With thanks to Nancy Stordahl of Nancy’s Point for posting it on Facebook, I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to a spot-on article on Salon: The ultimate cancer taboo: Sometimes it kills you by Mary Elizabeth Williams.
If anyone wonders why people with metastatic cancer sometimes (often) feel like the red-headed stepchildren of the cancer world (no offense intended to redheads or stepchildren), this article will make it clear.
Contemporary cancer gets couched in the language of cheerleaders. Even a generation ago, the mere word “cancer” seemed a certain death sentence; today, in contrast, it’s an opportunity to talk about battles and fights and hope. It’s something to be bravely dealt with – having cancer automatically designates a person a “warrior.” The disease is then referred to only at occasional “awareness” opportunities, preferably with a tasteful ribbon.
But people with metastatic cancer don’t follow the tidy, cheerful narrative. They don’t necessarily fit the inspirational survivor mold. And so they’re ignored.
So begins the article. She continues with some eye-opening figures and quotes Danny Welch, chairman of the University of Kansas Cancer Center, who told Peggy Orenstein: “A lot of people are under the notion that metastatic work is a waste of time.”
Let me tell you how I heard that.
Premise: Research into the causes and potential treatment of metastatic disease could lead to people like me living longer.
Premise: Such research, a lot of people think, is a waste of time.
Conclusion: A longer life for people like me is a waste of time.
Yes, I do take it personally. Wouldn’t you?
Williams goes on to talk about her own experience with Stage IV melanoma and that of Lisa Bonchek Adams, a well-known breast cancer blogger, and offers this very important suggestion:
So if you’ve ever considered whipping out the talk about miracles or just keeping a positive attitude or some other unhelpful tack in a transparent attempt to keep your own terror of death at bay, that’s actually a pretty crappy thing to lay on a person with a serious disease. Please don’t do that.
This is not a long article, and it is well worth reading. I’ve only skimmed a few of the high points. Please do click on the link (here it is again) and read it.
I’ll end by making my own the words with which Williams closes her article: “Yes… I’m still right here.”