Imagine two scenarios involving a cancer patient: the patient is either labeled a “survivor” despite his or her constant fatigue and discrimination in the workplace or called “weak” and “fragile” despite their desire to be stronger and treated akin to everyone else. Either way, cancer stereotyping is a serious issue that requires attention.
On Jan. 4, World Cancer Day provoked a conversation on whether or not cancer stereotypes exist. Consider the first word that comes to mind when thinking about cancer patients. It most likely includes something along the lines of their strength or sorrow. As cancer patients undergo extreme emotional and physical stress, it is understandable that their struggles influence their identity, but hardship should not be the defining factor in describing the individual. Cancer patients are more than their disease.
TV shows such as “The Red Band Society” explore and defy the stereotype that kids with cancer face a completely miserable life. Although fighting cancer is never an easy process, this show stresses the idea that those battling the disease can still experience the fundamentals of life like relationships and laughter.
Additionally, cancer stereotypes do not only pertain to kids; they are relevant to adults as well. Despite efforts by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to fight cancer discrimination in the workplace, affected adults still face stereotypes daily. According to BBC News, “One-fifth of cancer patients face work discrimination,” a worrying statistic.
Furthermore, many employers may have reservations about allowing their employees to return to work after cancer treatment. This is due to stereotypes that cancer patients are fragile and cannot handle stressful environments. Though these actions infringe on The Equalities Act, many are not aware of the rights they obtain.
We all find ourselves being placed into boxes based on the various stereotypes that people may hold based on things like religion, race and gender. Fighting cancer stereotypes is only a small part in the never-ending battle to relinquish stereotypes, but it’s just as necessary. Though society tends to classify people under social norms, we must remember that our unique nature prevents us from fitting into these confines. Therefore, we must try our hardest to relinquish these stigmas by foregoing stereotypes that we find ourselves believing in. I know that it can be hard to refrain from labeling every person or thing that comes to mind; it is a process that takes time. However, it’s important to understand that stereotypes, those held about cancer patients or anyone else, for that matter, are not okay.