Are Cancer Survivors Selfish?

The other day a friend posted an angry rant on Facebook about racist names of sports teams, such as the Washington Redskins and Chicago Blackhawks. In my endless quest to find happiness post-cancer, my reaction was, naturally: “Calm the f&*k down. Life is way too short to get worked up about those things.” But then I thought about how it was truly unfair that we treat native Americans so poorly, and, for a moment, I felt bad about my reaction. 

Which brings me to my next point: Are cancer survivors selfish? I often find myself having a similar reaction as the one above to people who gripe about the world’s injustices. I also see lots of stories on survivor message boards about people who were in good relationships pre-cancer, but then after cancer their significant others break things off because they feel the cancer survivor is only thinking of him or herself.

My uneducated explanation is that a brush with fatality makes us turn inward and realize that life is short and all we really want to do with our time here on earth is be happy. That might sometimes mean that other people’s drama or other people’s causes get pushed to the side in favor of our own passions and pursuits. 

Of course, maybe it’s just me. I’d love to hear what others think – cancer survivors and non-cancer survivors! 

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10 responses to “Are Cancer Survivors Selfish?

  1. nowimconsidering

    I am selfish now. I left my partner of 7 years, who is an amazing woman who stayed with me through cancer. Why? Because it was mediocre and uninspiring. There was love, but no passion.
    Am I selfish? Yes. Am I an idiot? Possibly. But I’m not willing to settle anymore. I don’t care if it hurts, at least I am living. None of us will be here forever. I’d rather have a broken heart or be alone than to just get by.

  2. Great post and good insight! I am not sure if I am more selfish now after having battled cancer and won, but I do look at the world in a different way. I am grateful for each day and want to celebrate life, not get bogged down in the petty details that are unimportant.

  3. i don’t think cancer patients are selfish. I think they might be, or at least I am, less patient. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it isn’t. I also think sometimes these two things get mixed up and we are perceived to be selfish when really it’s more that we’re impatient. Does this make sense? Thanks for your very interesting thoughts.

  4. Totally bloody selfish…. and so we should be – settling is just not good enough. I’m still mid-treatment, fairly sure we’ll not finish it together though…! 😦

  5. Hi I’m not a cancer survivor on the partner of a cancer survivor,do I see her being selfish now ? Yes definitely ,she is a changed person has holidays without me now,goes out without me now,I’m hanging in there but for how much longer I don’t know,everyday I fight the urge to walk out and leave her to herself because that’s all she thinks about.even when I’m included there’s an alterior goal for her own benevolence.cancer ruins more lives than just the survivor.

    • Thank you for sharing this and sorry things are rocky with your relationship. I wonder if you have both talked through some of your feelings? Obviously communicating is the best way to work through these kinds of issues. You shouldn’t have to put up with anything you don’t want to put up with, but make sure she knows how you feel and give her a chance to try and reconcile, if that’s what you both want.

    • This is such a tough topic to mention honestly; I applaud & empathize w/you. My sister is an 8 year survivor of stage 4 brain cancer (diagnosed when she was 7 months pregnant). She made it through treatment like a true warrior. The “baby” is now 8 & healthy! Before cancer she was always self-centered yet kind, but all I can say is now she thinks of herself about 95% of the time now, which is A LOT since she’s had 2 more kids now. Her husband left 3 years ago; he was always awful, but can’t blame him for that act. My mom, her partner, & I paid for a very expensive lawyer (no gratitude at all for that), she has not worked since her diagnosis (or for 3 of the past 17 years for that matter). Disability even said she was fit to work & stopped paying. But insists on a $340 mo PPO, b/c Medicaid is “for trashy people” & her PREFERRED hospital won’t take any Affordable Health Care Act plans. She has a law degree, but nothing is good enough. She takes her kids to school about 10% of the time (private school b/c public is trashy), drops them off immediately after school w/my mom & her partner & picks them up about an hour before bed. She lives off child support, small spousal support (which will soon go away), & when she blows all that (by mid month), she bums off my 70 year old mom who works 2 jobs. When it’s not her ex’s weekend, my mom has kids about 80% of time. She’s even started a torrid affair w/1 of her 2nd grader’s dads & brings all the kids around him. Yet, she harps on her ex for doing the SAME thing & slams his now wife. She shops at only the finest stores, will use only the best beauty products & practitioners. It astounds me & we really can’t even be in the same room now. She explodes if you even mildly question her life of leisure & blames it all on the lawyer SHE chose, who’s 1 of the best in the state. When my mom decided to marry her partner of over 20 years, she threatened them w/no access to the kids b/c having a gay mom was “embarrassing”. Yet, even when she wasn’t speaking to my mom, she withdrew MAJOR $$$ from her acct & pretty much forced them to call off the wedding. Sorry for the vent-my point is that it seems normal for survivors to focus on themselves a bit more; mortality just knocked hard at their door. But if someone was already selfish to begin with or becomes an outright monster, there’s NO excuse! The longer people let that behavior continue unchecked, the worse & more outrageous it will get. Cancer is a horrible disease, but it’s also not an excuse treat your supporters like literal slaves & does not give you a lifetime pass to think ONLY of yourself. Please lay it all out directly & logically for your lady. If she fails to compromise, make a sustained effort to improve your relationship, compromise & consider YOUR feelings too, please save yourself & run for the hills! Cancer just brought a monster that was lurking in the shadows to the forefront. Find a woman you enjoy being with & who wants you both to be happy. Best of luck to you both!

  6. I think it depends on how serious the cancer and the treatment were. I did not have to go thru chemo which from what I hear really has a large PTSD factor tied to it. I would imagine should someone successfully eradicate their cancer that was more advanced or at least more than stage 1 or 11, they’d be much more overjoyed of it. But also more cautious about taking care of themselves. The other factor is people find themselves-as did I-moving away from those that might come across as toxic-at least to the ‘survivor’. A word I hate, by the way. I don’t survive-I live. But I also made the call to go to a lower-stress, albeit, lower-paying job and I find more joy in the holidays now; and a lot more mental spent on things I like and care about. Best wishes to all.

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