Real Breast Cancer Awareness Part II
This was posted in my personal blog ‘Get Out Gertrude’ on the 17th October as one of a four part series on my thoughts on real breast cancer awareness
How do Breast Cancer fighters / survivors feel?
So much pink in October is also quite hard to for Breast cancer survivors to handle at times. While those that have finished treatment and have a good prognosis for a complete ‘cure’ either embrace it or ignore it, for those with a more complicated relationship with breast cancer it is quite hard to know how to handle all the reminders.
My friend TLA sums it up this way “I know for myself, I wish I could be on an island the month of Oct and not see anyone. People who wouldn’t even look at me when I was in treatment, let alone do anything to help me, are awash in pink. They care! Really? See I am a care in action person. Now I am the first to say that some care is invisible, like the men and women who told me I was in their daily rosary devotions, something not so visible, but very important. Some care is more visible. But my friends point is that just sticking a ribbon on it, when that is all that is done, only hurts women as it has become a feel good, meaningless symbol of caring.”
I had just been told the cancer had come back at the beginning of October 2009 and I had to make a conscious decision on how I was going to deal with it. I chose to take part in some fundraising activities but at the same time it was hard to deal with the advertisements on TV, the pink ribbon sales pitches, and all the other constant reminders that I had breast cancer.
Even some of the breast cancer charities themselves get it wrong sometimes. The Breast Cancer Research Trust have had two advertising campaigns in recent years that I took offense at. While I admire their commitment to finding a cure their “Seriously, breast cancer’s not a big deal” in June 2009 really touched a nerve with me and even when they add the tag line “because we are going to find a cure in 10 years “ it didn’t really mollify me. And then their replacement campaign still pushing the 10 year cure wasn’t much better
You see for people like me, who’s already had one recurrence, or my other friends with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer especially IBC we don’t even know whether we are going to be around in 10 years time and they also don’t mention that for aggressive breast cancer the ‘cure’ will still involve such life and body altering things as mastectomies and chemotherapy. No big deal – I think not.
Also they said such things as ‘will find a cure for 90% of all breast cancers ‘ – ok IBC is less than 5% of breast cancers – do they mean they will find a cure for that or not?
There’s also the ladies that are picked to be the face of breast cancer appeals -always success stories, always so positive about their successful breast cancer journeys so that when people like ‘justenjoyhim’ and ‘whymommy’ try to say something different they are shot down as being cranky or ungrateful when in reality they are dealing with the very real emotions that dealing with a recurrence scare or actual recurrence can bring.
I guess being real isnt a good marketing ploy (yes -I’m being facetious)
I’m usually way more positive than this but its a fact that Breast Cancer (especially if its IBC) is not all cutesy or sexy or ’happy happy joy joy ‘ as some well meaning fundraisers would portray it. As I was saying to my uni friend AW most of the time I’m positive and try to ignore or play down the more dire possiblities that this disease can mean for me personally but sometimes things happen that make it slap me in the face.
I’m not saying that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is necessarily a bad thing I’m just saying lets be a little more real with what it actually means
For me personally its turning up to the hospital every three weeks for the foreseeable future to have IV herceptin in the hopes that it will keep me in remission. And although I was back in remission May 2010 I have already had one scare and scans to check recurrence or metastasis – they came back clear – but they want to scan me again in December ‘just to make sure’. Its having an echocardiogram every few months (next one due the week of my university exams) to make sure that the herceptin that is my ‘cure’ isn’t giving me heart failure.
Its ‘just enjoy him’ worrying about whether elevated tumour markers mean a recurrence, its ‘whymommy’ being too sick and tired from her chemo treatment from her recurrence to play with her young children.
Its my friends from Sweet Louise who are all dealing with metastatic cancer.
And especially its my IBC sisters Angela, Roxanne, and Malu who all lost their lives to this disease in the last week
For all the success stories there are still people suffering and dying from this disease and each one is one too many.
If you see a pink ribbon, remember them – I know I will.