‘My Cancer Is Worse Than Yours’

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by

Pancreatic Cancer Action just played dirty.

Its new video campaign shows a person saying he wished he had testicular cancer and another person saying she wished she had breast cancer. The message being that both individuals have something far worse than either cancer – pancreatic cancer.

I have a friend with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, and another friend’s mom died of the disease. Pancreatic cancer is a horrible disease, and it’s a shame there’s insufficient funding available. I’ve also had friends die of other cancers, including breast cancer.

That being said, it is never a good practice to say one’s cancer is worse than another’s. Metastatic cancer of all kinds kills. Regarding breast cancer, it’s not uncommon for people diagnosed with early stage to develop metastases. And, contrary to popular belief, there is no cure for breast cancer.

There are no good cancers.

Comparing two cancers is like comparing apples to cats.

Supporters of PCA tout the video campaign as instilling “shock value” to get the conversation going. These supporters insist the outrage over this campaign is because people are misunderstanding it. First, this video gets a feud – not a conversation – going.

It is divisive.

Second, the campaign’s goal seems clear: to express cancer envy toward what the organization and many people perceive to be the “good” cancers: breast and testicular.

As someone in the breast cancer realm of things, I can tell you, I have heard all types of cancer envy hurled at me. People have expressed jealousy that the disease that affected me gets all the attention, thanks to the high-publicity pink washing.

PCA denies responsibility for this video campaign by saying these testimonials are the views of real people with pancreatic cancer. I’m sure many moving examples from people with pancreatic cancer could’ve been used instead, but PCA chose not to do so. When the organization put its name behind a piece, then in reality, it is condoning it.

I had no idea that people turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis were in the Whose-Cancer-Is-Worse competition. We should all be united in agreeing that all cancer is horrible.

Once we start competing, everyone loses.

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16 Responses to ‘My Cancer Is Worse Than Yours’

  1. karen sutherland had this to say about that:

    dear beth,

    thank you for speaking out on the PCA video, the pervasive attitudes of “best” and “worst” cancers, and the ensuing divisiveness they cause. it is outrageous that any entity that purports starting “a conversation”, and is supposed to represent leadership and advocacy for any kind of cancer would be so incredibly irresponsible and stoop to such destructive lengths with little thought or insight to the repercussions of their actions. how ironic it is that yesterday was world cancer day, a day that not only focused on de-bunking myths, but also was a chance to think upon the struggles that ALL cancers impose upon those diagnosed with an across-the-board horrible disease.

    much love and light,

    Karen xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Karen, you said it so perfectly! PCA lost out on an opportunity to win people to its cause and to educate others.

  2. EAK13 had this to say about that:

    When I initially read this I was so angry for anyone, organization whatever that would make such a ridiculous statement..However not surprising in the least. This is what happens when Breast Cancer is glamourized sexualized and made to look fun and Pink who wouldn’t want to have it if this is what’s all about!! Poor misconceptions, comparisons No cancers should ever be wished for over an other. We who are dealing with Breast Cancer can attest to how difficult the road is. To those who alluded differently to this campaign Shame On You!! Love Alli…..xx

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Breast cancer, like all cancers, is such a difficult road indeed. And I agree that the sexualization of breast cancer doesn’t help the perception that the general public have of breast cancer.

      Thank you for your comment.

  3. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Thanks for your well-thought out response. I understand the point of this particular campaign. Still, creating a hierarchy of suffering or of cancers isn’t helpful in the long run. More unity, that’s what we need.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thanks, Nancy, for commenting. I’m tired of all the comparisons, the “hierarchy of suffering,” as you call it. Unity is what counts, not divisiveness.

  4. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: The “I wish I had breast cancer” Edition | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  5. Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

    Thank you, Marie, of Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer for including this post in your weekly roundup.

  6. eileen@womaninthehat.com had this to say about that:

    Humans are weird. I’ll never understand the Sufferers’ Olympics.

  7. Talia Segal had this to say about that:

    I’m late to the party, but I want to tell you how much I appreciate what you’ve written. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a survivor of Stage IV Ovarian Cancer, and have absolutely no patience for any person or entity that plays the “my cancer is worse than your cancer” game. Or those who claim that one type of cancer is more worthy of research funding than another. It’s been shown that research on one type of cancer can lead to treatment breakthroughs for other types. We, literally, are all in this together!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Talia,

      Better late to the party than never! Thank you for your wise words. We are all in this together, for sure. People diagnosed with cancer go through hell, and there’s no time to judge which cancer is “better.” All cancer is bad.

  8. Sue had this to say about that:

    I am so sick of PANCAN and its message that pancreatic cancer is the the grand daddy of all cancers. Whenever I see an advertisement from the Pancreatic Cancer Network, I am so angry I want to tear it down. Whenever I see a video blogger crying around that their cancer is so much more devastating than yours, I am disgusted. Thank you for writing this article.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Sue,

      It’s true the pancreatic cancer is devastating, with low survival rates. However, like you, it disgusts me to see/hear people comparing their cancers and whose cancer is the worst. I just don’t get it.

      All cancer is bad. There is no good cancer. I wish some people would stop the comparison game.

      Thank you for your comment; I appreciate your thoughts.

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