What with one thing and another it seems like a good time to bring back this post from two years ago.
Cancer isn’t cute. It isn’t big smiles and noses crinkled in mirth. It is a mortal illness. It disfigures. It kills. The treatment involves cutting off pieces of your body, killing living tissue with radiation, poisoning your system with chemotherapy. The treatment can have life-long effects on your health and well-being And that is still no guarantee. Thirty percent (almost one third!) of women diagnosed with breast cancer AT ANY STAGE will end up with distal metastasis.
To be clear, distal metastasis means Stage IV breast cancer. Stage IV cancer is terminal breast cancer.
Cancer isn’t cute, and breast cancer isn’t “the good cancer”. How can anyone possibly call a disease that kills almost one-third of the people who become ill with it “good”? This isn’t about boobies or tatas—it’s about a killer disease. When I was first diagnosed I didn’t give two toots about saving my “girls”; I wanted the cancer out of me.
When I was first diagnosed, I experienced and conceptualized the cancer as a rapist inside me. GET THIS THING OUT OF ME! There was nothing cute about it.
When I had my breast and lymph nodes removed and sat with surgical drains coming out of the incisions and I couldn’t lift my arm high enough to hang up the laundry, there was nothing cute about it. When I was having my first round of chemotherapy and all I could vomit was bile and I could barely hold down water – there was nothing cute about it. When I had radiation burns over two-thirds of my chest from the daily radiation treatments – not cute.
The rapist is still inside me. I have not learned to like him, but I am learning to live with him because I want whatever time is left to me to be as pleasant and productive as I can make it. I do not want to waste precious time and energy on howling at the moon. That doesn’t mean I’m not angry; it means I can accept my emotions and move on.
Well-meaning as they may be, pink ribbons and cutesy “awareness” campaigns make me angry. To me, they feel belittling. They make me feel ignored. They make me feel cast aside because I have a a disease that is killing me. Go ahead and have a great fund-raising campaign and use the best PR tricks you can, but please don’t ignore the reality.
Cancer isn’t cute, not even tiny little Stage I tumors. It bears repeating: thirty percent (almost one third!) of women diagnosed with breast cancer AT ANY STAGE will end up with distal metastasis.
I am one of the 30%. Awareness is nice; research is better. If you donate to a breast cancer cause, know where your money is going. Give to organizations that are actively funding research. You can always buy a pink ribbon at the notions counter.