JaneRA died of breast cancer in December 2009. I ‘met’ her through the forum we both used, a breast cancer forum. She wrote a piece to be posted both on her blog and the forums she used after her death. Loud opinionated Jane, loudly spoken even after death. Unashamedly unsentimental, Jane saw nothing good about breast cancer, and always expressed herself in an honest forthright manner. After Jane died the forum, BCPals, took over the responsibility of hosting her blog so her words can still be found and read.She wrote about the reality of her breast cancer treatment, her opinions on assisted dying, about her dislike of breast cancer fashion shows and pink October, the stereotypes of the ‘valiant survivor’. Due to the nature of her tumour she had started to lose her voice, and was saddened by that, but she made up for that with her words – she called her blog her new voice. She was never afraid to make her points very clearly. I am still moved by her words, and both cry and laugh when I read them.
I recently shared her final piece with my friend Anna Rachnel, and we thought a lot of people would like to read this.
Jane’s final post:
As many of you know I never found anything positive or uplifting about having breast cancer … nevertheless getting breast cancer in the age of the internet has meant a support and information network which was unknown 15 years back. Thank you to everyone who has helped me on these forums since I first logged on in February 2004. Thank you for your support and information, your kindness and laughter. Thank you for great discussions and debates.
My death is but one of the 12,000 deaths from breast cancer this year. More than 45,000 women will face diagnosis in this time. My death is unremarkable. I am 60, not a bad age, even in the west, but still a premature death. Premature, too, are the numerous deaths from breast cancer of young women with young children. They are there, unnamed in the statistics.
I’d like to think that among those of you reading of my death today are some young women, newly diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, the relatively unusual type I had. Today you are very frightened, crying and confused. But I want to imagine that you are going to be all right and that after your treatment is over you will decide to get involved in cancer campaigning.
But not for you are the appearances in Fashion shows, not for you fundraising at pink pampering parties, not for you airbrushing the reality of this disease into some designer must-have condition. You will decide on a harder more radical route … and a movement will begin to challenge governments, and research scientists, the medics and the charities. You won’t be smiling sweetly about good 5 years’ survival statistics … you’ll be saying that 12,000 deaths a year is not good enough, that effective prevention and treatment, let alone a cure, is barely off the starting block, that this is awful and it has to change. There was the whisper of such a movement recently … I hope the movement promised comes to fruition with determined committed campaigners.
Winding forward to say 2050, I hear you talking to your grandchildren about the old days when breast cancer still killed, and generations of women died years too soon. For now in 2050 few people get breast cancer and no one dies of it any more.
This is my hope, my hope for all your futures. Please smile and raise a glass for me in that hope. But avoid soppiness, or any references to bravery and fighting … there were none. Like the thousands before and after me, I simply did the best I could to live as well and as long as I could. We are ordinary women dealt a bad hand by breast cancer.
I too hope there is a new movement, a movement that comes with determined committed campaigners. And you know when I read Jane’s post back in 2009 I wondered – who is going to ask the difficult questions? Who will take this ‘radical route’?
Well, here we are over a year later, and I think the questions are being asked, by Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues, by Anna Rachnel on her Cancer Culture Chronicles blog. I think Jane would have enthusiastically joined the discussions. So if you’re out there asking questions then drop by and join us. I hope you will.