Slate: Stigmas of Cancer

An interesting article about the various stigmas of cancer and their implications:

Cancer stigma: Don’t blame patients for their disease, no matter what the risk factors.

Which leads me to question, what are the stigmas of childhood cancer?


Filed under Chronicling Childhood Cancer: Illuminating the Illness Experience through Narrative, Miscellaneous Musings

3 responses to “Slate: Stigmas of Cancer

  1. I wonder if the stigma could be something along the lines of people not wanting to acknowledge it, maybe as a pseudo-magical way of warding off bad things in their own lives?

    For some reason I thought of that 2006 self-help book by Rhonda Byrne, “The Secret,” which said that (among other things) if you want to be thin you shouldn’t look at overweight people. That somehow you would “attract” fat into your life if you did.

    So maybe some non-rational impulse causes people to believe subconsciously that if they want their own children to be cancer-free, they must avoid looking at or being around children with cancer because it would mean “attracting” cancer to their family?

    I know this sounds strange, but why do humans always need to single out scapegoats? There must be some kind of “magical” thinking we engage in to believe we can keep ourselves safe by ostracizing someone else.

  2. Katherine, thanks for engaging with this article and the question I’ve posed! It’s certainly given me a lot to think about, and I’m still processing my thoughts.

    I think you’re on to something: that there’s a reason why childhood cancer is often a hidden, unknown illness. That cancer is rarely considered as a disease that children face. Maybe because so much about childhood cancer remains a mystery, precisely because we are unable to pinpoint and rationalize its causes. It seems to me that the uncertainty of it all makes it all the more difficult for us to understand. And without understanding, because there’s so little that we know about causes, ‘cures’, and the future, we struggle to stigmatize and stereotype the disease more concretely. With children and adolescents, it seems as though a prominent way that cancer is stigmatized is as an illness that labels individuals to be “different.”

    I also was particularly intrigued by the ‘scapegoat’ concept. I think it spans across a variety of illness experiences and not just cancer, which leads to questions about how we as people recognize (or don’t recognize) the diversity inherent in human health. Passing judgement doesn’t feel constructive to me; instead, we must recognize the challenges that individuals face and move beyond them. Blame doesn’t treat anyone.

  3. Blame doesn’t treat anyone — well said!


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