Life after cancer

This group is for cancer survivors and people who have finished treatment. It is a space to discuss things like the physical and emotional after effects of cancer, returning to work, or trying to move on with your life.

Constantly mentions having had cancer

Posted by

Hi all. I hope someone can offer some advice.

A friend won her round with breast cancer, completed her chemo and radiotherapy around 2 years ago. I very much admired her whole attitude to the whole experience, at the time, attended some of her chemo sessions. We laughed, we cried, we laughed and cried, chewed the fat and pretty much put the World to rights.

Please help me understand now, why she uses the fact she HAD cancer as a pawn/excuse/trump card.

There are numerous occasions but the most recent, last night, whilst someone was getting the edge on a disagreement (abput loud people!) and she just bangs in with "oh I didn't hear you, I was talking to a friend about having had cancer". had NO relevance to the conversation, whatsoever and was only said because she was 'losing' the argument.

I'd like to understand why she mentions it, in this way, to 'win' arguments.

Any advice will be gratefully received. 


Posted by

Hey MikeyLad

I am not from this group but your post resonated with me as I have been on both sides of this.

Firstly I had a friend the exact same as yours for this. I met her a few years after her treatment and of course it was traumatic. It did change her life forever. 

However I also found that every conversation did turn around to her having had cancer. Her buzz line was 'when I had cancer' and I could count several times when any conversation would be interjected by this. I can only assume that your friend is still very affected by the experience and it is very difficult to put behind them. There is the fear of recurrence even if you are all clear. Maybe she needs some after cancer support or counselling on how to move forward? Tricky to broach of course.

The other side of this is I was also diagnosed with cancer just over a year ago. I hate talking about it and avidly avoid it with people. People bring it up a lot and some of those I begin to avoid. One particular friend was very supportive. I can bump into to her quickly in the street and she will always bring it up within about a minute which I hate. She also loves to tell me how 'amazing' I am which also infuriates me. Sadly I avoid her because of this which is a shame. I too need to broach this gently with them again about how I hate it but it's hard to do.

We are all different is what I am trying to say here. Some will be like your friend and others like me.


There are no perfect people, only perfect intentions

♬I should've been more than this, I was gonna be something big, But I never did anything at all ♬ Dan Owen - Icarus
Posted by

Hi MikeyLad, I wonder whether cancer treatment was the first time in her life that your friend has felt like the centre of attention?  So perhaps it is hard for her to let go of that feeling.  I am 18 months on from diagnosis now, and the good news for me is that I am all fixed.   If someone mentions that I had cancer I am quick to add that I no longer have it, partly to put others at ease in case they do not know what to say to me.  I admit that I do like it if people tell me that I am doing well, looking healthy, been brave, etc but I am aware that I can't dine out on it indefinitely, because my treatment and my recovery is all over and done with now. I think some people in my life have already  forgotten that there was ever anything wrong and while I feel secretly a bit miffed by that (because of course I had a horrible time for a while) I realise it is inevitable since my appearance and lifestyle are back to normal.  Has your friend got other things to focus on, like work or hobbies?

Posted by

2 years is a bit early to be sure, but it is an achievement so I would be proud of it too.


Posted by

Hi MikeyLad,

I may be wrong, but from what you’ve written, it sounds like maybe there is quite a bit of frustration in your relationship at the moment? I was only thinking that when you were talking about “winning” an argument. That to me suggests a bit of competition in the relationship, and having grown up in a competitive household, that can sometimes lead to feeling like you want to use anything to feel like you are winning. I may be wrong, but perhaps you could open up to her about this competitiveness and see where it comes from? There may be some underlying frustration that it would good for you to both get out?

Hope this helps.


Posted by

Gina, thank you. It's difficult to understand someone else's mind and I learned that a while back.

I just want to know what I can do, to help her look ahead, instead of always bringing nearly EVERY conversation back to "when I had cancer".  

I understand that it was in no way a pleasant experience for her, quite the opposite. That goes without saying. Life hasn't always been easy for her, she doesn't have a great amount of friends and her family are.... a challenge.  So it may be a way of getting some much needed attention, which i don't suppose I can blame her for. 

I too have had a brush with it, basal cell carcinoma, which (Thanks to a quite brilliant consultant dermatologist) meant I was fortunate not to require a gigantic amount of surgical attention.

It was 8 years ago.

And here's the rub.... I NEVER mention it (this is the 1st time since surgery!).  I don't talk about it,  because I'm reminded about it every time I look in the mirror. I don't want sympathy, sorrow or to even have it brought up in conversation.  I hear tou on the infuriation side lol. My mum mentions it every time I see her and tells me how "brave" I was!  Bless her.

I know, many will say, we're all different and I know we all deal with things in different ways. I'm not knocking her for it, I just don't think it's a healthy way to think or behave. That's why I want to 'help'.

I think if a few people said that's the way they dealt/deal with it, that it's quite normal and that she'll get to grips with it, that I'd feel good for her.  I simply don't think that's the case though, she seems almost fixated with having had cancer. 

Sorry, I'm pretty poor at putting thoughts into words. I've probably made myself sound like I don't care, but I really do. I just want to see her doing well and looking ahead.

So grateful for your response.


Posted by


First off, I'm so glad you no longer have cancer. 

It is a horrible thing, and mine was no big deal, in the grand scale of cancer possibilities . But it was still an awful thing to be told I would require treatment for. Some like being told they're "brave", others hate being told they've "survived", some relish every chance to (As you put it, very wonderfully) dine out on it.

It's a difficult subject to broach and sometimes, even people who know you inside out, people just don't know what to say. 

My friend has become quite a bitter person. Her employers didn't deal with her news in a positive way. In fact, they were less than supportive. So she gave up working there and now only has a few hours, in a voluntary position, to occupy her free time..  No hobbies either, but when ive ever suggested anything, she'll instantly dismiss it and say she has lots going on. 

I'm starting to feel bad that I've even considered bringing this up now. Maybe I'm not as good a friend as I thought I was. 

Thanks for your reply LR, very much!!


Posted by


I'm very proud of the way she dealt with the whole situation, especially since there was a lot going on with her,  at that time.

I'm not knocking her for it, far from it. I want to help understand and maybe, just MAYBE, find a way to help her look ahead. 

Thanks for your message, 2lines but a good bit of perspective!


Posted by


Our friendship has no competitive side.

There are no frustrations between us.

I only see her now and again and, having had quite different lives, upbringing and life experience, we have never had a game of IRL Top Trumps. 

However, when other people disagree or take exception to what she says (and she can sometimes be a little opinionated), she plays the "cancer card"*, like her very own Get Out of Jail Free. 

I know she's had some frustrations in her life, more than her fair share. She's a lovely person but the whole cancer thing seems to be holding her back, from looking forward.

Finally, that's what I've been trying to say for like the past however many messages. Finally. 

The competitiveness, yes, there definitely seems to be a bit of that going on, with others, whereas with me she will only ever draw comparisons with, for other people's benefit. I may chat with her about this, definite food for thought.  

Thank you very much, for your reply.


*oh, a phrase I'm aware OTHER people use, in relation to my friend! :(

Posted by

Hi again Mike.  It sounds like your friend needs something else in her life, to eclipse the bad memories of her illness.  It must have been very upsetting for her that her employers did not support her.  I remember that I was very upset by some people's reactions to my illness at the time however those memories have faded and things have moved on for me. I hope your friend can find something to look forward to.  Best wishes to you both.

Posted by

Thankfully we're all different in views and lifestyles, that's what makes us individuals.  Some ike to discuss their illnesses with others and dwell on what has happened!  Others prefer to keep it private.  When diagnosed 5 1/2 years ago my husband knew.  My son was only told when I was about to start treatment, and to this day I am sure that some neighbours can only surmise what was wrong with me!  Wasn't on the scene for a few months, but didn't feel the need to discuss my illness with anyone - but that is just me - others are different!  Now in remission I don't feel the need to mention it.

My point - my husband feels the need to tell everyone what will listen what I have been through!  Before you berate him for this action, his first wife died from cancer.  We have been married for 36 years now but I know that he is grateful how far treatment has progressed.

Perhaps your friend had an experience of death from cancer in the past and feels the need to remind herself (and anyone who will listen) that she has survived and has no-one else to tell.  Just a thought!  Don't indulge in her cancer chat.  Many people are going through worse life experiences that are not cancer related!  Time to go forward, cancer is in the past, gone.  Mxx

Posted by

That makes sense. It's a double edged sword. If I indulge in her chat (I liked the way you worded that!), I feel like I'm not helping. Whereas if I don't indulge her, I feel like I'm a rubbish friend and a bad person.

I totally get your situation and can, somewhat, empathise with you.

I see both sides of your coin and that's quite understandable, from both stances. 

You're right, we are all different. If this is her way of dealing with the aftermath of her experience with cancer, then thats how it is and I'll be satisfied that she's not unnecessarily holding on to something that I feel she should maybe have let go. 

Everyone here has given me some great food for thought and some lovely suggestions/advice. Thank you all so much.

I'm glad you're in remission and wish you a well and happy future. As we say in Scotland, Lang may yer lum reek! 



Posted by

Hi Mike I hope I won’t cause any offence here but aI think you are all being s bit hard on your friend. Two years isn’t a long time in terms of recovery from breast cancer treatment. I speak from personal knowledge here as I also had breast cancer and completed my treatment 3 years ago. Since then I have had multiple health problems as a result of the treatment, some that will be with me for life. Has your friend any long term effects from cancer? They can be very hard to come to terms with. You can go through a prolonged grieving process for the life you used to have pre-cancer. You can feel bitter and angry about what’s happened. You can feel hurt or even heartbroken about lack of support and understanding during what is probably the most frightening experience of your life. Not everyone is brave. Some of us are terrified. Chemotherapy is poison and you feel it travelling through your body. It can make you feel so ill you would rather be dead. You can feel rage and hurt because you may meet people who are swamped with love and support where you had very little. You can be jealous of them or jealous of people who have never had life threatening diseases. You can feel deep anxiety and depression. You can be so irrational.  You can feel embarrassed and humiliated by your own weaknesses and neediness. People who have never experienced it for themselves can say the stupidest, cruelest and most hurtful things. I have heard that expression ‘playing the cancer card’ used in relation to someone else and I have to be honest I was shocked at the callousness.  I went to our local Maggies centre where I took part in all the therapy programmes they had to offer. That was what helped me to come to terms with with everything that happened. In there nothing you say or feel is wrong. We are all treated with dignity and respect. And never made to feel that we are being self indulgent. It is all part of a process that has to be worked through. There are powerful emotions that have to be processed. If you have anything like that near you I would encourage your friend to go. They have trained counsellors, psychologists, usually things like art therapy, music therapy, group therapy where everyone is encouraged to talk about how they feel. Offer to go with her even for first visit. Above all be kind and supportive. No one can really judge another person because none of us really knows the inner person. As I said before, I am three years on now and only now am I beginning to get my new ‘normal’ life together.  Life is so different to pre-cancer but because of the love and support of the staff at Maggies centre I feel now that life is worth living. Cancer and the fear of it returning will alway be there but it’s not the be all and end all of life anymore. I really hope your friend gets there too.

Best Wishes

What now?!
Posted by


Think it's horses for courses.. Everybody's different, and cancer affects us all in different ways, depending on who we are, upon our friends and families, the support we get and a myriad of other factors.

All of this affects how we cope with the condition. I was quite frank about it, and kept everyone posted on my progress, but essentially I just got on with it, and hopefully am well on the road to it not coming back. Hopefully, people didn't get bored with me banging on about it, and I tried as far as possible to keep the message positive.

Now, I am in a position in turn to give help and support to others, in the same way as I was helped in my journey.

If people are prone to stumble on their journey, it is far better to reach out a hand of friendship to steady them than to turn away. After all, none of us know what is going on in someone else's life, at any time.