Well, at least it’s not c-a-n-c-e-r!
So many times I hear this pronouncement when someone shares thetravails in their life or that of a person close to them. What does this self-assuring phrase mean to theutterer? What does it mean to the hearer?
It harkens me back to the victorian age when C-A-N-C-E-R was hissed inhushed tones, as if saying it in polite conversation was unseemly, bad-form, orworse – made the disease communicable.
To the one sighing in relief, “well…at least it’s not cancer”, itis comforting as if this means the sufferer in question has somehow dodged aterminal bullet.
To the recipient of this sighed utterance, it can mean furtherisolation – especially if you yourself has C-A-N-C-E-R. Those of us withC-A-N-C-E-R do not have a red letter on our chests (or a pink, or a purple…butI digress).
It may mean that in the minds of the speaker anything is stillbetter than c-a-n-c-e-r … that O-T-H-E-R disease. It may mean that C-A-N-C-E-Ris still the feared death-sentence that it has historically been. It may meanthat subconsciously people do not b-e-l-i-e-v-e the propaganda perpetuated bythe C-A-N-C-E-R I-N-D-U-S-T-R-Y. Theymay not believe the rhetoric that “awareness” is somehow a cure. They wouldaccept anything but c-a-n-c-e-r.
I don’t buy into the billboards, TV commercials, print ads,direct-mail advertising, pop-up ads, runs, walks, retail-awareness. I do,however, understand the fear and the loneliness C-A-N-C-E-R can engender in aperson. I would not wish C-A-N-C-E-R on my worst nemesis. Yet, I will not behushed when I say C-A-N-C-E-R when speaking about myself, because it is part oflife and reality.
What do I say in return when I am privy to the sighed utterance, wellat least it’s not…. ?
It would be unseemly and bad-form to do otherwise. One social faux-pasin a conversation is quite enough.