The gift of breast cancer? I’d like a refund.

Today’s post is another piece from Rachel at The Cancer Culture Chronicles who, at her own proud admission, likes a good rant. I’ve also written about the expression ‘cancer is a gift’ and it’s something that’s got Rach fully into ranting. She wrote this piece last November. ‘The gift of breast cancer,’ she says, ‘it doesn’t fit. Can I have a refund?’ For your reading pleasure…

“I would never wish cancer on anyone. But I wouldn’t give back the experience either.”
“You are forced to either look upon the experience as a curse, or a lesson in life/challenge to learn from and grow from. ie., a ‘blessing’!”

“These are real quotes sourced from comments posted to an article written by Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monologues) entitled, The Gift Of Cancer.  That’s right. The. Gift. Of. Cancer.  Gift. Cancer.  Really ?  These are not words that I would ever wish to see in the same sentence. Ever. And yet, I seem to be surrounded by this kind of sentiment.

Are there people out there who actually see cancer as a gift ?  An experience they would never give back ? A blessing ? Are people now drinking the chemo ?

This week I had plenty of opportunity to ponder my own particular gift and associated blessings. As I was injected with another vile vial of radioactive goop by Nurse I-Couldn’t-Hit-A-Vein-If-My-Life-Depended-On-It, so that my entire body could be scanned for more Breastmas-Tree-like lights whilst lying perfectly still in a dirt-nap state in a machine that is strangely reminiscent of lying in a coffin.  (Now, not personally knowing any vampires outside of Sookie and the gang from True Blood, I can’t attest to the accuracy of this statement, but I think the only difference might be that the occupant of said machine has a pulse).  Anyway, before I launch into a dull tirade on the indignities of the whole PET/CT scan thing, let me get back to the point of this post.

From a sociocultural perspective, much of what I see and hear in the media regarding the breast cancer “experience” seems to carry with it an aura of calm, peaceful reflection and contemplation.  One could be forgiven for thinking that breast cancer is simply a journey on a well-trodden path Continue reading

What does October mean?

Extract from Being Sarah:

October is breast cancer awareness month. Yes I support awareness, of course I do. We are all familiar with that phrase, ‘Early detection saves lives’, much used to encourage us all to take some responsibility for our own health. That somehow it is up to us, that we can stop this spread of breast cancer. I’m starting to think that it’s not up to us, actually.

And in October breast cancer becomes fully pink. Maybe you see all this pink stuff, all these things you can buy and think it is a good thing. That the money that is raised goes to research, that somehow we’re just a break away from some major research that’s actually going to end this escalating statistic, the incidence of breast cancer, now increasing rapidly in younger women, women like me and even younger. It has a big mass appeal, almost sexy really in marketing terms, this pink charity stuff, it’s good business sense. Does it make me really believe that the businesses that ‘support’ breast cancer awareness month actually care about me? Am I being cynical to think it might just be good business sense? Continue reading

Pink’s not wrong. It’s just not right enough.

Today’s post is by my partner Ronnie Hughes. Ronnie’s guest post last month about being my carer throughout breast cancer treatment  was extremely well viewed and resonated very deeply for many people. 

Here Ronnie gets into a political persona to discuss the subject of  ‘pink’.

“The United States may not have much of a healthcare system (Hello, American readers) compared to our NHS. But you are brilliant at some things, like music and TV. In fact, for the last couple of years, having finished The Sopranos, Sarah and I have been working our way through the magnificent ‘The West Wing’, really feeling like we know all the major, fictional White House characters. Particularly admiring ace political Democrat strategist Josh Lyman.

After watching an episode a while back, Sarah turned to me and said, ‘You know all this pink stuff, what would Josh make of it?’ And in full-on Josh mode I replied ‘It’s not wrong, it’s just not right enough.’

‘Think about it.’ Staying in Josh mode, bear with me here, ‘Well obviously all the pink products are junk. But what we see here with all this pink activity is both needs and opportunities.’

‘The need to do something, to combine, to help, to empathise. To be with other breast cancer patients, or their carers, or their friends and family. People like you. The need to feel you can contribute something towards sorting this disease out. And the need to celebrate sometimes, all together.’ Continue reading

I want more

Nearly October. Autumn is here.

I was looking back through my recent blog posts and thinking that it actually looks like I’ve been having a good time lately. And yes, I suppose I have. But I recognise that they are good times. There’s plenty of other times when I’m worrying or being annoyed about the admin of sorting out medical appointments – yes, still. But on the whole, mostly, this summer has been good for me. And I’m glad.

And now it’s autumn. The evenings are noticeably shorter and cooler now, the curtains drawn before 8pm. The leaves are turning. And soon it will be October.

Ah, October. Breast cancer awareness month. You’d think I’d like that wouldn’t you? What with wanting us to eradicate breast cancer forever. Well, yes awareness is good. But awareness of what? That there are so many pink charities and pink events out there that if you contribute to one of them then you’re helping us, people like me. That we’re nearly there – winning the war on breast cancer. Well, actually, we’re not. Continue reading


Summer camping at Hill Holt Wood with Ronnie.

I’ve just been away on a short camping trip with Ronnie in a beautiful wood in Lincolnshire. We had one night alone and then spent the next two days with a group of people from Hackney Community Transport who we’ve been working with over the last seven months on their ‘social enterprise champions’ project. A fabulous experience. And it didn’t rain!

Back at home, and I’m going through my emails and there is one titled ‘Sad news about Jane Smith’. No, Jane Smith is not her real name, but she could be one of thousands of women like me, who’s being diagnosed with breast cancer in their early 40s.

I know immediately that she has died. Of secondary breast cancer. Of course, the email does not mention that, it says she had ‘a long illness’. We are spared the details. I feel so many mixed emotions. Including anger. Continue reading