It’s all about the context.

One of the things I see running around the internet, especially Tumblr, is a set of pictures from “Orange Is the New Black”. It is the scene in which Piper gives a mini-rant to Pennsatucky about how she doesn’t believe we get cancer to learn life lessons, kids don’t die because more angels are needed—that whole thing. When I see the photoset, captioned especially with the cancer quote, on Tumblr, often the post is reblogged with a “yes” kind of fist pump note. I know those posting it are agreeing with that cancer doesn’t give life lessons bit, and I do too.

But I do not reblog it, even though I want to, because the photoset is taken out of context.

Like most people, I binge-watched both seasons of OITNB, so I have no idea what events happen in which episode, and my timeline memory of the tiny details is a little off. But I do know that after this scene occurs, one character tells Piper she is not a nice person; that she is, in fact, mean. That scene stands out, but I think there are a few other scenes that imply the same thing—that Piper is regarded by the other prisoners as less than an upstanding, good prison (or elsewhere) citizen. True for me, Piper is not the most likeable one on the show.

I’m not going to get into an analysis of the show—the issues of privilege, and the high school level irony that this main character in prison with so-called worse criminals is not considered a “good” person. I’m not a TV/film critic. But I do find it interesting that this piece of entertainment/art chooses this less sympathetic character to give the “no life lessons” speech.

Yeah, yeah, it’s just a “stupid” TV show. As someone pointed out to me the other day, it is silly so much chatter is going on about the Oscar® snubs of POC/women, of “Selma”, when so many world atrocities are not getting news coverage or social media chatter. On the surface that’s true. But dig deeper. Those silly awards snubs reflect a deeper problem in American society. I have always been of the opinion that TV/film/music reflect society’s ills, and it is easy to dismiss “silly entertainment issues” when we don’t want to confront the not so silly issues brought up by entertainment/art. (To be clear, I don’t think OITNB is “stupid” hence the quotes; actually I love it. I use the quotes to indicate that some people would dismiss it as such.) Storytelling, whether it be through poetry/rap, books, films, and yes, even blogs, is how we make sense of the world.

So Piper, the mean person, the person other prisoners do NOT think of as a “good” person, doesn’t think we get cancer to learn life lessons. I agreed with her whole speech in that scene, even though I too, do not think she is a good person, and heck, watch the show mostly because of the other characters. Ugh, what does THAT mean? BTW, I’m not just now thinking about all this, I contemplated it last summer when I binge-watched the show, but I am pushed to write this after seeing the photo set pop up on my dash for the millionth time the other day.

Well, as usual, I cannot even answer my own questions—I’m just throwing them out there, like I often do.

How I interpret this OITNB treatment of Piper is that this is the way society in general regards someone who would say “we don’t get cancer to learn lessons”. Others recoil from that person, and consider them “mean”. True, it is other deeds or words that contribute to the meanness, but the no life lessons point of view seems to be in keeping with the overall character type. Whether the story writers are doing this to point out that society does this, or because they truly agree with the other characters and are using them to articulate their view that people like Piper are “mean”, I do not know, or care very much.

Here in CancerLand, we KNOW that there is no one right way to “do” cancer, that we are allowed to feel and think as we will. But the sad fact is that it is hard to go against the socially accepted single story. The dancing mastectomy woman, and the woman who threw a goodbye party for her breasts, will always be lauded and rewarded for their so-called positive attitudes and actions. Anyone who expresses sadness, fear, anger, etc.—well, we won’t be punished exactly, but getting called “mean”, or asked why we do not choose to be positive, that is the most common outcome (oh man, the concept of choice in beliefs and feelings is a whole can of worms for a post). We can spout “there is no one right way to do anything” quotes all day (and I do, all over my blog and Facebook), but maybe society in general has not yet attained our level of understanding. (That does NOT mean we should not keep trying to blog our way to understanding, however.) So when social media crowns a new she-ro and points to her celebrations as a THE way to do cancer, well, it creates another hard-to-achieve standard that I am not interested in pursuing—but will have to put up with ignorant folks looking at me like I should at least try. The idea that women with breast cancer must put on the happy face and not let anyone see the pain and fear is again perpetuated. And in televised fictions, the no life lessons woman will be considered mean.

As it may be clear, or rather, unclear, I’m thinking about a hundred million things again, and better end this post before it becomes another unwieldy ramble. Hopefully, I get time to write about the issues bothering me so, that I’ve hinted at here today.

Until then…

Another Piece of Not So Stale Re-Post

When I re-post old posts, I feel like I’m giving out stale pieces of bread. But, I mostly feel the same way about the subject as when I wrote it–so does that make the post still “fresh”? Has it not passed the sell-by date? OK, enough food analogies (I like to cook and eat, so sue me).

Anyway there are usually multiple reasons I re-post. I read other blogs or articles that cause me to think, then I realize, I’ve covered this before. I might again. But for now, the re-post will have to do.

The Age Divisions

When I was first diagnosed a few days before my 39th birthday, I concentrated on just the big picture of breast cancer, and I did not really pay attention to issues of age…at first. I was lucky to be treated at a facility that, despite its location in a small-town and rural area, was evolved enough to have a resource for young adults with cancer. A special support group was started for us by my friend, diagnosed a few years earlier with ovarian and uterine cancer. Joining support groups is so the opposite of my personality, but I am so glad I joined this one. It helped offset the annoyance I still felt going into the infusion room and seeing the looks of surprise given by my fellow patients as they watched me, not my mother, sit in that chair each time (even though I was the bald one, go figure).

As I progressed through treatment and began interacting with the others in our support group, I have researched a few resources outside of our little local circle for “young adults with cancer”. There are some cool things out there, like Huffington Post’s Generation Why blog, Stupid Cancer/I’m Too Young For This! Foundation, and First Descent.

But I wouldn’t be the Cancer Curmudgeon if I did not have a complaint. Generation Why is a play on “generation y”; naturally I am “generation x”. First Descent and events produced by Stupid Cancer are for anyone with cancer ages 13-39. Since I was going through treatment the entire time I was 39, and I worked while in treatment, I did not have much left-over energy or vacation time for anything like that. Hell, even the SCAR Project, which I admire greatly, had a limit of age 35 for participants. So does that mean, since I am 41, I am no longer allowed to be a sexual being, upset at the scar and lack of nipple that cancer left me? I do not think this, but it seems that “society”, or certain organizations, or who knows else, is putting these parameters in place, once again trying to fit cancer experiences into these little boxes.

Cancer sucks no matter what number of years you’ve walked this earth. Maybe people should not be reduced to age brackets when it comes to cancer. At 41 I should be at a certain place in a career, married with 2 kids? Nope, I don’t fit the “profile”. No kids…so the worries of informing my kids, raising kids, and worrying about their future without me does not apply. But I am single and would like to find a husband, and hell yeah, I am worried that my “damaged goods” are going to impact my chances of finding a one, a problem I see discussed in articles targeted to those in their 20s and 30s. In addition, I am certainly nowhere near retirement, in fact, am still searching for my “perfect” job. In short, I know what my particular challenges are, and there may be someone out there in the same or a similar boat, or maybe not. I’m sure lots of patients cannot imagine facing my set of circumstances, the same way I am baffled when I read other bloggers’ posts of trying to go through college while in chemo, some without family support.

Look, I am not poo-pooing these resources I’ve mentioned, I am grateful they exist. I sort it out as I research & read, and just try to take what applies to me and move on. I know that the medical community and these various organizations have to create these age brackets in order to do the testing, compile data, and create their target markets. I especially would like the medical testing industry to expand their vision to include testing and results for each and every age bracket, so treatment can be improved and prevention discovered. It’s all about the stats and the odds, I know.

I just want everyone, especially the number-crunchers, to remember that the one common thread in cancer patients no matter the age is that we all want to survive and live well, and that there is a person behind each number or stat.

(Don’t) Take It From Me…

When I began blogging, I did not have a well-formed idea of what I wished to achieve. I merely started one as a way to create an identity to communicate with other bloggers. I’m not sure I ever set out to give advice to the newly diagnosed, and I hope I never did such a thing. I do know that as time passed, and the memories of treatment started to grow smaller in the rear view mirror (thank goodness), I became less inclined to say this or that thing did or did not help/work for me during diagnosis and treatment. When another woman in the support group would describe a problem, even one I’d faced, I was just not convinced I had anything of value to say that would help her (yes, the group was comprised of only females, not because males were not welcome, but because they never joined).

It’s not that I did not appreciate advice given to me in my first awful whirlwind days of diagnosis. Some things worked, other tidbits flamed out horribly. Heck, right now, I can only think of advice that didn’t work: get a wig, nope, rarely if ever wore it; chew ice during infusion to prevent mouth sores, no I wound up hating ice; buy button up shirts for after surgery, but while I had pain, I was still able to pull shirts over my head. No big deal; that is the way it goes. Part of my reticence has to do with realizing that I did not have it as bad or difficult as others. I engage in discounting, I talked about this very early on in my blogging days: see Could’ve Been Worse.

This history of “not so bad”, combined with 1) my tendency to push the panic button and expect the worst, 2) my view that it is impossible to know what anyone will feel/think/do until they are absolutely put into a certain situation and 3) my view of my cancer experience (diagnosis up to present day) as one in which I repeatedly ram my head into a Pink wall, makes me feel not so qualified to give any advice. I can tell anyone who’ll listen what I did about xyz, and if it worked for me or not, but…take it with a grain of salt. It may or may not work for you, I have no idea. I wish I could help, but I probably can’t.

In short, I am NOT the person to be a mentor to new patients, and have never signed up with any organization to be such a mentor. And never will. And again, if I’ve given advice on this blog, I’m sorry and please ignore it! Don’t ever listen to me if I ever start in with “take it from me, I did blah blah blah during cancer, and it was awesome/horrible….” I’m not saying ignore all advice; indeed, there are many bloggers or personalities in CancerLand who are good at this. By all means, follow their tips if you are so inclined.

That said, I am now going to say there is a piece of advice that has been popping up in the past couple of weeks in various online articles I read about cancer that I whole-heartedly, strenuously, emphatically, disagree with. I point out that I’ve only seen it in online articles because the funny thing is that the advice is…..newly diagnosed cancer patients should stay off the internet.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. The internet abounds with worst-case scenarios, and a panic button pusher like myself doesn’t need the help of the internet to imagine them. But I am still glad that I ignored that advice (because yeah, I was definitely told to not go to the internet). The problem was that I did not find and absorb the info that I know about now, and that is a great regret. Off the top of my head, issues like the is DCIS really cancer debate, mammography failures, making medical professionals inform women about their breast density, anything about HER2+ cancer, to name a few, I wish I knew about in the early doctor visits, so I could’ve asked better questions. The knowledge that I’ve gained from other blogs makes my head spin, and I often feel like I’m playing catch up when I get to the oncologist’s office.

The sites I found in those early days were not totally useless—in fact, they were helpful, although a little too positive and Pink. And certainly in the days after treatment, the internet again provided the solace I needed from the Pink. So when anyone says “stay off the internet” as an important piece of advice to the newly diagnosed—I just…NO.

Look, I’m sure there are a few folks who heeded that advice and it worked for them. But I do not think it is a good piece of general advice—it needs to be highly specific to the individual, and maybe most individuals don’t need this little tidbit. Furthermore, I don’t think “the internet” is the real issue. Perhaps the advice should be amended to: be careful of ingesting misinformation. Yes, one is more likely to run into misinformation on the internet, because of the sheer amount of INFORMATION there. But misinformation is insidious, and can be present the old fashioned way, in brochures, and from the mouths and minds of other people (the ones typing the misinformation on the internet).

The internet, specifically social media, can be a wonderful tool, and has been for me (and I barely use it compared to most folks in CancerLand social media). The trick is to find reputable sites, authors, and info, and to always check with one’s own personal medical team. And yes, to even challenge that medical team too.

And sigh, I dip my toe into the celebrity cancer patients issue here. Yes, it was Joan Lunden’s recent tips that pushed me to write this—sort of. As I’m sure most know, stay off the internet was one of ‘em. But here’s the thing: when I read her tips, it was the third time in less than two weeks I’d read “stay off the internet”, which was what really made me say enough is enough already.

Ah, there’s the rub. It amazes me that her tips cause a fuss, when cancer patients giving advice are everywhere. What makes her insights worthy? Because she is a celebrity—especially one of those trusted news-y types that Americans get their info from? Please. Those fake morning and evening tabloid-y shows are worthless when it comes to health info. Her tips, especially the stay off the internet one, are not groundbreaking, original stuff. Yes, I’m a bit biased. I was not a fan before her cancer news. I’m sorry she got it, but it doesn’t make her any more special than the rest of us—and by no means an expert at being a patient.

Look, like most folks, I’m just trying to muddle along, doing the best I can with the cards I was dealt by life. I was not dealt a winning hand, I was dealt cancer. Some things I do OK, others times I’ve fucked up beyond belief. I’m just a human, with all the failings and contradictions that come with being one. I’m gonna continue to seek out those sources I trust, use the advice that works for me, and trust myself to know when to do what I think is best for myself.

Posting This One Again for Reasons Part 2

One Reason: LOTS of chatter on the interwebz about positivity lately. Advice that cancer patients should “be positive”. And I’m seeing a very disturbing lack of understanding for those who are labeled “negative” (although I do NOT label myself that way). My new favorite quote applies here: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” – Nietzsche

Another Reason: I’ve been really, really, REALLY busy—too busy to write. I sit down each day and skim stuff to read and then fall asleep before I can get started. Hope to change that next week.

I’m Allowed

Posted on July 29, 2013 by Cancer Curmudgeon

A very special thanks to Tumblr buddy lux-fiam, who guided me as I struggled with this post, and to my IRL spoonie/fake psychiatrist/professor friend, with whom I fight The Overwhelming.  

For the people who say “thanks for this.”

This post is about allowing myself and encouraging others to do cancer any way we damn well please.

Just prior to starting this blog, and in the hazy days of bouncing back from the treatment side effects, I was in a bit of a depression. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had no time or energy to find blogs while I was actively in treatment and working my ass off. During treatment I was not happy with the rah-rah/pink/warrior culture that was the most prevalent form of support available (except in the diagnosed-under-40 support group, thank goodness). After I made some life changes, I was pleased to finally be able to take some time and dig around and find blogs or articles that said some of the thoughts that were more like mine, and I began blogging to interact a bit.

Around the same time I found other blogs, I had an epiphany. I was at some event last autumn with other cancer patients and expressing some anger. A fellow attendee started suggesting stress reduction methods, telling me that I must “accept” my cancer and ended her pseudo-lecture with “you can’t be angry all the time.” I was just so sick of this type of lecture; it wasn’t the first time I’d heard words of that nature. And BTW, I don’t think people mean the dictionary definition of “accept” when they tell me to do that; I think they really mean “shut up and sit down”.

There I was, a 40-year-old woman, being talked down to like a 6-year-old, because, being, ahem, a couple decades younger than most in the room, I was the youngster, the newbie; never mind I’d finished treatment already. I was not a cancer expert (and still am not), but I wasn’t a novice either, for crying out loud.

Then it hit me—why was I even listening? I can be angry if I want! I probably thought those sentences in the petulant voice of the 6-year-old me, but the minute I did, half the anger just fell away. And it continues to fall away still. By giving myself permission to be angry, sad, frustrated, etc., I become less so, especially with each post I write. Sure, anger & other bad company are still there, but in a weakened and more useful way–they inspire and motivate me, to speak up or write these posts. Whether they should be posted and sent into the blogosphere—I’ll get to that in a minute.

While I get that people who say “think positive/cheer up” and that sort of thing are well-intentioned, maybe even trying to help—the result for me is the opposite. I just get more pissed off, because in my mind, my feelings are being diminished, dismissed, blown off. That never feels good. Cancer sucks, but being told how to do cancer sucks too. Part of the crapfest that is cancer is the culture around it (especially true in breast cancer), and the culture demands conformity, and as I’ve said in previous posts, I cannot do conformity. It is great that the normal, socially acceptable warrior/pink/rah-rah methods work for the majority of folks, I can respect that. I’ve seen people swallow negativity and wondered if they could achieve better peace by letting it out, but it is not my place to tell them what to do. And I don’t want to be told what to do/how to handle cancer either.

This blog is to escape and to challenge all of the bullshit in the warrior cancer/don’t worry, be happy world that just does not ring true for me. Here, I express my thoughts in my way, no matter if they are angry, or blunt, or whatever other unpleasant adjectives can be applied to them. Here, I express my experiences of cancer without (much) self-censorship. My professional life before 2012 was very constricting, so I wanted a space where the rules, limits, deadlines, ideas were mine alone. This is that space.

I think many would tell me I should keep my ugly thoughts to myself; I should stop sending negativity out into the universe, or blogosphere. But my challenge to that attitude is this: why is expressing negative feelings automatically considered a negative action—why can it not be viewed as a positive, “working through it” technique, which is kind of the point of a lot of therapy? How can bad feelings be turned around if not confronted, if they are constantly submerged, denied, hidden politely away? And most of all, why is it assumed that expressing negativity means the one expressing it is negative on the whole, and somehow not capable of experiencing other emotions (sometimes simultaneously)?

My blogs are not read by many, but the few comments I’ve gotten here or on the other blog tend to say “thanks”, and some variation of “I thought I was the only one who felt that/this is what I’ve been trying to say.” So while many hear/read thoughts that make them uncomfortable (which might be behind some of the “get happy” suggestions rather than a desire to really help), those same thoughts provide comfort to a few. I remember all too well last October not knowing what search terms to use to find people with opinions similar to mine, and I remember all too well how relieved I was to stumble, bass-ackwards, onto blogs that did express such opinions. So if my blog is just one more place someone can stumble upon and find relief, then my own victory over anger & company is nearly complete. I hope your victory can be found here too.

Posting This One Again for Reasons Part 1

One Reason: LOTS of chatter on the interwebz about positivity lately. Advice that cancer patients should “be positive”. And I’m seeing a very disturbing lack of understanding for those who are labeled “negative” (although I do NOT label myself that way). My new favorite quote applies here: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” – Nietzsche

Another Reason: I’ve been really, really, REALLY busy—too busy to write. I sit down each day and skim stuff to read and then fall asleep before I can get started. Hope to change that next week.

Take the Mythical Image of the Strong Warrior Breast Cancer Survivor And Bury HER Once & For All

Posted on March 28, 2013 by Cancer Curmudgeon

Author’s note:

If you are a breast cancer “survivor” who embraces that ideal image–the pink products, the racing for the cure, etc.– I am truly happy for you. I mean that sincerely, without my usual dose of sarcasm. And just as sincerely, I beg you to stop reading this post, you will probably find it offensive. As nearly always, there will be foul language, because that is how I speak.

This post is for the ones who got breast cancer, and went into it doubting, or maybe at first embracing, what I shall henceforth refer to as The Image. It is for those of us who at some point realized we could not live up to The Image. And for those patients lost and unsure, feeling set adrift, away from the pink anchor. This post is for them–you–us. -anotheronewiththecancer, AKA cancer curmudgeon

Why do I propose this burial? Because I think this mythical image is dangerous. I’m tired of hearing or reading about women who feel they cannot live up to The Image; becoming depressed, maybe suicidal, because of the way this pressure made them feel. I’ve encountered this sort of despair a few times recently, and enough is enough.

I’ve used this comparison before, I think. Let’s say a gun is pointed at your head. Maybe you get shot. There will be blood, there will be pain, and you might die. At the most basic level, cancer is just like that, a gun pointed at the head. You get cancer, you will bleed, you will have pain, and you might die. Most people, when having a gun pointed at the head, would shit themselves. Breast cancer patients however, are expected to run a race, smile, and fight, fight, fight! Like a good little girl. Whoops did I just say that? So when these women cannot live up to the expectations, not only do they feel awful because they have cancer, but they feel like they are letting EVERYONE down, especially those who’ve supported them, but also the world at large that expects certain behavior from the breast cancer she-ro.THIS IS WRONG.

I get it, there is a desire to fit in, to find support somewhere, and the smiling pink parades look inviting. Some women find solace in the support of a sisterhood. (BIG ALERT: I’m an only child and glad of it, so the notion of sisterhood baffles me.) We all want to belong. One of the many problems is, The Image pretends to invite everyone, but it does not; it is actually quite exclusive–I’ll stop short of using the d-word. Dissenters and doubters with breast cancer are ostracized. Don’t believe me? Read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. The first chapter is Ehrenreich’s description of her breast cancer experience, called “Smile or Die: the Bright Side of Cancer”. Some of the incidents she described were all too familiar (hint: a breast cancer patient suggested Ehrenreich get professional help for her “bad attitude” I got similar advice while making what I think is a valid point on Huffington Post). In my humble opinion, it should be required reading for ALL newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.

And notice I only mentioned breast cancer patients. But even not all breast cancer patients are invited, I’ve learned by reading blogs. I’ve read some ugly stories about the ones with Stage IV getting shut out of the “support system.” But of course, they are the awful reminder that breast cancer is not totally beatable, as we’ve been led to believe. “They” can never fit into the The Image. *I use they in quotes not to reflect how I feel about those with mets, but to reflect how I believe The Image machine views those with mets.

Guess who else is not invited to the pink party? Patients with ANY OTHER KIND OF CANCER. I hate that. Why are they excluded? That is a can of worms to open on another day, another post. I will offer this thought to ponder: is it because we just expect them to die, and by that I also mean get out of our sight, as an embarrassment like the mets breast cancer patients, because they cannot beat cancer and fulfill that stupid warrior stereotype? Ask your nearest ovarian or pancreatic cancer patient, they can tell you what’s up, in language you may not want to hear.

I knew pretty much from the get-go that I would not live up to The Image. For those who’ve read some of my other posts, it is pretty clear I was never the cheerleader-joiner type. So of course I’d be the glowering dissenter in the corner. Honestly, I did try to be a good patient (not just a good breast cancer patient). I followed orders, took tests, showed up at appointed times, eventually joined a support group. As treatment progressed I learned some hard lessons about following doctor’s orders, like the need to challenge medical proclamations handed to me, because mistakes were made, but that is another post.

I think I rejected the Pinktober stuff even before I was diagnosed. As an alt-punk Gen-Xer, I hate it when I am being sold to, and tend to look for the lies beneath all shiny images, and I knew The Image, along with the pink crap, was being SOLD to me. These days, as a breast cancer patient, the Pink just infuriates me, rather than simply annoying me on an intellectual level.

When some acquaintances walked in a pink event in my name, I was gracious, I love the little pink rubber- duckie they gave me, and I will never forget their kindness. But I won’t EVER walk or run, I won’t buy pink crap. I don’t need to go into the reasons why walk/runs are not effective fundraisers, nor need I explain that cancer simply cannot be shopped away. Other bloggers have done that, and if you’re still reading this post, you already know this.

That said, this post is not me saying, “Oooo look at me, I’m so clever and strong to have rejected The Image without ever falling into the trap”. On the contrary, the marketing, the peer pressure, in cancer communities is so prevalent, it is amazing anyone ever questions anything. No, this is me defending the ones–us–who don’t want to, or cannot fit into this distorted ideal, The Image. I mean that with more conviction than nearly anything I’ve ever said in my life.

I’m not going to go into how The Image developed, there are some good books out there about that. I am aware the advocacy movement started as a way to support women’s health, bring breast cancer out from the whispering shadows, so women could demand better treatment. This is a good thing. But in a few decades, the pendulum swung completely to the other side, to the point that we shout about breast cancer from the rooftops, and there seems to be subtle pressure to be damn near proud of having it while sporting pink clothes and bald heads.

Of course I’m glad breast cancer is out of the shadows, but in keeping with the insane American ideal of “if a little of something is good, a lot of it is better”, now it has gone over to the ridiculous. We need to bring the pendulum back. We need to slow down, find the middle ground. No more ideals, no more she-roes, survivors, warriors, no more hollow “you’re so brave” compliments. I’m no she-ro. I am no warrior. I am not brave, I screamed and cried raged often enough I assure you. I am simply a woman who found out she had a life-threatening illness, made logical, somewhat informed decisions to eliminate that threat, and tried to deal with all the emotional crap that came with it. I made these choices because I wanted to live, not die. It is that simple. Don’t ascribe these words and their hollow meanings to me and my experience, it is not your right to do so.

So to those breast cancer patients, or survivors or whatever you call yourself, who are struggling because you don’t think you are “doing cancer right”, I doubt this silly post will ease your pain. I can’t remove the pressure of The Image from your back, and maybe no one can do that but you. You will need to be the one to take this mass delusional Image and chuck her out the window, where she belongs. The only way The Image will cease to exist is if enough of us ignore her.

I am sorry if I come off harsh. A lifetime of being unable to conform to much has made me a bit rough around the edges at times. The cool kids or the mainstream (in breast cancer, in life) tend to be intolerant of “the other”, and since I usually fall into that category, I cannot help but be a bit snide about being an “outsider” all the time. I tried not to criticize or judge, but at times I feel criticized and judged by the mainstream pink community and it is hard not to reciprocate. I am ashamed of that because I am truly trying to be a better person.

I do not have any proposals on how to solve what I think is a problem (and yes, it is a problem if someone goes through cancer treatment successfully, and then wants to commit suicide for being unable to live up to The Image–no matter how you spin it). As usual, I am the jackass in the corner pointing out what is wrong without much of a constructive suggestion. I don’t have a degree in Sociology or Anthropology, which is probably what is required to understand the nature of the cancer subculture. If I could lead an army of like-minded folks down the highway in October, destroying every hint of pink I saw, I would do it, but I doubt that will ever happen. All I can think of to do is reject it for myself, and offer a helping hand to anyone else who wants to do the same.

My Way

I keep hearing some TV commercial using the Sid Vicious version of the song. Most folks prefer Sinatra’s classic interpretation, I’m sure. Some may hate the song altogether, no matter who sings it, and some may never have heard it. Such is the story around interpretations of songs. I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that only Bing should sing “White Christmas”, I gag when I hear Clapton’s “I Shot the Sheriff” because I only like Marley’s, and Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” is THE definitive version, and I violently turn off the radio if I hear Rufus Wainwright’s take on it (of course, since Cohen wrote it, I do listen to his versions, consisting of whatever selection of the many verses to the song).

The point of these musical musings is that everyone has their own point of view about how a song should be sung, and how cancer should be treated. While I can create my own playlist with my preferred versions, I would never insist on forcing my playlist on others, and I certainly do not suggest anyone do what I did with cancer—in terms of medical treatment choices, attitude, ANYTHING! But as anyone with cancer knows, it is damn near impossible to avoid anyone telling us how to do cancer.

Several days ago*, there was some small ripple on Twitter because a person told Lisa Adams to enjoy the time she has left—and stop fighting, what is it with people saying that?! The essence was, stop treating, accept that we all must die—that tired old message. Geez, not even a year after the Kellers decided Adams was not doing cancer to their liking—WTF!

At first I thought this person did not have cancer, and was just mouthing off. My gut reaction, to anyone who spews that “we all gotta go sometime and it is your turn now” crap is: hey, unless you are the one doing the dying, you have NO right to say that. We all gotta go sometime? OK, be my guest, I prefer to stay alive. And I still have that view—I’ve seen enough of that kind of sentiment expressed prior to this to be quite set about my view. (No, I do not have stage 4 cancer, and I do NOT have an opinion about how it should be handled, not even for myself—I learned during cancer that it is not possible to know what I’ll do in a situation unless I’m in it, will cross that bridge when I get to it).

After reading a few of the tweets tho’, I am guessing this person is also stage 4 and has decided to stop treating. That’s fine—for him or her, but not Adams or anyone else.

Cancer is a human issue, one that all humans must consider and discuss. The fact that money and time is spent on research for treatments that might benefit millions is a matter for public discourse. But there is a fine line crossed when one person tells another how to handle the same stage and/or type of cancer. I’ve said many times, cancer does not exist in a vacuum—two people may have very similar types of cancer, but there are too many other factors, medical and otherwise, that mean comparison is just off-limits. Sure, advice is fine, but the ultimate choice must remain with the individual. And just because any individual shares their story of choices on social media, it is NOT an invitation for criticism or questioning, or especially permission to “stop fighting”. (I’ve posted about the issue of whether sharing a cancer story invites public opinion before, here and here, and will likely do so again.)

My various playlists would likely give most folks a headache, switching from Morrissey to the Misfits to Metallica in moments. So I would not force them on anyone, hell I don’t even share them. Who cares? They’re mine. Same with cancer. The treatment path I took worked well for me, as did my post-surgery choices. Some may take the “way” of Ol’ Blue Eyes, and I’ll side with Sid’s “way”.

My Way. Your Way. The only WAY to do cancer, is the patient’s way.


*Several days ago—what can I say? I’ve been busy. So my posts about things are gonna be late. I write a post in my head when things happen, and hope I can get around to writing, but usually I don’t. I hope to write about many items—the Dr. Smith blog for one, but I can’t promise anything.