The Good Cancer

Ever hear you had the good cancer?

I’m certain you’ll agree that while breast cancer is many things, “good” isn’t one of them. What’s good is the diagnostic equipment that makes it easier to detect malignancies earlier than most other cancers. That, however, is a reflection on the tools, not the cancer, and some of us aren’t lucky regardless. If there were a good cancer, it would look very different from anything I’ve seen…

Pink Dress Silhouette Clip Art

For one thing, Good Cancer has a varied wardrobe that does not feature shades of bubble gum. It smells clean, gives amazing foot rubs and has a voice like Adele. Because of this latter fact, Good Cancer gets frequent invites to perform at White House functions, after which Michelle Obama takes it for a tour of her garden where the two of them sample freshly picked, organic green beans while they discuss strategies for empowering the homeless.

When Coffee & BiscottiGood Cancer visits my home, it greets me with a hug and a box of biscotti, chocolate-dipped, which we gently dunk in Italian Roast coffee that’s freshly ground and French-pressed.

“I’ll get the dishes,” says Good Cancer. “Why don’t you stroll the garden? The scent of roses and gardenias will do you good.” Good Cancer speaks with a British accent even lovelier than that of the woman who inhabits my GPS.

Before I retreat to the garden, I tussle Good Cancer’s hair and say, “You’re my dream cancer, the one I’ve waited for.” And, yes, if my cancer is elevated to the status of Good, it better be male because anything that grabs hold of my breasts and burrows in better look and act like Ryan Gosling. Or be cute and witty like Paul Rudd as opposed to, let’s say, Jennifer Aniston. I like Jen a lot, really I do, but not when it comes to this kind of intimacy and I suspect she shares my feelings. But that’s just me. Due to Good Cancer’s easygoing nature, it happily accommodates everyone’s preference.

But alas, I didn’t have Good Cancer. No, my cancer dressed like hell and had nose hairs sprouting from its nostrils. It scratched itself in dark, moist places, then slyly shook my hand, snickering that what I didn’t know had a decent chance of killing me.

Breast cancer bears a strong resemblance to Ted Bundy. It violates women’s bodies without their consent, leaving them maimed, traumatized and occasionally dead. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is a cookie-toting Girl Scout by comparison because cancer doesn’t stop at Christmas. It ruins 365 days out of an entire year, and maybe the next one too, sometimes for the rest of what would have been a life. It even slaps around vulnerable children who haven’t had a chance to experience life and hate it yet. Or love it. We’ll never know. And that’s about as low as one gets.

If any cancer were good, you’d want to rub elbows with it, hang out, call it your friend. I’ve never met any cancer like that. The cancer I know is two-faced and sneaky. It creeps into your life, grabs you in a headlock and stabs you in the back. No, “good cancer” is an oxymoron. Those two words are diametrically opposed and should never be paired. A definition of “good” as it relates to cancer is when you’re lucky enough to catch the little bastard with its pants down. That’s when you take steady aim and shoot. If you hit the bull’s eye, don’t stop and take pity. Feel no remorse for it would not feel remorse for you. Just wipe your hands clean, smile like a ruthless murderer and show yourself out.


  1. Marla Lukofsky says:

    Indeed I heard that phrase more than I cared to. One thing I know for sure, I never met a cancer I liked.

  2. Pam stark says:

    I love your writings…. Enjoying every one, even though I’m a very new follower. Keep them coming, they really make me smile, laugh and think.

  3. Thanks, Pam. I’m new here, too! Just started the blog in December. I consider it an honor to make you smile.

  4. Indeed, I too have heard this phrase from my medical oncologist, and like Marla it is not something I care to hear. I’m a great shot so if I ever get even a glimpse at the little bastard with his pants down I’ll blow him away hands down without giving it a thought. No garden and coffee for me. Dd

  5. You’re such a cutie pie!!!!!

  6. My sister is a 28 year survivor. A few days after her mastectomy her surgeon came into her room grinning. “Joan you are a lucky woman – your nodes were negative” Joan replied “if I were a lucky woman I would not have gotten cancer”.

    Thank goodness she is here and well 28 years later but people do say the strangest things.

    Thanks again Eileen.

  7. Ellen, yes, lucky is a relative term and I’m sure Joan’s surgeon has seen what could’ve been. Still, cancer in any form is never lucky or good.

  8. Eileen so enjoy your posts – pleasure to read on a Sunday morning in Ireland

  9. Eileen, wonderful post about the “good cancer.” Yes, I’ve heard that comment before and it irritates me to no end. Thank you for addressing such an important topic. There’s no such thing as a “good cancer,” yet breast cancer is so prettied up in our culture, it does seem like a freakin’ party to have this disease.

  10. Thanks for commenting, Beth. I do think the pink culture does us a disservice by presenting too happy of a face. Do other cancers have the equivalent thing going on? I don’t think so, or at least I hope not.

  11. Eileen, You have a wonderful sense of humor yet ability to be serious and straight on tough subjects at the same time. You are right, cancer STINKS! But if you catch it early, if it gets snuffed for good ,compared to the kind that doesn’t, well you realize once you know you will PROBABLY (and I do say PROBABLY) survive it, that it could have been worse. It’s a rude awakening. You are typically never the same again, even if your body heals. Then there are the less fortunate who are robbed of their life too soon. So while how horrible the cancer is is relative, I am with ya .. there is NO good cancer. Happy New Year!

  12. Enjoyed reading this post.

    I’ve been told I got “the good cancer.” In fact, right while I was waiting to be seen by my surgeon, before I even had my surgery or started any treatments, someone said to me, “hey at least you’re not dying. They have a plan for you.”

    You are right, bc does have better screening options. We can also examine ourselves at home, which is how I caught it. That’s the only difference. But all cancers are awful.

    • c., I also caught mine from a self-exam. When I finished cancer treatment, I mentioned to a friend that I was glad my life was spared. He said, “Oh, Eileen, no one dies from breast cancer anymore.” If only it were so.

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