Diabetes versus cancer

This is, in one sense, a very inappropriate issue but I’d like to bring it up anyway. I apologize upfront to anyone I may offend.

At times, when we come out of the closet as a diabetic or whine about inconveniences and difficulties of being diabetic, people will be like, “Oh, at least you don’t have cancer.”

Well, some time back I attended a DO IT program by Joslin and one participant is a breast cancer survivor. She says diabetes is worse than cancer. At least there’s a chance cancer can go in remission. Diabetes never goes in remission and is something a diabetic has to think about all the time.

I am sure there are others here who are courageously battling cancer or have vanquished it. What are your thoughts about diabetes versus cancer? Is one worse than the other?

Depends on one thing . . . . a persons "perspective". Coming down with a curable cancer (which by the way you aren't considered clean for years and the fear of recurrence) compared to a lifetime of Diabetes management . . . . or coming down with a virulent cancer that doesn't respond to treatment. Good Diabetes management is pretty much a sure thing . . . sure for a lifetime, a pretty long one . . . cancer is a gamble, one that sometimes doesn't payout.

Given a choice of lifetime diabetes management or gamble on a cancer that may ultimately may prove to be incurable with a year or two of debilitating chemo and radiation first to end up dieing anyways . . . which one would you choose?

Death by cancer isn't a pretty thing nor is it painless . . . . guaranteed.

i couldn't say..i don't have cancer. they're both terrible. i do, however, very much dislike when people say that, give that comparison. i guess I'd take what the woman says who has both, as she's the one familiar and living with the two diseases. there is no remission for us, however. and for some, type 1 diabetes management is a daily, hourly struggle and 'good diabetes management' is very hard to achieve. I can't imagine feeling any worse, sicker than I do when my blood sugars are off..also, it's the fear for us, the fear constantly of lows (can kills us - can cause brain damage), the highs (can kills us and cause major damage), it's the relentless SELF management of this disease that is so hard. Some do well, some just do not.

I don't really think that's a fair comparison. Cancer comes in so many forms most of which have very lousy odds. If your looking at it as a survivor I reckon it is a better disease to have had, at least you have a chance that it won't come back. But my dad and some of his brothers died a horrible horrible death from cancer and that's something that I fear greatly. I'll take all the injections, pokes, prods, highs, lows and everything else do with diabetes over that kind of cancer any day. Medical science has allowed some with cancer to survive longer and even some to be cancer free but lets not forget that most with cancer will die prematurely.

Gary S

why not a fair comparison...it's made all the time? I hear it all the time. I'm sorry to hear about your family members, I too had a father die from cancer..but, really, MOST cancers, if caught early actually can go into remission. there's no remission for Type 1.

I agree with kiva that it boils down to perspective. I suspect someone with Diabetic complications whose life has been altered to the point of loss of quality of life will view this question much differently than someone who deals with the day to day poking and shooting up. For me, I think it depends on how much I'm struggling at the moment as to how I would answer. Both diseases suck and cause great pain to loving family members.

Not to sidetrack the discussion, but what did you think of the Joslin DOIT program? Is it mainly for newly diagnosed or would someone with long term D find it helpful? The travel expense for me would be significant and I want to make sure the benefit is worth the cost.

I guess it's a matter of perspective. People in my family do die from cancer. I understand that most cancer that are caught early can go into remission but remission is just that it's remission not cured. A large number of cancers in remission do return. I'd hate to live with that thought.

there's no cure for any disease, we've never 'cured' anything.

Obvious that both are harmful. Comparing one to the other is like comparing apples to oranges.

Here to tell my story : almost 30 years with diabetes , diagnosed with breast cancer 1984 ...one day at the time ...I am glad , that my parents taught me about having " a healthy attitude " and I think , I am handling most challenges in life head on .

Nothing could be worse than being on chemo or radiotherapy, the nausea, the weakness, constantly having to go and have blood transfusions, or platelets. Catching other illnesses because your immunity is down, septicemia (sp?) and shingles in my case, as well as various unspecified flu like illnesses. Not wanting to eat and having to is common to both diabetes and cancer. Then being 15 years after the cancer seemed to have lost the battle having return visits with the fear, and the fear of being told you need not go again! BUT the lymphoma lasted at its worse for 6 years, and after that only an annual visit, diabetes is for ever, just like diamonds.

I also agree with kiva about the matter of prospectiive. I lost my mom to pancreatic cancer & lost my dad to lung cancer. After watching them wilt away from 2 forms of cancer that won't go away (atleast not in their cases) I had rather be a diabetic anyday at least I can give myself some insulin and go on both my parents only lived for 6 months in my mom's case and my dad lived for 1 year after they got the diagnoses and both knew they wouldn't be here in awhile. Just the way I look at things now. No cancer here for me but I honestly don't want either of those cancers.

My friend's dad, really cool guy, must have been in his 50s, runner, had pain in leg, ran through it for a while, went to doc, had cancer, I think bone maybe and was dead in a month. While I realize that diabetes is no laughing matter, I would take it over that 100% of the time.

Having had an aunt and mother in law battle breast cancer, I’d take diabetes any day. They are true warriors in my book. I have nothing on them. It’s all about perspective and they gave me some.

I have some strong thoughts about "it could be worse".

The only time I think that should be said is when we say it to ourselves as a positive way to cope. But when others say it it implies there is one poor soul at the bottom of the heap that absolutely has it worse then any body on the face of the earth. It further implies that this poor soul is the only person who has the right to express negative emotions about their condition. I don't buy either.

Why does anybody's struggles have to be compared to someone else's?

A very timely question for me. A friend of mine passed away yesterday morning at the age of 33 after fighting breast cancer for six years. She was diagnosed at 27. She did everything she possibly could to beat cancer and I am sure she really struggled with the uncertainty in her life that was the direct result of her cancer. For the last three to four years, she was constantly told by doctors that there wasn't much they could do. To me, the "uncertainty" of her illness was the hardest part. How do you plan for anything when as a young woman, you're told you're dying, but no one can say how long you have? More than the radiation and chemo and the side effects, it was the uncertainty that seemed like torture to her.

Yes, there are some days having type 1 diabetes sucks. It's hard and it's constant. BUT, I was thankful to the point of tears this morning that I could wake up, check my BG, give myself some insulin through my pump, and go on about my day. I am so thankful that I can be relatively certain that I will still be around 10 years from now, and probably 20 years from now, something that wasn't so certain when I was growing up. I am so thankful that because of two Canadians (and whole lot of dogs who gave their lives in the pursuit of insulin) there is plenty of insulin in my refrigerator and another shipment on its way. I am thankful that I was diagnosed in an era where the emphasis on tight control (and the availability of tools to achieve it) means that I will likely still have all my limbs, vision, and kidney function in the future.

Today, I am very thankful I have type 1 diabetes.


Even though this post was a couple years ago, it has been on my mind lately. While I feel guilty and petty for even thinking about being "underappreciated" if you will as a Type 1 diabetic "survivor" I think it is a natural feeling and worth bringing out into the open. Obviously, cancer victims are going through a lot and we don't really need to keep score. I'm sure we all have good days and bad days. I've just been seeing more and more pink ribbons on products, on store-fronts and even on entire streets in business districts. Most non-diabetics don't understand the constant 24/7 chess game that we are playing on top of the normal challenges of life, work, relationships, etc. For me, there is not a single hour in my waking day that I don't think about what my level is, was or will be, where my nearest sugar is when or my next meal will be. There are no vacations, no remission, only the joy of waking up to a 120 reading or getting a good A1c number. Even that sometimes just means I've had too many lows balancing out my too many highs. Without disrespecting or lacking compassion for my friends and their families suffering from cancer, I still sometimes get fed up with the commercialism and, I hate to say it..."trendyness" of pink ribbons and want to yell out, "What about me!? I AM A DIABETES SURVIVOR! And it NEVER goes away! It kills, causes blindness, kidney failure, loss of limbs! Where are my ribbons?!?!
But I don't. Except here in the privacy of this forum.
Thanks for letting me vent.

Amen. My mom had leukemia. I'll take the diabetes anytime.

Personally, I don't think one can compare. I'm a breast cancer survivor; I had a very aggressive type, and my docs told me a few years later that they didn't think I'd survive. Yes, cancer can go into remission, yet one is always aware that it could rear it's ugly head again. Every lump, bump and new funny ache immediately makes me wonder if it's cancer. I have a number of nasty residual side effects from treatment that won't ever go into remission. It's not a daily concern, or something I dwell on, but the damage to my body is ever present. I'll never consider myself 'cured' (for good, scientific reason - if you're interested you can ask).

Diabetes is present 24/7/365. The difference, for me at least, is that I have some degree of control. I can choose how well to manage it, I can, to some extent, research and choose my own treatment. The daily management will never go away.

The biggest difference to me is in the public's perception and acceptance of cancer vs diabetes. Cancer (generally) doesn't come with stigmas or judgments by others. The breast cancer community has created a huge movement, while we PWD have not. So many of us are in the closet for fear of those stigmas and judgments by others (like 'at least it's not cancer'). The pink ribbon is iconic, recognized and embraced by society, businesses, etc. Our blue circle elicits 'What's that?' I'd love to see us become as powerful a movement as the breast cancer community.

Personally I will take just the Bete's any day....

I have HCC (liver cancer) and was told I had 12 to 18 months before it spreads outside of my liver and kills me. I was placed on the transplant list and received a transplant on the 23 of July 2012. Like Diabetes only someone who has received this gift of life can understand how it feels to live day by day with another persons organs inside your body. A transplant is not a cure, only a postponement, a stay, a chance to say good buy, a chance to take a look at your legacy, maybe right a few wrongs. Most people are not aware of how someone is chosen or offered a organ...( it's a simple system who ever is sickest is on the top of the list ), so one day you are on top but the next day someone else can bump you off the top of the list. I cannot describe the pain, suffering, and fear that is experienced. Laying on that operating table and taking maybe your last few breaths of this life, all alone, only the Lord can comfort you . Waking up and seeing your family on the other side cannot be described. Now everyday I think about , organ rejection, and the damage the anti rejection drugs are causing, the drugs are a slow death on their own. They scan me every three months for Cancer.

I don't think there is a cure for death, we are all faced with it. In the end the only way to win is through Jesus Christ

Norman Schwarzkopf said : You do not find many none believers huddled in fox holes.