While I was undergoing breast cancer treatment, I was not invited to a social event given by a friend’s wife because she did not want her happy event marred by a guest who looked visibly ill. While her behavior was extreme, and an unusual contrast to the barrage of support and love I received from so many friends, relatives and colleagues, obviously I haven’t forgotten about it. And I can’t help thinking about it, this week, as cancer seems to have become the newest hot media topic.
I can’t watch the news, read the newspaper or a magazine, without someone else coming forward to discuss their experience living with cancer. I had to smile this morning, as I read about Elizabeth Edwards saying that she’s sick of reading about herself every time she opens the newspaper. Suddenly, having cancer is "in."
The examples abound. Last week, on NBC Nightly News, correspondent Anne Thompson revealed to viewers that she had a breast cancer diagnosis last year that she suddenly felt the need to share. Two out of the three newsweekly cover stories this week--Newsweek and US News-- are about staff members and their cancer diagnosis and treatments. Time’s cover is on global warning--didn’t anyone there have a brush with cancer?--but there is a three-pager on living with cancer. Both of the NY Times op-ed pages yesterday were devoted to the theme, “Humans vs. Cancer: Who’s Winning Now?"
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not really complaining. What person who has experienced cancer doesn’t love to read these stories? I find most of them fascinating. I particularly recommend Jonathan Alter’s compelling Newsweek piece about his lymphoma. And I couldn’t agree more with Betty Rollin’s NY Times op-ed yesterday, about how when she had breast cancer and a recurrence--in 1975 and 1984--it was a time of whispers and lies and loneliness. Nobody discussed cancer, which made her miserable and lonely.
Rollins is right: Even if cancer is a club that nobody wants to join, how much better it is, these days, for everyone, that there is a national conversation about living with cancer. And if the price we have to pay for that openness is several weeks or more of over-sharing--too many personal stories--I’ll take the overkill. There are probably still some people, like my friend’s wife, who don’t want cancer patients at their parties, but surely their numbers must be diminishing these days
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Published On: April 02, 2007