to think saying 'Cancer's like flu these days' is offensive.

(58 Posts)
Beeyump Mon 02-Sep-13 22:47:51

This, breezily, from a woman at work who has had breast cancer herself, and has now had the all clear. I think she meant that cancer can be successfully treated more often now? While my mum is in that group, my maternal grandparents weren't so fortunate, and I just found the remark really off. But aibu to think that without having been through it myself?

Spero Tue 03-Sep-13 00:27:44

That's your experience of her and that's valid for you.

But she is the one who had cancer. If she wants to think of it like flu, she has that right. Other people's experiences of cancer or sensibilities about cancer don't dictate what she feels or expresses to help her get through this.

Yes, if she marched up to someone with Stage IV and started mouthing off, she would deserve a metaphorical or actual slap. But she has just made some dismissive comment in general conversation?? I am genuinely struggling to see what she has done 'wrong' by any objective standard.

thetrackisback Tue 03-Sep-13 00:28:04

Flu is a massive killer we have family members who died in the last major flu pandemic in Britain and it is a killer. I'm reading that she is saying cancer is as common as flu?

wannaBe Tue 03-Sep-13 00:35:44

I would have taken it to mean it's common like the flu - which tbh, it is. I don't think there's anyone who doesn't know someone who has been affected by cancer.

I do however also think that it is quite offensive to suggest that this woman is living in a fantasy if she thinks she has survived it, quite nasty in fact. Yes cancer is everywhere, and yes, people die from it. But people can and do recover from it, and they shouldn't feel they should live in fear for the rest of their lives just because others have been less fortunate.

Fact is that we're all going to die. so someone who has been given the all clear from cancer (and we're generally talking five years past treatment might equally be hit by a truck or die in a car accident, but we don't expect people to live in fear of that all their lives, neither should they be expected to not be happy they have come through cancer treatment because "it could come back even in twenty years." Well yes it could, but it might not. People should be able to live their lives and deal with their situations in their own way.

MrsMongoose Tue 03-Sep-13 00:44:13

Did she mean it was common? I'm not offended if that's what she meant. Sadly, in my family, cancer is very common sad

Saffyz Tue 03-Sep-13 00:45:58

> But regardless, if saying that makes her feel better, why should she have to censor what she says because other people aren't so breezy?

Maybe because she isn't the only one whose life is affected by cancer so she can't claim to speak for everyone?

Sister77 Tue 03-Sep-13 01:27:02

I think what she probably means (and I have said the same) is that years ago it was not really heard of and now most people know someone whose got it/had it/ going through it. I certainly don't mean to minimalize anyone's experiences or health or make light of them.
It's a scary bastard horrible disease.

sashh Tue 03-Sep-13 05:48:28

Beeyump

My mum had breast cancer and was cured. Just before the magic 5 years she was diagnosed again, a different type of breast cancer.

That was a few years ago, and it is now in her liver and she is dying. I would not wish this on anyone but maybe point out to your colleague that breast cancer still kills and being clear after having it once dies not mean she is clear for life.

Southpaws Tue 03-Sep-13 06:04:06

I would also assume that she means that it's common. My nan always says stuff like 'when I was young it's was TB and flu that kept the population under control, now it's cancer'. Both she and my grandad have had cancer (she survived, sadly grandad didn't) and I think it's her way of rationalising and minimising something actually very scary for her.
Sounds like it could be the same situation with your colleague. As someone else said, I think it's a bit much to be offended by the way she rationalises her own illness.

BlazinStoke Tue 03-Sep-13 07:16:04

Perhaps she was being sarcastic/angry/passive aggressive? This isn't aimed at you OP but I think there is a tendency to see cancer patients as either under an immediate death sentence or "cured" (ie in remission) and therefore perfectly ok) and your colleague is possibly fed up of trying to explain the long and stressful journey that someone with diagnosis has to travel?

cupcake78 Tue 03-Sep-13 07:19:42

Had it been a general comment from someone who hadn't been through it I'd say NBU. However she has more right to comment on this than anyone as she's been through it herself. Therefore YABU.

Rooners Tue 03-Sep-13 07:51:08

You can say anything you like about your own experience but it isn't fair to transpose that onto other people's experience.

I think that's what it comes down to. So it depends on the context and what you think she meant.

daisychain01 Tue 03-Sep-13 07:56:31

It is the sort of comment that is throw-away and meaningless. Not worth engaging with the woman.. Just nod politely and move on, detach so you can get along with her at work. She is hardly a close friend!

ll31 Tue 03-Sep-13 07:57:52

Yabu, it is not offensive.

MrsBungle Tue 03-Sep-13 08:04:37

To me, the comment sounds flippant. It would take me back a bit.. My mum died of cancer. She wouldn't have died of flu - she was young and healthy. Maybe she did mean it is common and more people do seem to survive it. Flippant comments about cancer to me, though, aren't very nice . There was no getting over or curing my mum's cancer.

candycoatedwaterdrops Tue 03-Sep-13 08:09:42

YABU and I think your thoughts on this statement are coloured by your opinions of her. I took it to mean as common as flu.

Fakebook Tue 03-Sep-13 08:15:34

I don't think it's offensive because to me or sounds like she meant cancer is very common these days, and she's right because we have so many more tests and research being done to diagnose it compared to 20-30 years ago.

trixymalixy Tue 03-Sep-13 08:17:43

It's probably her way of stopping herself worrying about it all the time. She's probably all too aware that it may come back.

If she thinks of it like flu then it maybe appears less scary.

gottasmile Tue 03-Sep-13 08:29:45

I too, would have taken that to mean that it's becoming more common (unfortunately).

Thymeout Tue 03-Sep-13 08:53:58

I think she, more than most, is fully aware of the fact that cancer can and does come back. But her way of coping is to focus on the positive that in her case, bc, there is a good chance that it won't and, if it does, they're discovering new treatments all the time.

That's her prerogative and I think YABU in being offended. I'd certainly not try to disillusion her. The emotional effects of cancer are as difficult to live with as the physical ones. Let her deal with her own illness in the way that helps her best.

tulipgrower Tue 03-Sep-13 09:00:58

In my circle of family and friends cancer is as common as the flu. sad

She is trying to convince/reassure herself. If it was something she was saying to someone with breast cancer I think it would be incredibly insensitive. As she's presumably saying it to reassure herself I think it's incorrect but not insensitive. I suspect she means it was an awful thing she went through & is now over. I hope, in her case she's right.

cory Tue 03-Sep-13 09:06:10

What trixymalixy and Thymeout said. This is a narrative she can live with.

Isthisoneleft Tue 03-Sep-13 09:12:29

I overheard a colleague say to another, that she thought it was disgusting the amount of money the NHS was wasting on treating people with cancer, and nature should be allowed to take its course.

That was offensive!

Rosesarebeautiful Tue 03-Sep-13 09:19:26

I would take it badly too. With Cancer prognosis very much depends on the type and how early it is found. Flu can kill too.

Having said that people make silly, thoughtless comments all the time. My kids have Tourettes, and I take very personally jokes made when people say ' Oh, I have Tourette's' ' as an apology for swearing or being indiscreet. I'm trying to ignore their thoughtlessness now.

Try not to over think it, maybe she was just reassuring herself. Not worth upsetting yourself over

vladthedisorganised Tue 03-Sep-13 09:24:03

Hm, not sure where I stand on the 'one can't judge what another takes from their life experiences'.

If I didn't know her history I would have been very annoyed. If I did know her history I would have congratulated her on her own experience and her resilience in getting through the treatment, but would have reminded her strongly that many people aren't so lucky - in the same way that people might not know her experiences inside out, she doesn't know what other people are going through either.

As someone who has suffered from cancer, she can say what she likes about her own experience - if it helps her cope, fair enough.
As someone who has lost someone very dear to them through cancer and been with them from diagnosis to the moment they died, I also reserve the right to find the remark pretty stupid. She might not have to edit her remarks to accommodate others, but they equally don't have to edit their feelings to accommodate hers.

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