As usual, I don’t get it. I’m not feeling the warm fuzzies here nor this special sisterhood with every other women who has had breast cancer, or is in treatment for breast cancer, or has breast cancer – no more than I feel a special bond with everyone who’s had a ruptured disc, or a bad case of food poisoning, or suicidal ideation as an adolescence.
There’s this seeming mythos built around breast cancer, all tied together with pretty pink ribbons and clever marketing, that somehow it’s all about sisterhood and the special bond we all have as women, specifically as women “Survivors of Breast Cancer”. It’s not something the diabetics get, nor those with MS, nor those with less well branded forms of cancer – you don’t see the Uterine Cancer Sisterhood rallying ’round, but breast cancer? It’s as though we’re all supposed to be out in the woods somewhere, making S’mores and bonding around the campfire, this not-so-exclusive little sorority group linking arms and singing Kum-Ba-Ya to the stars.
It’s not quite clicking for me, boys and girls. It’s cancer, it’s not a bonding experience, it doesn’t make us comrades – we all handle it differently, we all have different cancers, we have different treatments and different reactions, and vastly different resources to draw on. I don’t feel an especial pink ribboned closeness – I don’t even like some of these people.
That we might share a general diagnosis of ‘breast cancer‘ (and that is pretty general – it says nothing about type, or stage, or treatment, or prognosis) doesn’t mean that much to me. I share a general diagnosis of ‘mortal‘ with pretty much everyone on this planet; I still don’t like many of them.
Some of them annoy me intensely, in fact.
I know what it was like, what it is like, to have my particular case of Stage 1 breast cancer; I know how my particular body has handled the surgery and the T/C chemotherapy; how it’s coping with radiation so far; I know some resources and coping strategies I’ve found useful; I know a bit more about this than many and a bit more than I’d like to, and that’s it. I’ll share anything I’ve learned that might help anyone else, and I’ll do it gladly, but…
I don’t think I know anything about how someone with Stage 4 breast cancer feels; I don’t know how someone who’s had to have – or chosen to have – a mastectomy feels. Or a reconstruction. I don’t know what it’s like to have hours of nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy; to have a port put in; to have a recurrence; to not be able to afford treatment; to have children or a lover or a husband to care for and worry about as well. And even if I did, the most I could tell you about would be my experience – which might or might not bear any resemblance to your experience of the same situation, and might or might not be of any use to you.
Anything you can take from my experience that’s useful, you’re more than welcome to; any knowledge I have that will help is yours, freely given – not for some mythical sisterhood we might share, but because we’re all humans, struggling through this together as best we can; because life is short and kindness a good thing; because I’d like this time to have been of use.
Still, all of our mileage varies – different diseases, different bodies, different choices, different beliefs, different circumstances. It’s just a disease, after all. It’s not some magical pink ribboned sisterhood glue.
And it annoys the *piss* out of me when people presume otherwise.