Lessons of Cancer…Quit Judging Others

As a practicing Roman Catholic, I cannot remember a Lent in recent history when I didn’t want to work on “quit being judgmental.”   I recognized that tendency in myself, because often I was quick to judge the behavior of others, mostly strangers.    I always cut myself some slack on judging others because some of it was a learned behavior.  Having worked in the court system for 15 years as Clerk of Court and Assistant to the Judge, part of my job was judging others.

This year as I pondered the onset of Lent and the coming of Easter, I realized that after enduring Cancer, judging others is a whole lot farther from me than it used to be.   It certainly was one of those “aha, be careful what you pray for” kind of moments as I stumbled upon that reality!

Suffering does indeed transform you.   And I’ve always been an experiential learner.   Because I felt judged many times as a Cancer Patient and Cancer Survivor, it awakened my awareness that judging others hurts them and you.

I feel judged each time this happens.  Interestingly enough, it usually doesn’t come from friends and family but from people who don’t know me well or who are strangers:

1)  Subtly someone suggests if you had only taken this vitamin, eaten this food, done this exercise, slept on the right side of the bed, like I have done, you would have never gotten cancer.

2)  If you follow my rules, you will never have cancer return.

3)  When my hair was growing out, my sexuality was judged.  When I took my friend, Sandy, to the hospital because her husband had to work, it was assumed we were a same-sex couple because of my very short hair.

4)  I felt judged as poor because I didn’t have the top-of-the-line insurance, had higher deductibles, and had to pay my own prescriptions.  And I realized that poor could have been only one missed health insurance payment, and I would have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills.

Often I have read of the pain of lung cancer patients who always hear the inevitable question:  “Did you smoke?”   Really, it isn’t any of my business if they smoked or if they did not.  Many non-smokers get lung cancer.

Cheryl is one of my blog readers, is a Cancer Survivor and writes a cancer blog of her own–http://notdownorout.wordpress.com/

Cheryl wrote this to me which clearly summarizes these thoughts:  “… your post is a great reminder that we shouldn’t be addressing another’s suffering by blaming the person for experiencing it.”



  1. Dear Denise,
    I just want to thank you for your blog. It’s always informative and interesting. I look forward to reading it every week. I had three breast surgeries and now I am going for my fourth chemo tomorrow of phase I then will start phase II taxol every week, then radiation. The side effects have hit me hard and it seems so endless. Thank you again for your blog.

    • Barbara, thank you so much for your kind words. Oh my 3 surgeries…
      congratulations on almost being done with phase I chemo. I hope Taxol
      is better for you. It is a long and difficult tunnel. You will make
      it through. It is so darn hard, but I KNOW you will do it. If I can
      EVER be of any help, just email me at b4Denise@hotmail.com Denise

  2. Bravo, Denise! You take on a tough topic with caring and understanding. The “thing” about medicine is that it is a process. We do not have all of the answers yet on what causes anyone’s cancer. We can only catalogue factors and do more study. If anyone could tell me what caused uterine cancer I would ask that person how to stop it. No one has that answer yet. What troubles me most these days about judgment is when I catch myself thinking another’s misfortune is that person’s karma catching up. I do not want to “go there.” I have spent too much time with nice people having cancer treatment. I have watched too many news stories of children mowed down by guns. I drive past too many car accidents in which someone minding his or her own business was in the path of something he or she could not control. My focus now is to let Someone else be the judge. it is giving me free time to pursue my own recovery. Thanks for being such a great resource to others looking for information about cancer and its treatment. I always find something helpful here.

  3. Said it before, saying it again. We’ve got to come up with a list of comebacks to help us respond to insensitive comments like “did you smoke”. We need a gentle way to let others know we will not tolerate being judged or blamed just as we will not judge and blame others.

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