The Great Cancer vs Chronic Illness Comparison.

We’ve all had this chat, right? Not that we ever start it. It’s usually with someone whose only health complaint is seasonal hay fever! Well here is my experience of it…

Not long after my diagnosis of EDS, an acquaintance felt some weird obligation to impart her worldly advice on me. The thing is, she has absolutely no knowledge of my condition and seems pretty ignorant regarding chronic illness in general. In fact, I would go as far to say as she formed this judgement (under the guise of advice) purely on her degree in being an utter fuck nugget and liking the sound of her own voice. She was “frustrated” for me on the basis that I was so negative about life. Her only comparison to my situation was her friend with terminal cancer. Because EDS and terminal cancer are absolutely comparable. You know, like aeroplanes and… fucking… dog shite:

“For example, one of my best friends has terminal cancer and I’m in Australia. Every day she posts the most inspiring and positive things and even though she is in so much pain, she makes herself feel great by trying to achieve things that cancer prevents her from doing.” – RDB


There is no easy way to say this, and I will look like an asshole. Heck, I have 27 years’ experience of being called an asshole, so I’m not going to stop now. I wonder if her friend is dead now. I hope she is still battling and making the most of every minute with her loved ones. It must be unimaginably awful. I’m going to guess that given the “terminal” diagnosis, she hasn’t made a miraculous recovery. And that’s where the difference is. Her friend had a battle with cancer. It was going to kill her and she sort of knew what to expect. It’s not okay and I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone. But I didn’t ask to be compared to this woman, did I?

I have a war, for the rest of my (average expectancy) life with this stupid illness. I worry that I’ll never be able to have a family – this is so important to me. When the day comes that I get married, will I be able to walk down the aisle? Will we even be able to afford a wedding or will I just be a mammoth financial drain forever more? We’ve already hit the point that I need a wheelchair. Will my partner have to wipe my bum in years to come? Do I really have 50 years left living in this pain? Am I going to have 50 years of morons like her implying I should be grateful that I don’t have cancer? If so, I might be looking at a period of jail time. 50 years of loneliness. 50 years of feeling worthless. Sounds like a hoot.


We should all appreciate every day that we wake up and we don’t have cancer and we should all show empathy for those who are affected by it. We should also be grateful for everyday we wake up and a jet engine hasn’t crashed through our bedroom window or we haven’t been eaten by a tiger that escaped from the zoo. We shouldn’t, however, use cancer to signify 10/10 bad on the “how woeful are your woes” scale BECAUSE LIFE ISN’T THAT SIMPLE. There is a great deal of (absolutely necessary) support in place for people with certain diagnosis, especially ones that will drastically shorten your life. There isn’t just a whole lot of support for people who have an incurable, chronic illness that can leave you utterly crippled physically, emotionally and financially. But it’s not cancer, so we aren’t allowed to complain.

I fucking hate her.

Ren x


14 thoughts on “The Great Cancer vs Chronic Illness Comparison.

  1. Ms. Mango says:

    I absolutely loathe when people compare terminal and/or acute illness with chronic illnesses like we should be handling it the same way. Of course we come off as assholes when we say something about it! Almost every disease or illness that isn’t the common cold or flu is compared to cancer and it just isn’t right, for those of us battling them or for those suffering with cancer. If I bring up that Lupus is a connective tissue disease/autoimmune disease people go “oh like Rheumatoid Arthritis right? That’s not so bad, my ‘so and so’ has that.” Now not only are they comparing my disease to something that can behave completely different but they’re downplaying it and RA for people with much more severe cases…. In the end, the only thing I can come up with is that sometimes ‘healthy’ people can be infuriating. I bet you, your friends friend (the one with terminal cancer) would have been totally wonderful and understanding towards what you go through and absolutely aware of how different it is from what she had/has.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. brokendownbody says:

      I think some people have just never had to battle anything in life. Positivity comes easily when you life a sheltered life, especially when you’ve had everything you could ever want handed to you. It’s hard for people like that to grasp what constant pain with no cure feels like. Their only comparison is having had the flu which lasted a week and they can’t comprehend that anyone can feel like that day in, day out. How could they? Unless… cancer. Cancer is the worst bad. To simple, struggle-free folks, cancer is the black to their white. They don’t understand that there are other seriously dark shades of grey that won’t kill you, they just make your life miserable.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ms. Mango says:

        I agree, but I also think that people don’t see the dark side of positivity. No one is positive all the time, if they are… they probably need help for that. Even the most upbeat happy people have bad days and that’s ok. It’s also OK to have a lot of bad or negative days especially when you’re in pain mentally or physically. It shouldn’t be about anyone judging you or anyone else for your view of the world or how your express yourself it should be about acceptance and understanding.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. bowermanland says:

    So much here to agree with, but I’m going to share something that still shocks me and is absolutely true: last year, one of the times my Mum was in hospital dying of lung cancer, she said to me in front of my Brother, that she thought I’d had had a more difficult life than her. So my 68 year old Mum is sitting with an oxygen mask, in hospital, with a tumour the size of a grapefruit on her lung telling me I had it worse. When I protested she said ‘I’ve had a good life, you’ve never had a chance’. What the actual fuck Mum. My Mum before the Lung Cancer didn’t have an easy life – worked hard, emotional problems, Uterine Cancer etc. but she still considered herself more lucky than me. Why? Because she was with me for the 35 years I had lived with EDS and it’s attendant joys. From the late walking wonky-eyed baby, to the 22 year old limping to university etc. etc. The constant pain, exhaustion, the skeptical doctors… So if a woman dying wouldn’t wanna swap with you, you know your shit is real.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. brokendownbody says:

      That’s horrid. I’m really sorry to hear about your Mum. She sounds like she saw the world through kind eyes 🙂

      It’s funny that even if you explained that in response to someone comparing our illness to cancer, like… your genuine experience of someone you know dying of cancer and their comment on it… They’d still try and tell you that you’re just feeling sorry for yourself. It’s the weirdest thing. None of us ever asked to be compared to a cancer patient. People are just so weird.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. bowermanland says:

        To say anything is ‘worse’ than cancer is a modern blasphemy, particularly if the something ‘worse’ is not visible. My Mum was an unusual person, I was and am very lucky to have had her.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. ZebraWitch says:

    It’s the same old needless misery barometer people like to apply EVERYTHING to. I guess to the ill-informed, it’s a way to prioritise their compassion (because by some bizarre logic, they think it’s not possible to recognise all sorts of things are shitty in all sorts of different ways and ranking them isn’t actual helpful for anyone).

    Very infuriating.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. ZebraWitch says:

        No problem at all. Great post. Sadly I relate.
        It’s the same people who can’t comprehend that you can support more than one cause at a time! For example, you can be a feminist whilst increasing awareness of male suicide rates. Or advocate for a cause supporting pandas and still manage to care about homeless people. I don’t know why people make these stupid comparisons or expect exclusive interest or compassion for just one thing at a time! Life and death are hard. People should just attempt to understand other’s experiences better through LISTENING and this will never be achieved poo pooing our shitty chronic experiences and comparing them to other things!! x

        Liked by 1 person

  4. leah barker says:

    your words are powerful and pure.

    Living with HD (Huntington’s Disease) is hard. I know I’m only 23 years old, but the majority of my life consists of a battle between depression, anxiety, and reality.

    I knew that I was going to test positive. In some ways it was a relief because I had an explanation for my bouts of insanity. In more ways, it was a nightmare. A nightmare that lived and breathed through me and my family.

    My mother is my life, and watching her turn into someone I don’t know causes me to have a mental breakdown at least once a day…on top of an overload of classes at a university that curses me with a financial responsibility I don’t know I will be able to carry through.

    It’s hard to get out of bed. The worst kind of sickness is a disease that consumes your mind. So you might have regular mental illnesses, and then you have mental illnesses caused by HD, and then you have to carry the burden of being a caretaker, finishing school, and becoming sick yourself. Not to mention the fear of never finding a husband who wants to deal with your degradation; and even if you were to find someone, you would have to carry the guilt of handing him the responsibility of taking care of you.

    And what about kids? I’ll be 24 in two weeks, and I was always sure that I’d be married with kids by now. But to ensure that they are healthy costs more money than the debt I’ve surrendered to in exchange for an education. I’m only growing older.

    Time is my greatest enemy. You can’t fight him. There is no winning. And the worst part is, people attempt to provide comfort in the phrase, “It’s all in your head.”
    I can’t imagine feeling worse. I can’t imagine being taken care of. I had a dream that I was in the later stages, and it was horrible. I couldn’t even tell my dad “I love you.” I couldn’t stop moving. There was no rest. And I am petrified.

    The only comfort I find is in my HD community. I find solace in reading other people’s stories and knowing that I’m not alone. I love all of you more than you can imagine because we are the same. We understand each other, and empathy is HD’s greatest reward. It has given me a family.

    So please, share your story. It will give strength and hope to others who are suffering…people like me. I urge you to let your voice be heard. I’m tired of being silent, and I know you are too. Speak for those who are too afraid. We are a family.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. painkills2 says:

    I was just thinking today about how some people take comfort in knowing that things could be worse. That they don’t have cancer. That they’re not in a wheelchair. And yet, when I see people worse off than me, I just feel… worse.

    Still, I understand the need to take comfort in accepting things as they are and knowing they could be worse. When I think of how things could be worse, I think of being homeless, which does make me appreciate the roof over my head. 🙂

    I have a feeling that when people see my handicapped license plates — yet see me being able to walk — they might think I’m faking it. But until they make a wheelchair for heads, my pain is not visible. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tlohuis says:

    Very well said. I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks for sharing. I think you’ll find a lot of us here that totally agree with what you just said. Hope you’re having a “good” day. Peace out. XX 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lisa says:

    I love this! I have Multiple Sclerosis since 1997, I can’t even tell you how many people I have known and known of that have been diagnosed with and beat some form of cancer since my diagnosis, some not so fortunate but many were cured and are back to work, living a normal, cancer free, healthy life.

    Liked by 1 person

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