Ok. I admit it. Since being home from the hospital, I’ve been spending a little too much time on Facebook. Not that I didn’t before but I’ve taken it to a whole new level. It’s not healthy. But it’s been good because I don’t have a huge attention span right now. I’m super tired all the time so it’s been great entertainment. That is, until the other day.
I was scrolling through the different posts and I came upon this aphorism from The Breast Cancer Site and it pissed me off. It got me really angry.
Now, before you decide that I’m a total bitch…and hypocrite, for that matter, let me explain myself. I love affirmations as much as the next person. I’ll “Keep Calm and whatever” all over my Facebook page. There are certain affirmations that help me lift my spirits, remind me of what is important or help me focus on a goal. Like this one.
A quote like this, by the glorious Dr. Maya Angelou, reminds me that my struggles are real but I have to keep going. I can get thrown down but I must get up again. Why? Because what other choice do I have? Maya Angelou, Ghandi, Nelson Madela and many others knew that.
But some of these other affirmations, that have been posted recently on The Breast Cancer Site’s Facebook page have been angering me. As affirmations alone, they’re fine, I guess. Not overwhelmingly inspiring. But in the context of breast cancer (or any cancer/illness, for that matter), I find them offensive. In recent days, they have posted these as well.
Let’s break this down a bit, starting with the first affirmation. “Obstacles are put in your way to help you determine if what you want is worth fighting for.” I think this would be a great thing to say to yourself if you were running the Tough Mudder. If I had to run through ice cold water while getting electric shocks, this saying would be really fucking helpful! I’d say it over and over! But for breast cancer? Was breast cancer given to me so that I would really know that my life is worth fighting for? My family? My child? My dreams? I needed cancer for this? So, I should tell all my friends, “You know, it wasn’t until breast cancer that I really knew that my life was worth fighting for. I hope you all have this get to experience this as well so you can fight as hard as I have so you realize what you really want in life.” Fuck no!!!!!!!!!
“It’s time that you realize you’re worth a hell of a lot more than you think.” Because, my self worth before cancer (BC) was so low, so shoddy, that I didn’t think I was worthy of the good things in my life? I needed cancer to teach me that, of course. Thank you so much, breast cancer!!! I now realize that I’m so fucking awesome and everyone should love me and great things should happen to me all the time because I’m AMAZING!!!!!! This could never have happened without YOU!
“Once I overcame breast cancer, I wasn’t afraid of anything anymore.” Shall I make a list of things I’m still afraid of, or even more afraid of because of breast cancer? Why not? Let’s have some fun here.
- Needles (yep, still afraid of those)
- Surgery (yep, still afraid of that)
- Recurrence with metastasis
- Any scan that can show that something is wrong with me
- Life long lymphedema
- Not being around to see my son grow up, get married and have his own children
- Cockroaches (the big ones)
- Most insects, for that matter
- Falling (not to be confused with heights. Heights are fine, falling from them is not.)
- Dogs that bark too loud
- Dark, empty allies
- Dying before I change the world
- Dying before I see the world
- Donald Trump
- Lack of Education
- The people who run the NYC Department of Education
- The people who run the NYC MTA who keep hiking up fares but cutting service
- The rich people who are pricing me out of the city I love
I could go on but, I think 30 is a fair start. Breast cancer is scary. It’s really scary and I think I was brave as I underwent (undergo?) treatment. But that suit of armor that we all put on to get through all of the tough shit that accompanies a cancer diagnosis, comes off. It gets taken away and suddenly we’re left to fend for ourselves without any protection. Is breast cancer scary? Yes. But I’ll be damned if beating cancer for now means I’m not supposed to be scared anymore. That I’m some fucking Xena Warrior Princess who walks down Broadway screaming “Get out of my way, motherfuckers! I beat breast cancer! What have you done lately?” I’m scared. I’m scared every day of my life and I can’t imagine that a day will come where I won’t be frightened.
When you put these affirmations on a website or Facebook page for people with breast cancer or those who have survived it, I think you need to be careful. The intentions are good. But it alienates us that don’t fit into the “my cancer was a gift” or “my cancer made me stronger” or “my cancer made me a better person” model. I will never be that spokesperson.
Maybe since my body had been ripped apart again, I’m feeling a little bit cranky. I don’t know. But this has really upset me. Am I overreacting? Am I being a total killjoy, a complete bitch? Or are they forgetting those of us who are forever destroyed, in some way, because of this assault on our bodies? I think it is the latter.
**I shared this post on the Visitor Post portion of The Breast Cancer Sites Facebook page, asking them to consider my point of view and to please share it for those who are experiencing breast cancer like myself and many of you. I checked back this morning and it looks like they removed it from their page. I find this hurtful. Simply because I do not have the same cheery point of view, I don’t fit in there. What a shame. Sometimes their silly puppy videos gave me a smile.**