The pinking of America is a hot topic and long past are the days where women whispered to their family members about their condition. However, after 20 years of shouting from the rooftops and wearing pink from head to toe, the breast cancer conversation is once again changing. Women living past a breast cancer diagnosis are laying out their spin on cancer as personally as we customize our order at Starbucks. Are we warriors or patients, survivors or surviving, or just people living with cancer? A newly coined phase, “metavivor" has entered in to the banter and many feel this is a more appropriate handle for the “new normal” for those not curable but living with stage four cancers. A new battlefield is being prepared and it is not how we fight this horrible disease but how we want to be viewed as we fight it.
There is a natural rhythm in life and all things in life have seasons. The history of cancer and how we view it is no acceptation to the rule. I am not speaking of how we view cancer as a personal journey, but how we as a society view cancer over years, generationally. In the late 1970’s my grandfather could not stop coughing. Finally he was placed in the hospital for tests. He would not speak his fear; he would not say the “C” word. It was as if speaking the word aloud would unleash something so powerful his body would be taken over and lost. I will never forget the day the doctor told him the bad news. My hardworking wonderful grandfather ran out of the hospital into the traffic begging for a car to hit him rather than to die the way he had seen his friends suffer. The fear of cancer was great and treatment was so barbaric, he was willing to take his life that moment rather than face what he so greatly feared. After we got him back into the hospital I don’t think he looked me in the eye for weeks.
This generation has moved past the season of fear. How did we do that? We had some advancement, people were not cured, but were living longer and fear was lessened. Confidence was gained, but confidence can lead to arrogance. We pinked it up, we had cancer kick off parties, breast cancer was a bump in the road and we joked about our new rack! As brave a face we put forward cancer will not be brushed aside so easily. Many women are calling for a more realistic view of breast cancer. To achieve balance sometimes a little overcorrection is needed and I see a strong swing in the verbiage being used. The feelings expressed are more serious and a little angry, and rightly so, and it goes like this…. “Everyone is talking about breast cancer. So why aren’t they talking about the 41,000 of us who die of breast cancer? The Pink Ribbon Movement continues to focus on prevention, early detection and the stories of non-recurred survivors. It scarcely mentions the existence or extent of the metastatic breast cancer community. Of those diagnosed with breast cancer, 30% will metastasize and almost all of those will die. The reality is just about as far from rosy pink as it gets.” Quotes taken in part from http://www.metavivor.org/
How do we go from fear, to confidence, passing thru a few years of a cockiness “no one dies of breast cancer any more”, to giving cancer the serious respect it is due as a threat to women’s lives without it turning into a pity party?
The women calling for a more serious view of “saving the ta ta’s” are not asking for pity, they are asking for prevention and earlier detection for forms of breast cancer like Inflammatory Breast Cancer and Triple Negative Breast Cancers and late stage research funding. They are asking for their disease and themselves to be treated with the respect and medical care that their lives are depending on. Can we all agree it is time to look at breast cancer not with the fear of my grandfather’s generational view of lung cancer but also without the pink rosy glasses? Those 30% of women who become stage four sure hope so.