“Wearing cancer like a badge?”

Well, this week I didn’t have to look too far for the content of this piece. There have been many potential subjects, but some can wait. This one has provoked a lot of outrage in the cancer community, and I wanted to add some thoughts of my own.

I am mostly sceptical when reading/listening to media reports, as generally they are ‘slanted,’ and often taken out of context. When listening to celebrities talking, I am always seeking a hidden agenda. A new book/record/film to plug. Come out and say something controversial and get yourself back in the spotlight! So I was a little surprised to read some comments from Jennifer Saunders about her cancer experience, that I felt were quite thoughtless to her fellow patients. However at the bottom of the article there was of course a good plug for her new book!!

My question is, were those statements designed to gain publicity for the book, or were they more about her well known forthright personality? Were they said for effect or did she actually mean them? What I can say, is that they have got people talking about Jennifer Saunders again, so maybe they have achieved their goal? Below are the comments to which this piece refers.

Asked if she thought some people keep wearing cancer like a badge, she replied:
‘For ever, and I’ll give you why-because it is the job you don’t have to work for. You get so much attention and if you’re not used to that, I bet it can sway you a little. I’m used to it. My job gives me the attention I’d otherwise crave. They must be so p****d off when their hair grows back. And you think,” Oh, come on, cancer is so common now.” ‘

We now live in a celebrity influenced society. How you define a celebrity is a question for another day! It is always sad to hear of anyone’s  cancer diagnosis, but when a famous person comes into the media talking cancer, not only does it do great things regarding raising awareness,but there is always a marketing opportunity. I’m sure that there are queues of charities wanting that person to be an ambassador, or politicians looking to them to favour one policy or another. Also their own personal marketing position seems to improve.

Cancer is a great equaliser. It doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor,famous or not. We are lucky that in this country, whoever we are, we will receive the best possible treatment available. However, where things differ greatly in the celebrity world, are the options when you are lucky enough to finish your treatment. We can’t all disappear off to exotic places to help our recovery, or do an endless round of chat shows, write books or release new records, to keep milking the commercial cash cow.

A cancer diagnosis changes your life forever. If you are lucky enough, and treatment puts you into remission, you will have to do your best to pick up the pieces of your life. Surgery you may have had, could alter your entire way of life. Above, Jennifer refers to cancer, as a job you don’t have to work for. Mmmm, for most of us, it is like a job, but one you don’t get paid for! She is also right, you do get a lot of attention, but without it, there is a possibility you might die! I am shocked too, saying that people may feel fed up when their hair grows back.



When cancer enters your life, you will certainly lose, many things, but a lot of people can also find strength, when they didn’t realise they had it. Some people manage to turn such a negative thing, into a massive positive, and their life takes a new direction. Others can be overwhelmed by the whole experience, and may crumble.In the real world, people lose their jobs, houses, and partners, and may struggle for the rest of their lives, because of cancer. They have to live whatever life they have left, around hospital appointments.

In summary, I was very disappointed to read those comments, from someone I have always respected, but if she was inferring that people ‘use’ their cancer to gain attention, then surely that is what she has done with this interview! I’m sure that it won’t be the last time that she mentions it commercially either. Next time I see you on television I will be looking for that badge!

I have attached the full interview here. Generally very insightful


  1. It was disappointing to read these words, as well. Her statement assumes far too much – that people crave attention over their illness, that people want to stay sick, and that people have healed as soon as their treatment ends. None of those are good messages for men and women struggling with money issues, depression, treatment side-effects, or ongoing cancer struggles. It was extremely short-sighted thinking. I can imagine all kinds of reason for such a lack of compassion, but don’t want to assume I know her entire story. Maybe next time she’ll do the same thing for others?

    • Hi Catherine.

      Many thanks for your comments. I read the interview and didn’t feel particularly happy, but don’t normally blog, on these matters. However wherever I went, people were so annoyed about what was said. It was that the prompted me to write my own thoughts.

      Like you, I don’t pretend to know the whole story, but my personal view was that the comments were not really appropriate. A good discussion point however!

      My best to you and your team, Chris

  2. Just because you haven’t met people who wear their cancer like a badge doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Some people will tell you what type of cancer they had 20 years ago before even telling you their name.
    You obviously didn’t bother finding the original interview either… Penny

    • Hi Penny

      Many thanks for your comments. I have read my post several times, but I don’t think I wrote that I haven’t met anyone who wears their cancer like a badge. In fact I have met several people. I do agree with your point, those people do exist.

      I attached a link to the interview at the bottom of the page, as I wanted the comments shown in context. The object of the post was to stimulate discussion. This blog is about sharing experiences, so that we can all learn from each other.

      Thank you for sharing yours. Chris

    • Well said, Chris, I too was very disappointed to read her remarks, but I think she has shot herself in the foot because it says far more about her own beliefs and values than it does about other people with cancer, badge-wearing or not. Some of us find we have a greater capacity for warmth, empathy and compassion through coping with cancer, but evidently that wasn’t the case with her.

    • Hi Yvonne

      Thanks for your comments Yvonne. I agree with you. This post has certainly opened up a debate, which is what I wanted to do. I was sure I wasn’t the only person who thought like this. It seems I’m not 🙂 I just couldn’t let it pass by really, celebrity or not.

      Lovely to have you back. My best to you and your family, Chris

  3. Hi Chris, whilst I agree the comments could cause offence I think it is refreshing to open a discussion on the fact that having cancer might bring good things too! It is surely good to remind those who care to tell you how special you are! And sadly there can be an expectation that once you have hair again it is all over -when really, beginning your post cancer life is often the bigger achievement. It is not a job, but you didn’t work for it and yet it can change your life in a way you would never have done otherwise? Like you, Chris, I always love a good debate -thanks for sharing you views -stay well! Ailsa

    • Hi Ailsa

      A lot of people were talking to me about this interview, and there was no one who said anything positive about it. I just thought I would write a piece, and look at it slightly differently.

      Your comments are on the button, living life after cancer can be a bigger achievement! Yes, I put it out there for a discussion, and we certainly have one. Of course it is about opinions, and everyone will have their own.

      Many thanks for taking the time to comment, and I am pleased you are enjoying the blog, Chris

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