1 with no invasion but my insurance doesn’t see it as being a cancer. I have now started on chemo for the AML in anticipation for a possible bone marrow transplant but my medical aid is delaying the ok for a donor search as my Chromogrannin A is still elevated and they want another Octreotide scan done .Being a surgeon it helped to make the diagnosis early, or maybe I was just lucky to pick up the “good cancer” early just to find out about the other “bad cancer”.
    To all of you, everything of the best and Ronny keep up the good work.

    Andrew Marx

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  3. Coral says:

    I remember hearing that if you were gonna get a cancer this would be the best one to get. I think that’s supposed to make us feel better. I would rather hear anyone say whatever it is that we have to live with, the fact is is we are living. Each of us has challenges that are sometimes things that seem insurmountable, and as Ed said, we just Soldier on. It’s all we can do. We are all living with something. And there are days it just sucks. But I am grateful for every day of life that I have Kama as I was told four years ago I had six months. When people tell me that I don’t look like I am no, I just tell them it’s the good-looking cancer. Then they usually don’t know what the heck to say and move on! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ed says:

    Well, I guess “luck” can be good and bad. For me, yes…I am alive but my wife is under constant stress, I am always sick, my cancer has spread all over my body including liver, G.I. Tract, legs, shoulders, ribs, lymph nodes, spine. Pain and nausea/vomiting and fatigue and constant symptoms and my 8 year old son gets to worry about me and maybe lose me to this disease. I used to run in the streets with him, chase him, play games outside. Most of that is gone. It’s horrible. Is it lucky or good to have only one leg cut off in an auto accident and not two? Would you go to that person’s hospital bed and say “Yes, you lost a leg but hey, look on the bright side…you’re alive!” I don’t think so. Would that be the good kind of amputation or auto accident? I think the question is irrelevant and over simplified. Is it luck that I got cancer? Maybe bad luck if you believe in luck. Will I soldier on? Yes, but that doesn’t make it any better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ronnyallan says:

      great point about ‘luck’ Ed. There is definitely good and bad luck! I tried not to distinguish between ‘this cancer’ and ‘that cancer’ or even ‘this illness’. Difficult to find a text to meet everyone’s view! However, I mainly wanted to say that no cancer is good.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Perfect!! My first doctor said: ” This is the better cancer you could have!! ” But it is not true!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. edebock says:

    While I agree that there is no such thing as a good cancer, I am thankful that for me, at least, NETS has been a lot easier to live with than many other cancers would have been.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ronnyallan says:

      Yes, ditto. I see so many awful stories in the news about Pancreatic, Oesophagus and certain other deadly cancers that it does make me feel lucky. I could have said more in the blog but I sensed it might have contradicted the message that some cancers aren’t that bad at all (if you get my drift!)

      Liked by 1 person

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