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Jamie Bendola Headshot

The Cancer Card

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When you go through the experience of fighting cancer, it is most likely the hardest thing that you will have to do in your life. It's like a marathon (if marathons included surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy), but at the end there's no shiny medal to hang around your neck.

You do, however, get to pull the "cancer card." I'm not saying you should cut people in line at the movie theater and say, "Well I had cancer so you can just wait behind me. I need to see American Hustle." It doesn't work that way. There are certain times though when you can pull this card for your benefit.

There are different grants you can apply for, medical programs, etc. When I had to have a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy performed last year, I pulled the cancer card and all of my procedures were covered by Susan G. Komen. Thanks, ovarian cancer!

I recently found a medical group that works with uninsured patients by charging them based on their income. I found them through medical expos I went to promoting my nonprofit, FMC. (If you use your imagination you can figure out what FMC stands for.) This medical group was started to help the gay and lesbian community and has grown into full on primary care. I would have never found out about them unless I started my non-profit and attended these expos.

I was so excited to finally find a doctor to take over monitoring my health. Someone I could afford and I actually LIKED which to me is a HUGE part in my health care plan. I was so delighted I updated my Facebook status to something along the lines of, "Finally found GOOD, CHEAP health care in Miami! Finally being gay and having cancer has paid off!"

I like to have a good sense of humor and joke around about things, but one of the comments on my status was "You and your cancer card." It of course was meant as a joke, but I immediately texted the person and told them "The only person who can joke about pulling a cancer card is the ONE WHO HAD CANCER."

It takes a lot to offend me, but that comment did the trick. I mean, I am saved in my sister's phone as "Cancer Pants" because we were looking at the different movies available to rent and that was one of our options. I can take a joke. I've told other survivors to "pull the cancer card" -- I think it's more of a joke than anything else between those fighting and survivors. HOWEVER, if you're not in our cancer club, I suggest you don't make a joke about us pulling our cancer cards.

At 25, my life changed. I'm no longer a typical twentysomething. I have scars, take medication every day, am starting therapy, and the gift of being able to have biological children of my own has been taken away. I can joke about the cancer card. Anyone who has or has had cancer can joke about the cancer card. If you joke about it and you have been healthy your entire life don't be surprised if I bite your head off. I'll blame it on my menopause contributed mood swings anyway.

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