THE BLOG
06/23/2014 12:29 pm ET Updated Aug 23, 2014

Does a Cancer Diagnosis Turn You Into a Better Person?

Sometimes it seems there is an unspoken societal expectation out there that a person is supposed to become a better person after a serious illness like cancer. It's sometimes expected that a person should somehow be transformed into a new and improved version of one's former self.

Don't think this expectation is out there? Trust me; it is.

If truth be told, in some ways I've gone the opposite direction.

Physically, this is true without a doubt. My body has taken a dramatic hit in too many ways to count. For starters, my stamina has taken a hit; so has my strength, range of motion, weight, bone health, body image and hair, to name a few more.

In addition to the physical alterations, I might very well be less patient, less willing to conform, more easily distracted and far more opinionated.

I'm not the same person in many ways, but yet of course I am.

I've never been an unpleasant-to-be-around person (at least I don't think so) and I don't think I am now; I certainly try not to be. Before cancer, I like to think I was a decent human being trying to do the right things and treat people the right way, most days any way. I still try to live that way.

For the most part, I think people are not all that different after a diagnosis than they were before.

Undoubtedly, big changes come following a cancer diagnosis; we learn, we grow, we adapt, but deep down does the core of who you were/are change all that much? Probably not.

Before cancer, some people are saint-like, some people are jerks and most are somewhere in between. The same is true after a diagnosis and yes, this means some people with cancer weren't and still aren't nice people.

Cancer doesn't necessarily transform a person into a new and better version of oneself.

The thing about this unspoken but often insinuated expectation is that there should be some great life lesson to learn from having cancer. It implies there should be some great epiphany or understanding about the universe. Maybe there is, but maybe there isn't.

In my mind, this "better person outcome" borders on the "cancer is a gift" thinking, which frankly is beyond my comprehension. Cancer is no gift.

It's true, that after any life-changing experience, one does have a greater appreciation for life in general, or for the fragility of it at least. Many attest to being more compassionate, less judgmental and more willing to reach out to others following a diagnosis.

After all, there's nothing like a life/death wake up call to make you want to slow down, smell the roses, redefine your goals or whatever...

And it's certainly true for many (me included) that after a cancer diagnosis things do change dramatically. You can't go back.

But to assume somehow because of cancer you become a better person... I don't think so. And who needs this added pressure anyway? There are enough things to worry about when you dealing with cancer.

Cancer does not miraculously make you better or worse. Before and after cancer, you are who you are. Cancer or no cancer, people are just people; all of us flawed, living and learning each day as we go along. Hopefully, we all try to be the best person we can be each day. Hopefully, every day we all try to be a bit better than we were the day before.

But I say, let's not give cancer credit.

What about you?

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