Just Jen’s top 10 positive things about having terminal cancer

Cancer sucks, let’s face it. Having cancer really sucks and having terminal cancer sucks even more. This reminds me of a saying we used to have when I was growing up in Canada. If something was really awful we would say that it “sucks the big one”. Do any of my Canadian friends remember that? Anyway, having terminal cancer “sucks the big one”.

However, that’s not to say that there is nothing good about it. I thought that it was time to shed some positivity on this situation so here is my list of the top 10 positive things about having terminal cancer (if there is anybody reading this who has cancer themselves or has a loved one with cancer then I apologise if this seems flippant, I do not mean to offend, only to spread some light on a sh*tty situation).

10. Free drugs – this came last on my list because I am not a big fan of taking drugs of any kind. However, it does take the sting off when I don’t have to pay for them. Yes, cancer patients are exempt from paying prescription charges. I haven’t paid for a prescription in three years. Woo hoo! This doesn’t apply, of course, to the supplements and medication that my integrative oncologist has prescribed for me. But you can’t win them all.

9. The cancer card – this is only at number nine as I haven’t actually used it as much as I should. The “cancer card” is a theoretical card that people with cancer can pull out when they want special treatment or to make things happen. So, for example, it can be used to get an upgrade in a hotel or a better seat at a restaurant. In my case it proved very useful when Charlie was a baby – I couldn’t possibly change his poopy nappies as I had cancer. I can’t possibly clean the house as I have cancer. See how it works?

8. The “chemo brain” excuse – this is similar to number nine in that it is an excuse that can be pulled out at opportune times to absolve the user of any forgetfulness, silliness or general dopiness. Everybody knows that chemo causes the brain to become a little bit foggy. Put the remote control in the fridge again? “Chemo brain!” Turn up around one hour early for a friend’s birthday party? “Chemo brain!” Walk into a room and forget why you are there? “Chemo brain”. Never mind that these are all things that I had done before the cancer diagnosis – now I have a very good excuse.

7. Skinniness – this is only at number seven as I realise that I never really needed to lose weight. However, like most people, I was always just a few pounds away from where I wanted to be. Until now! A lot of people gain weight when on chemo (largely because the medical profession encourages them to eat whatever they want to make them feel better), but I was the opposite and have lost about 3 kg. I will take joy where I can get it.

6. Free wig – I know a lot of people find losing their hair during chemo quite traumatic, and I can completely understand that however I have never been one of them. I have always had a love/hate relationship with my hair – it was too curly, too wiry, too frizzy and I started to go grey really early. I couldn’t grow it long as it just looked ridiculous so I always had it super short. So when it fell out, I just figured it would grow back in quite quickly afterwards. But what I didn’t anticipate was that my hospital has a partnership with a hair salon close by and I was allowed to get a free wig. I now actually like my wig more than I have ever liked my hair.

trying on wig
Trying on my wig (that’s my sister in the background)

wig from the back
From the back


5. No more shaving – when people mention chemo, we all associate it with hair falling out, but what I had never really realised was that it’s not just head hair that falls out, it is all of it. So, I have not had to shave my legs in over three years! After my first bout of chemo, my leg hair never really grew back and neither did my eyebrows. So shaving and plucking have become a thing of the past. And I can’t say that I miss them at all.

4. Appreciation – I know it is a cliché, but since my most recent diagnosis I have become much more appreciative of the things that I have in my life. My husband, my son, my dog, family, friends, a nice house, a car. All things that I used to take for granted but now I see how lucky I am. There are people living on the streets, there are people starving, there are people suffering abuse and violence. Yes, I have cancer but I also have a very privileged and happy life and never want for anything (except somewhere that can deliver gluten-free, dairy-free pizza to Eltham).

3. Seeing beauty everywhere – I was never really one for living in the moment. I was always making lists and planning what I was going to do next. Well since my diagnosis, I have become much more aware of the beauty in everything around. The trees in the woods, the ducks on the lake in the local park. Things that I have looked on everyday for the past few years I feel like I am really seeing now.

trees in Greenwich park
Greenwich park

2. Restoration of faith in humanity – the world can be a pretty harsh place and sometimes it seems like it is full of pretty harsh people but there is nothing like a diagnosis of terminal cancer to restore faith in humanity. We have had offers of help coming from the most surprising places – some people don’t seem to be able to do enough for us. Neighbours, friends, family and even random acquaintances – the list is never-ending and the help we have received is invaluable.

  1. Blue badge – yes, I am now the proud owner of a blue badge for the car which means that I can park pretty much anywhere and don’t have to pay. It may not seem like such a big thing, but with the price of parking in Greenwich, especially at the hospital, it has saved me a small fortune. Not to mention the fact that I nearly always get a parking space right out front from where I am going. Yes, I do have to stumble out of the car and pretend to limp in case anybody is watching and questions my use of the disabled bay (which reminds me of my favourite Michael McIntyre sketch which I will link to at the end of this post). But that is a small price to pay. C’mon, you know you are all super jealous!

So that’s it – my top 10 positive things about having cancer. I am sure that there are more and I would now like to open up this post to you -if there is anything I have missed then please let me know in the comments below. Inspire me!

Here’s the link I promised you to Michael McIntyre’s sketch on using disabled bays. It is one of the funniest things I have ever seen.  I always watch this when I want to cheer myself up.

Michael McIntyre on disabled parking

watching Michael McIntyre
Watching Michael McIntyre at the O2 in October

Yours in health and brain fog,


Just Jen

Author: Jen

Jen Ainger is a 47 year old cancer babe, previous Pilates instructor and owner/manager of Eltham Pilates & Pilates 4 Scoliosis. Born and bred in Fredericton, New Brunswick in Eastern Canada she moved to the UK in 1993 (and now would like to tell you that she knows her “pants” from her “trousers”). She trained with Body Control Pilates in 2004 and opened the Little Pilates Studio in Greenwich soon after. The studio was sold in 2014 and she saw clients in her home studio until being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in July 2018, a life-changing diagnosis that set her off on a whole new path in search of healing, a journey being recorded in her blog. Jen is currently living in Eltham, Southeast London with her husband, whippet and 4-year old son. (Jen is now trying to raise money to cover the escalating costs of supplementary treatment as mainstream medical treatment can only offer palliative care. You can help out by donating through her GoFundMe page by clicking on the link in the menu at the top right).

One thought on “Just Jen’s top 10 positive things about having terminal cancer”

  1. Hi Jen, your cousin Lynette here. I just wanted to drop you a line. You are one of the most amazing women I know and a huge inspiration. You are as strong as a warrior. I think it’s fant that you’re doing the juice cleanse, I have read about many people who have rid cancer by doing those cleanses. I have actually done those cleanses before, and although it’s a pain getting all the fruit and veg that you need and spending a lot of time juicing it’s so worth it. I’m thinking about you and sending you love. Stay positive and keep your great sense of humor. Love from Lynette in Florida xxxx

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