X-Rays and Candy

Yesterday I was doing something uncharacteristically indulgent—getting my hair colored, trimmed, and styled, when I overheard another client and stylist discussing the dangers of trick or treating, you know, the old razors in apples thing. They spoke of that myth as the gospel truth, as the reason they were taking their kids to some trunk and treat thing (I did not know what that was—had to look it up!).

I am always surprised at how those myths persist—heck, they began in the pre-internet age—which really says something about how people latch onto things, and don’t let go. I remember the razors in apples thing growing up, I remember local hospitals offering to x-ray candy every year. Does that still happen?

I was chomping at the bit to intrude on their conversation, but, alas, I was in the hair drying/styling portion of my salon day—so I only caught bits of the ongoing conversation, and there was no way I was going to yell over the sound of hot hair aimed at my head loudly at high speed. It’s funny, earlier this year, I wrote about struggling with the notion of jumping onto every little lapse when I hear cancer myths—worried I will become that tiresome “cancer woman” among people I know (probably already am to some degree). But when Halloween BS gets tossed around, whew, I was VERY ready to rain knowledge and truth on uninformed heads!

Forced into zipping my lips, I got contemplative about how myths persist. I mean, I know the jokes about not believing everything you see on the internet—of course you cannot! But on the other hand, not believing everything you read and hear (rumors?) is a long, grand tradition, isn’t it? (Uh-oh, having a childhood flashback to the rumor about the Mikey kid eating pop rocks and soda—anyone remember that?) And combating rumors with truth happens on the internet too, in addition to the creation of BS. So, how is it that so many people still buy into the urban legends about razors and apples? That has been debunked, I thought!

I wish I knew how to end these illusions, because that talent would sure come in handy in CancerLand.

We hang onto falsehoods, slogans, any number of ideas out of….what? Tradition? Habit? Pick any breast cancer sound bite: 1 in 8 (when that stat is bit more nuanced when looking at age brackets), early detection saves lives, sugar feeds cancer, a positive outlook helps kick cancer ass, run for cures—oh, why go on. I’ve been struggling with a few myths I hang onto myself—but at least I am questioning everything.

Maybe that is the key—the willingness to question anything one hears or reads. An open mind.

October is wrapping up and I find myself in a foul mood tonight. Watching nonsense online, people hanging onto untruths, just being unwilling to hear any challenges to what is perceived as facts, I’m just bummed out. Between Halloween myths and breast cancer BS, I’m just drowning in mass delusions.

I’ve been blogging and reading blogs for nearly 3 years, and I’ve been in CancerLand for nearly five, and I keep thinking: Still?! Still, with this rah rah pink crap, no progression?! How can that be? We have to keep fighting nonsense every year?

But the answer to that question was right in front of me yesterday, listening to 2 people talk about a lie, a decades old myth, like it was real.

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Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

12 thoughts on “X-Rays and Candy”

  1. I didn’t grow up in the states so I am unfamiliar with the Halloween myths.

    About the myths in cancerland, I admit, I still use the “1 in 8” statement but I try to remember saying this is a “lifetime risk” — is it still wrong to say? I don’t want to mislead anyone. One of the issues is the lack of education — people don’t want to know about cancer. Before I was diagnosed, I believed some of these myths. I thought there was no way I would get bc at the age of 32, for example, that it was an old person’s disease. I knew it was possible but very rare and probably caused by a mutation. Until I was dx, I started reading all kinds of articles, getting information from different reputable (and some non-reputable) sources, talking to other patients, etc. I remember feeling like that day in 1988, when I found out Santa was not real.

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    1. Ha ha, I heard some Brit say recently that Halloween is a much bigger deal in the US than most places–and in my hometown it is HUGE–adults dress up, people have mini-haunted houses, great place to be a kid.
      Before I got cancer, I “knew” the 1 in 8 thing too and yes also figured I’d be older. “Lifetime risk” is the correct way to say it, as far as I know. There is a lot written about it–I wrote my take a couple of years ago:
      https://anotheronewiththecancer.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/ones-and-zeros/
      I’ve heard 1 in 233, or 1 in 220something for the 30-39 group (I was DX at 38). While the stats matter, sometimes I get a bit unsure about the age divisions–ah that is a topic I’ll keep returning to, ugh.
      I’m still hanging on, somehow, to the baseline mammo at age 40 even tho’ I scoff at the usefulness of mammos. Not sure why, other than it just seems like there is this air of, nothing works to detect cancer, give up!
      Ugh, overwhelmed by all the hoo ha in cancer today.

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      1. I have really dense breasts so I often wonder if I should stop doing mammos and only stick to doing MRIs but I hear they both find different “things” in the breast. UGH. I question the accuracy of those statistics too.

        Going back to Halloween, where I come from, we celebrate independence day (February 27) as a form of Halloween, don’t recall why. People dress up like demons and carry a whip to hit children on the streets. These same people would ask for money, and if you didn’t have any cash, they would whip you. The problem was most houses in the D.R. have open yards and they get in through there–sometimes I would see like 10 “demons” looking thru my kitchen window. It was very traumatizing for me as a child. The kids, including myself, would throw rocks at them and run away. This is what they look like: https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2748/4299620340_ca21498c3d.jpg.

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  2. Unfortunately, I don’t see the myths going anywhere. People seem to latch on to the ideas that are more dramatic versions of the truth. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s easier to believe it than to find out the truth.

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    1. I guess it is the sensational aspect. But the odd thing is people (often the same people) will believe something terrible and lurid, like the razor blade in apple thing, while clinging to the idea that shopping for a cure actually accomplishes something, rather than believing the terrible part–they seem like opposites! My guess is that it is once again about control. At least with the tainted candy, people think they can “do something” like get it x-rayed, or only accept candy from friends. I’m just spit-balling ideas here.

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  3. Interesting read on myths and illusions. Sometimes they are pretty darn persistent, that’s for sure. I guess your last two paragraphs say it all. Thanks for another thought-provoking post.

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    1. Thanks! I’m still befuddled, and may always be, by how tight the grip to myths, whether it is to fool ourselves all will be alright (think positive and cancer can be beaten), or to scare ourselves, like the poisoned candy thing. Weird.

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  4. For all our cognitive abilities, we humans still have a few parts of our brains that are ancient & primitive, and maybe that’s why we hang onto myths and superstitions and fairytales. One despairs that the ‘smarter’ parts of our brain can’t seem to reason past them unless one makes a conscious effort to do so. Maybe it’s that so many people are just to lazy to think for themselves. Oy.

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    1. I actually had a conversation (again) with a client who is rational, into numbers and stats, the other day. We talked about how the “personal story” always trumps the stats. It is a tough line to walk–I admit I get wrapped up in my own story too. Especially when discussion about the people in the smaller percents (women in their 30s, HER2+, whatever) gets going. It is so hard for me to be forgiving of those who do not make a conscious effort tho’. I automatically question everything or assume that a headline is not the whole truth–and I KNOW this makes me unbearable to some. Oh well.

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