I remember when I was first asked to join the board of Alternatives to Domestic Violence, about 100 years ago when I was 25 years old, new in town, new to a large law firm and still cared about being politically correct, and I thought "this is a cause I can support and how can I go wrong joining, it's not like there is going to be a pro-domestic violence group opposing us." And then, not a year later, I was giving a presentation about ADV and the issue of domestic violence at a local service club and a man stood up in the back of the room and said "seems to me every woman needs a good whoopin' now and then." So, yeah, there is a pro-domestic violence group out there. And they were stupid enough to speak up publicly.
Now, I'm dealing with breast cancer and one of the things you learn quickly is that there is a sort of "sisterhood" out there. Or as Chris's mom Trudi said "Welcome to the C Club." It's a club of women with similar experiences dealing with a similar disease (there are actually all sorts of different types of breast cancer at different stages with different treatments, so it's a lot harder to generalize than you might think). For the most part, that's been really comforting. I've been able to talk to several women I hadn't talked to in awhile, had never met before, or are friends of friends and there's a definite level of support there. But Cancer Vixen had written (cartooned? what's the verb here?) about an underlying sort of competition that exists as well. She experienced a "you haven't suffered enough" bias from others in treatment or survivors, because she had "chemo-lite" and never lost her hair. I found that a little shocking. If the competition is over who suffers the most, I'm perfectly willing to lose. I'd like to withdraw completely. Forfeit. Whatever it takes! I'll be the loser. With a thumb and a finger in the shape of an L on my forehead.
But recently I came as close as I want to come to the "I've suffered more" syndrome. And it came in a roundabout way. A fellow writer and Facebook friend mentioned that she had a friend with a book out called "Cancer is a Bitch." The author is Gail Konop Baker and the book looks pretty good--I haven't bought it yet, because not surprisingly I've got a stack of cancer books on my nightstand already. Anyway, that's not the author I'm talking about. Chris Googled "Cancer is a Bitch" to find the book and came across a blog by Cancer Bitch. Totally different. Believe me. Cancer Bitch's blog is interesting--I marvel at the many and varied ways people respond to similar circumstances. We are all just who we are and perhaps cancer makes us more so. She says this:
"I was also telling P the other day about how I was inwardly scoffing about sometone who recommended Pretty Good Hospital, because she'd gotten a biopsy there. A biopsy? That's bupkes. I said it's the way Holocaust survivors have a hierarchy. The ones who survived Auschwitz look down on the ones who were "only" in concentration (not extermination) camps, and the people who were in the latter look down on the ones who were "only" in labor camps, and those people look down on the ones who spent the war in hiding. So the friend who had the biopsy, I said, it was like she was hiding in a barn the whole time. A nice barn, out of the way of soldiers and hostile peasants."
Okay, now, I've had ultrasounds, mammograms, MRIs, a biopsy, a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy, all in the last two months. None of them are fun and each is progressively more difficult than the next. The thing is--you don't really want any of them! It's not fun or easy to have any of the above...so why be dismissive of someone who was, presumably, just trying to help because she hadn't suffered enough?
Also on Cancer Bitch's blog she posts something from another blogger (yeah, that's how the internet works--before you know it you're far, far away from where you meant to go). This other blogger whose name and blog I won't refer to, not to spare her or out of any concern for her (trust me, she doesn't want it; she says so repeatedly on her blog as she blasts anyone who says anything like "i'm sorry you had to have a bilateral masectomy"; such rude people, right?) but out of concern for you. I don't want you to be tempted to peruse such vitriol. Scary, really. She launches a nasty, spiteful attack on the Save the TaTas group!! She is outraged by the "trivializing" of breast cancer. To her, it's not about breasts. It's about death. So the t-shirts, bumper stickers, apparently even the slogan, antagonize her. She ends with:
"But somehow, with the Tata people, it always gets back to breasts and a wink and a nudge. Why be serious about life or death or illness, when you can be cutesy? It’s so easy to whistle in the dark when you’ve never really been there."
So there it is--she's suffered more, so apparently she gets the say so on how money for breast cancer research is raised. She gets to lash out without a shred of common courtesy at well-meaning people who dare to handle a difficult issue with a light touch--one that gets noticed and gets people thinking about the issue. I've got plenty to keep me from smiling right now. I'd rather focus on things that make me smile or laugh--and Save the TaTas, Feel Your Boobies and, yeah, my own Boobie Bash keep me upbeat. And this woman is enraged! By the way, the founder of Save the TaTas (that's her in the photo) has not had breast cancer--but several members of her family have. I think she's entitled to join the cause and try to do something about it. Hey, I think anyone's entitled to that! And she's raised over $260,000 for breast cancer research. I'm having a hard time being mad at her. Maybe I haven't suffered enough.
I've also seen and read things where some women are upset at the "cutesiness" of the pink ribbons and pink everything. Cancer Bitch herself goes after pink M&Ms with a vengeance (and hey, I wasn't exactly kind to the Valentine's decorations in the oncologist's office--but I was that way pre-cancer and I'm not demanding the decorations be destroyed, nor do I feel their very existence was a personal attack on me. Just a visual one.) I've never been a fan of pink, really. And I can go off on a tirade of sorts if I attend an event that's got a predominantly female attendance and the organizers use baby pink for everything (because really, is there baby blue at the sports bar?). But the pink cancer ribbon has a meaning--it's a show of support and it keeps the message out there and the focus sharp. And clearly, I've embraced this (more party photos below). I like it. It's like a little shout out that says "we're thinking of you."
Like last night. We went to Omakase with my dad and step-mom (Okay, now she's googling too-- JIM and NANCY MCELHANNON) and look how RORYANN CLEMENTS and the waitstaff greeted us:
You can't see it so much in the picture, but the white fabric on the aprons has the pink ribbons all over it. And no, they don't normally wear bright pink aprons. So how cool was that? BREIN CLEMENTS even served a course that looked a lot like a boobie ( perfectly round runny-yoke egg on asparagus atop some delicious red-pepper sort of sauce) and dessert was unmistakably boobie-centric.
So yeah, I'm going with the pink team. I've got a serious disease and some serious treatment behind and ahead of me. I've explored the options in dealing with it and I come to the opposite conclusion from the dark team. Why be serious about a serious illness when I can stay positive, not scare people, and even have a little fun? This is not about my death (I'm refusing that option; thanks anyway), it's about my boobies! SAVE THE TATAS!!!!
So thanks to more of my Pink Party People. You're all on the Pink Team too (even those who don't own anything pink--hey, you walked around with pink drinks in pink cups eating pink boobie pops. The horror.)
(Pink Party People: to the left, BARBARA MOORE, SUE MITCHELL, DAVE MOORE, BARBARA WALLACE and a sliver of STEVE WALLACE; to the right-ish, KRISTIN TILLQUIST, PAUL THIEL and LORI THIEL, and below, ROD PERRY--I think the look on my face is because he's drinking water. Explain this "water" thing to me??)
And then, finally, ZEE BEARD shows BARBARA SHACKELTON how Pink is done. But she draws the line at cosmos. She'll take her martinis straight up.