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

The well trodden path

Cancer Culture Chronicles

Featuring 'Newman' - mascot for The Cancer Culture Chronicles

Today’s post is a piece written in December 2010 by fellow blogger Rachel at The Cancer Culture Chronicles. Rachel is 41 and living her life dealing with metastatic breast cancer, having been first diagnosed seven years ago. The mascot for her blog is her lovely dog, pictured above. I love Rachel’s writing, she is snarky and opinionated; and she’s become my closest cyber friend. You’ll be hearing more about her and our friendship on my blog.

This piece is a powerful reminder that breast cancer ‘survivorship’ is not guaranteed to any of us following diagnosis. And Rachel’s words continue to teach us about the reality of metastatic disease – a subject that is often not mentioned in breast cancer culture. The US based independent group MBCN (Metastatic Breast Cancer Network) has a list of 13 facts everyone should know about metastatic disease. And I think the most shocking one is this:

Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is lifelong and focuses on control and quality of life vs. curative intent. (“Treatable but unbeatable.”)

That’s the truth about metastatic disease. This Thursday, the 13th October 2011, is Metastatic Breast Cancer awareness day, and I’d like to ask you to share this link to the list of facts about MBC.  The MBCN also has a list of suggestions of other things you can do to to increase awareness. 

Here’s Rachel’s post. 

“In many respects, the experience of breast cancer feels like a well-trodden path walked by so many before and so many more, in ever-increasing numbers.  The culture of the breast cancer experience tells us that on this path there are significant milestones, all of which bring their own challenges and emotions, but for which the ultimate prize is a life free and clear of breast cancer.

And so we wearily walk from “Diagnosis”, through “Treatment”, to “Recovery”, to “Survivorship and a Life After Breast Cancer”.  And although getting to each of these milestones seems impossible at times, the culture tells us that if we muster all of our womanly strength and courage to keep bravely fighting, we will get through this and we will have reason to celebrate when breast cancer finally feels like a distant memory. And, fortunately, for many, this is exactly how the experience plays out. Continue reading