The Cancer Stigma
I did not tell people I had breast cancer for a while. When you tell people you have cancer their faces drop. ‘Oh, I'm so sorry.’ No, don't go there. You don't have to be sorry for me

After a breast cancer diagnosis, many women describe the additional challenge of how to manage the reactions and perceptions that others have regarding their diagnosis. Much of society still erroneously equates a cancer diagnosis with a poor prognosis.

I don't like when people learn I have cancer and they give me that ‘Oh I'm so sorry.’ I don't want that. I don't want people to feel sorry for me because I had cancer. I'm okay. I made it through. I learned that I can be as strong as I need to be. You just find a strength to get it done. -- Jeanna B.

Some women choose to keep their diagnosis relatively private to minimize the awkward pity and perceived weakness. Others describe feeling the need to “prove” they are still capable of managing their daily life or professional work. An additional challenge is the faulty notion that a mastectomy or lumpectomy renders a patient no longer beautiful or feminine.

When navigating a breast cancer diagnosis, women want to feel like all other women: strong, capable, healthy, and beautiful. They do not want to feel isolated or weak. They want to get on with life, navigate their challenge, and celebrate their resiliency.

"I never wanted to call attention to my cancer or have people feel sorry for me."
"I wore black and covered up with jackets all the time."
"It's always in the back of your mind."
"I think you have to go through the roller-coaster of emotion to begin to understand it. People just hear 'cancer' and think death sentence."
"I didn't want to be looked at, or pitied, or questioned. I was trying to move forward."
"There are friends that rise to the challenge. There are other friends that get scared and back away."
"It made dating hard. My fear over the years was why would someone want to deal with my problems."
"I wanted to feel strong and healthy. I was rid of the cancer and doing what I needed to do to make sure it didn't come back."
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