Wishing I Had Cancer

by Janis Gaines

I wrote this tonight as a response to a Facebook post on Bruce Feiler’s page. He had asked what’s the best thing to do when something tragic happens to someone. Should you reach out and help or leave people alone to deal with personal things in private, etc? Some people posted great stories of kindnesses that others have shown. While I am healed of this event at this time in my life, both the challenges and victories are not forgotten. I have always thought I would write more about this experience, and one day I will. For now, I’m just cataloging certain thoughts here as they come to me.


I was attacked by a serial rapist 15 years ago, and it turned my whole life upside down; I was already struggling desperately as a new single mom of three. During the same season a fellow teacher had cancer. The whole school rallied around this teacher, with prayers and constant support and fund-raising. No one wants to talk about rape. They don’t want to bring it up, don’t want to hurt your feelings, don’t know what to say, but all of this just reinforces the shame and the silence and discounts the inner wounds that no one acknowledges and ignores the reality of the ongoing healing process. Everyone openly celebrated every little success and his eventual recovery; I remember thinking no one has any idea that it’s a total miracle that I got out of bed today, showed up, was a great teacher, and an amazing mom — all on my own. I remember wishing I had cancer.

Jeremiah 8:11 – “They have healed the wounds of my people lightly…” (NIV)

Some media about the event; again, just cataloging resources for myself, mainly.

Cosmo Article
Datelineย  – “Through the Pouring Rain”
This show features two other survivors of the same attacker; my specific story is not mentioned here.


“The Boiler Room” is a poem I wrote directly about my feelings about this experience. This deserves its own extended post someday soon.

“That was so holy…” is another writing reflection I wrote about my rape experience.


@Asheville, NC
January 13, 2015