The Competitive Sport of “Breast Canceropoly”

This entry was written by Randi Rentz. In this piece, Randi vividly describes the competition that lies between women who are diagnosed with various stages of breast cancer. Is there a need for competition in the first place? Is your breast cancer really worse than someone else’s – considering that breast cancer takes a toll on any woman emotional, whether you’re in stage 1 or stage 4.

Do you find yourself to be competitive in spirit, especially when it comes to sports, kids, education, social status or occupation? If so, you haven’t been in competitive company until you’ve participated in the game, “Breast Canceropoly.” What’s that you ask?

Wanna get your game on?  Let’s see if you can pass “GO,” (Good Mammogram) “Collect Money” (Insurance Company pays for office visits/tests) or go to “Jail” (The dreaded treatment plan).

What You Need

  • Breast cancer diagnosis
  • Doctors telephone numbers on speed dial
  • Binder for medical information
  • Lucky dice


  • Show no mercy

Please keep in mind when playing “Breast Canceropoly” only 4 choices are given on a game card, when in reality, there is a possibility of more or fewer choices with many variables. Here is an example of a “Pink Diagnosis” card.

  1. Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer that has no genetic component, mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation
  2. Stage 2 hormone-positive breast cancer as a result of hormone replacement therapy, lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation
  3. Stage 1 hormone-positive breast cancer with a BRCA1 gene mutation, lumpectomy/possible bi-lateral mastectomy, possible hysterectomy and possible radiation
  4. Stage 4 malignant melanoma with no insurance

Is your head spinning yet? Have you banked your money so you don’t go broke playing this game? Have you checked with your insurance company to make sure your office visit, scan or treatment plan is paid for (in-full, of course)? Have you gotten your second, third, fourth or even fifth opinion? If so, do you pay out of pocket, or are they covered? Do you even understand the question, after you’ve landed on the “You have breast cancer” square on the game board? Once you add more “pink cards” into the equation, like the effects of genetic mutations, hormone receptors, ports, meds etc., the game becomes even more multifaceted. Are you confused yet?

But for some who have been placed on the game board path, an individual’s diagnosis can actually begin a strange competition with many women.

 “Breast Canceropoly” for some is a game of luck, strategy and people skills. How can your opponent get an appointment the next day after her diagnosis with a top surgeon while you wait weeks? Can it be she has connections or the luck of the dice? When some women are busy getting appointments with every doctor in town, others take to the internet, and may wait a few days before making any contact in the medical profession. Is that a strategic maneuver; to one-up the opponent?  Maybe.

The people skills element needs to be captured in this game, too. For instance, I was very chatty with people in the radiation waiting room and wanted to measure up to my contemporaries, but deep down, I was quite bloodthirsty with all the other women who were waiting to be nuked. There was a woman who was on my radiation schedule who discussed her weekend hiking in the mountains in the Poconoes.

Hiking? Really?

I found it a substantial achievement to get to my parking lot every morning. It was like walking three city blocks just to find my car. Once I found it, I climbed in and rested because I was so exhausted.

My “Breast Canceropoly” opponent wasn’t trying to engineer a trade or negotiate for a card on the board; she was trying to go for the win with her energetic attitude.

But then, it was my turn to roll the dice, and move on the game board, where I landed on the pink square of “Last Day of Radiation.” In general, patients who land on this square are ecstatic. I just wanted to win the game during my last treatment with my opponent and send her around the board a few times.

“I used to hike, ride my bike and run during the first three weeks of radiation.  It felt so invigorating,” I said with a hint of rancor.  “Just wait until you approach weeks four and five.  You’ll notice a huge decrease in your stamina.” Little does she know that I know longer own a bike.

Bingo. She didn’t say a word after I out maneuvered her. Do not pass “Go” and do not collect $200! Was my competitiveness and mean-spirited comment worth it? Maybe for a split second.

The point of my scrutiny is this: The competition is meaningless. Cancer is cancer, and none of the types are preferable.

Those who play the game of “Breast Canceropoly” do so for one simple reason: to make themselves feel better. One of the ways we deal with fear of cancer is to tell ourselves that “it could be worse” or to reaffirm ourselves that we are the mighty fighters.  And, sometimes, to reinforce that false declaration, we compare our situations to those we imagine are worse than ours, or vice-a-versa.

So, which type of cancer wins the game of “Breast Canceropoly?”

None of the above.

The truth is, we should all put the game of “Breast Canceropoly” away and choose a new board game, like, “Life.”

How do you feel when someone compares their breast cancer diagnosis? Do you have the “breast cancer is breast cancer” attitude or do you somehow believe that depending on stages, a diagnosis can have a bigger impact on different women?

7 thoughts on “The Competitive Sport of “Breast Canceropoly”

  1. Pingback: I Am Honest Enough to Admit: I Played. Have You? « Black Pearl Creations and The Woman Behind The Company

  2. I had no idea there is an actual game of Monopoly for Breast Cancer. I think the manufacturer needs to “Think Before They Pink.”

  3. Great article and comments. Women’s magazines encourage this competition by always featuring women who do amazing things while undergoing breast cancer treatment. I often felt like a loser because I wasn’t one of these superwomen – the one who continues to work full-time in a demanding, high-profile career; the “in-your-face” type who looks great bald; the warriors who start a foundation; those who believe cancer is a blessing and a positive attitude is essential. No stories about those of us who feel successful if we manage to drag ourselves through another day without a meltdown. It’s a lot of pressure.

  4. I don’t know that I agree. I have met all sorts of survivors and there was no whiff of cancer oneupsmanship.

    The problem I have is with the people who feel free to tell me EVERY horror story with tamoxifen, which I am getting ready to start now that I am through radiation.

    Every cancer is different and the people who are survivors with whom I have spoken are wise enough to know the difference and say so. I have found amazing and positive support from within my community and circle of friends. I have purposely stayed away from those who can only dwell in the negative.

    I mean I have kooky things happen like people who don’t know me at all who said ridiculous things like I should not do radiation, all I had to do was eat asparagus. Or the guy who pretended to be concerned but wanted in fact to sell me some whacky potion. And the calls from fake breast cancer charities claiming they would pay my bills if I gave THEM money. But realistically, I figured some of this would happen when I went public. But the oneupsmanship? Maybe I am just lucky, but no.

    I will note, however, I chose to build my own support network because I found a lot of the support groups I checked out were too negative and I wanted positive.

    I wrote about my recent experience here:


  5. My wife lost her game of Breast Canceropoly on Sept 10. In the almost 2 years that she played, I never remember anyone trying to play one upmanship “my cancer is worse/better then yours” whether it was at her treatments, scans, support groups or simply around town. Our world did become a dizzying array of options, choices, treatments, meds, insurance, etc. I hope and pray that this is a game I never have to play again and further that no one else, no woman, no husband, no brother, no father, no sister, no child. Please God make this happen.

  6. I encountered the competition when I went to a support group. Although the women in my group all had a diagnosis of some sort of breast cancer, we all chose a different treatment plan to suit our needs. While discussing our stories, I told mine, which was about a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. Another woman told her story of having a bi-lateral mastectomy. Just because she made the decision to remove her breasts, does not mean that her experience was harder or worse than mine. We are all in the fight to win. It doesn’t matter how you play the game…just as long as you survive and are cancer-free. I agree with the author that we should all be playing the game called, “Life.”

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