Sorry, If You’ve Never Had Cancer, You Don’t Get to Celebrate Not Having Cancer

Hearing the news you have cancer is a fucking nightmare.

Hearing the news you don’t have cancer anymore is a fucking relief.

And sharing the news online is a great way to raise awareness about cancer, especially in the adolescent and young adult (AYA) community.

That said, an uncomfortable online trend I’ve noticed over the past year or so is people who have never had cancer making posts/statements about them…still not having cancer.

Yeah, I wouldn’t believe it either unless I saw it myself. And I have. At least four times in the past 12 months. What might this sound like?

For example:

  • “My mammogram came back clear! Yay for me!” And they’ve never had cancer before. 🙄
  • “I had a scare but actually it was nothing, and I don’t have cancer, haha isn’t that cool!” With the undertone of I didn’t have cancer before, either, but I also don’t now. 😵‍💫
  • Or saying they or someone they know is “cancer free” when they were seen for a benign, non-cancerous lump and were never previously diagnosed with cancer. So they can’t actually be free of cancer that they’ve never had. 😒

I know you might be confused as to how this is “bad,” celebrating not having cancer, and normally I’m a “live and let live” kind of gal, but it comes off braggadocios to celebrate something you didn’t actually overcome. How can you celebrate (publicly) “not having cancer” when you already didn’t have cancer?

It’s like telling someone whose house recently burnt down “Omg I left the stove burner on and I thought my house was going to burn down! But thank God it didn’t!” Would you do that? Would you knowingly comment some celebratory brag about something you didn’t actually endure?

I get wanting to “raise awareness” about getting your mammograms or other preventative scans and screenings for cancer, but it’s in really poor taste to brag about not having cancer when there are people out there who aren’t so “lucky” to go in and have a routine scan with no bad news.

Or when actual cancer thrivers (see: those with incurable cancer and those in active treatment) and survivors go in for scans and celebrate their clear scans as a win…

Because for them, IT ACTUALLY IS A WIN. BECAUSE THEY HAVE A HISTORY OF CANCER. So NOT having cancer *again* is something to brag about.

But you having clear scans on routine check-ups or a “scare” that wasn’t actually anything to begin with isn’t a “celebration” inasmuch as an expectation. Even if you have a family history of the disease, bragging online about not having cancer when you haven’t had it before is a REALLY WEIRD FLEX – whether you want to hear that or not. And it’s disrespectful to read for people who do or have actually had it.

Look, we’re all thrilled you’re healthy, but damn if it doesn’t feel like a slap in the face to those of us who’ve actually had cancer or are currently enduring treatment for it. We weren’t so lucky. We didn’t get to just breathe a sigh of relief and carry on with our days. And some cancer thrivers never will.

If you’re announcing your scan results because you want to “raise awareness” about cancer, you don’t need to brag about not having fucking cancer.

Instead, you can say, “Hey everyone! Remember to get your annual mammogram!” “Check your breasts on the first of the month!” “Donate to/support X fund for people undergoing cancer treatment!” Don’t make it about you not having cancer when you never fucking did.

Still feeling lost? Here are some actionable ways to help support people who actually do have cancer.