Healthy Privilege

A couple of points to follow up on my last post.

First, Dr. Schattner has sent me some reading materials regarding the accuracy of those numbers I posted. It’s out of my wheelhouse but not my capacity, so thanks to the good doctor and I appreciate the patience with my steep learning curve.

Of this I am certain: When we start and end our discussions of breast cancer with mammography, we give the false notion that the beast has been tamed. With the help of mammography some deadly cancers can be stopped, or maybe slowed, but some cannot.

Second, it occurs to me that my last post exemplifies what we commonly call privilege. And if you thought mammography was a complicated topic, whoa boy, hold onto your hat.

It’s the very heart of why I’ve abandoned my own story. Despite my false negatives and my physical, emotional, and spiritual scars, I’m still here. It’s been over eight years since my diagnosis and as far as I know, I’m cancer free and have the luxury to grapple with issues of my choosing. Meanwhile, some of my friends have died and others are doing everything they can to stay alive. My friend Chris described it earlier this month.

i’ve not posted about pinktober again because treatment is interfering with my life right now. i had treatment #168 on monday with a different med and i’m not dealing with it well. i’m all about pain meds n sleep for a few. so i’m just going to say…this is NOT pretty nor pink….this is my life….this is my forever. because stage 4/metastatic is not curable…it’s only palliative.

People like Chris don’t need more mammograms, less mammograms, or anything festooned with a pink ribbon.

They need cures.

To them, I would imagine, this discussion of mammography is somewhat irrelevant.

While we get hung up in the mammography discussions and ONLY in the mammography discussions, they continue to live in pain and to die.**

So why have I mostly stopped writing about my own experience? For years, when I’ve sat down to write about my experience with cancer, this narrative has played out in my head.

  • Boy that radiation really did a number on my shoulder. Why isn’t there a better way? (yeah, but you’re still alive)
  • It’s not fair that I have no good reconstruction options, no easy way to be made whole again. (yeah, but you’re still alive)
  • I now live far outside society’s conception of attractive. (yeah, but you’re still alive)
  • For some reason, I can’t remember a lot that happened during that year of treatment. (yeah, but you’re still alive)
  • Facing my own mortality took away a good chunk of my joie de vivre. (yeah, but you’re still alive)
  • I’ve become a different person and not always in good ways. (yeah, but you’re still alive)

Etc. Ad nauseam.

So where do I go with that?

I’m sorry, were you looking for a resolution? Wrong blog.

I know I’m not alone, though, just check out Nancy’s post from this summer.

You’ve gotta know that eight years of tortured thinking comes with more than 500 words. Hang tight. Book quotes are coming in the next post.

**Except Chris. I’m convinced that she’s actually not mortal. (1, 2, 3)

2 thoughts on “Healthy Privilege”

  1. Hi Katie,
    Sometimes I wonder, too, why should I write about my experience when others are dealing with much worse? I had a doctor imply that I should just suck it up one time when I was “complaining” about some issues. He flat out said, “Well, you’re still alive.” Let’s just say, I left his office feeling quite invalidated and yes, hurt and resentful too. Bottom line is, all our experiences matter. So, I’d encourage you to keep writing about yours. I still believe we are all in the cancer mess together. Those walls are there. As far as the mammogram debate goes, frankly, I’m bored by it. The simplistic messaging has done a lot of damage, that’s for sure. The confusion continues. I fear it will for quite some time. Thought-provoking post. Thank you. And thanks for the mention too.

  2. Katie, your usual clarity and willingness to learn are evident here. I like very much that you give voice to the silencing voice in your head, and agree with Nancy that we shouldn’t join the chorus of others, such as her doctor, who tell us to shut up.

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