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Monday 20 May 2013

In the pink

A comment from MF on my Facebook page after my last, slightly brutal blog, raises a question:

"It's a far cry from the pink ribbon image isn't it?"

Apparently, Breast Cancer is not viewed as a "serious" cancer.  All the pink ribbons and midnight walks have turned it from being a life threatening disease with a quarter of patients dying within 10 years to some fluffy bunny "beatable" disease that is not as serious as some other cancers.  Really?

It is something we face in the eating disorder world too.  Anorexia Nervosa is viewed as the No 1 serious eating disorder.  Bulimia and BED are viewed as not so serious.  This is all wrong.  All eating disorders are lethal and none is more "serious" than others.  I think that AN is viewed as the most serious because it is very visible and it is not so "messy" as BN or BED.  The general public view AN as "not eating"(showing supreme self control - let's all clap!!!) whilst BN is viewed as "throwing up" and BED (if anyone has ever heard of it!) is viewed as "greed" (showing supreme lack of self control).  They all still kill and maim and ruin lives, in terrifying numbers.

G's godmother, C, came round to drop off a birthday card on Friday and said she was finding my blogs about cancer treatment really helpful because "one doesn't like to ask too much".  I have been pondering whether this is because we are English - stiff upper lips and all that - or because the clinicians don't want to "frighten the horses" in case we bolt (which would really skew the "survivor" numbers).

However, I don't think the sugar coating is a purely English thing.  I suspect it is more a reflection of our society.  I suspect  the mystery surrounding the reality of cancer treatment and all it entails, is a symptom of our "reality", our Disney Princess Happy Ever After fairytale, that we are fed from an early age.

MF commented further that maybe we are more "comfortable" with the "plucky survivor" thing.  I disagree.  Whilst hope is important, it is easily dashed when comparing yourself and your discomfort with those shining beacons, who have beaten all the odds and are now running marathons or countries, sky diving from outer space or sailing single handed to Mars.

The reality is we are herded like cattle to the slaughterhouse, through a succession of corridors and machines and tests, having our hands held by kind but detached staff, swallowing pills and holding up our arms for needles without a murmur.   We are told there is always hope and that medical advances are being made every day.  We are somehow made to feel that it is up to us and our duty to get better that we, too, should find it in ourselves to be a plucky survivor.

No pressure then?

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