Monday, October 17, 2011

Cancer events

I have mixed opinions on cancer conferences or events. Yes you get to meet other lucky people with cancer and listen to perky speakers to try to provide an optimistic view on your cancer. I attend them but sometimes leave feeling I was either put on display (she is someone with cancer and has to wear a stupid tshirt, wrist band, pin or whatever that denotes you as a person with cancer, usually with the s-word title) or been seen as a marketing opportunity. And the ones which put the cancer people in a special group and are showing their support of them by segregating them and encouraging everyone to cheer them on, are the worst. I really hate those and attend as few of these as possible.

These groups have the best of attentions and assume all of us with cancer want to be special and applauded for our 'battles', 'fights', 'strength', 'courage' and all sorts of other little tags. But some of us don't want that special attention. If I am going to tell someone about my life with cancer, I am not going to do it with a label or as a group, I'll talk about it one on one. It is interesting, if I participate in these events as a volunteer as opposed to an attendee, I have complete strangers coming up to me and telling me their cancer story out of the blue. But that is them one on one, not as a group.

But Friday I am going to a cancer event. It is a free conference being sponsored by the hospital I go to. It will include a presentation by my surgeon and oncologist on new personalized treatment in breast cancer. And a keynote session by the one and only Dr. Susan Love. I am going as an attendee. I am not going as a patient. I am not going as a person with cancer. I am going with interest in learning the latest. I do not expect to be singled out as a person with cancer. I do expect to be asked if I am a patient at the sponsoring hospital, and since I already am, I expect no pressure.


Richard Monfries said...

Hi Caroline

As per your previous post as well, the experience of cancer is unique, and while we might want the specialists to put on a microscope on the cells that have gone crazy, we usually don't want a microscope on us.
And 'pinkification' is potentially insidious.

My Dad finally passed away 2 weeks ago, after experiencing different forms of cancer for the last 30 years. It marks the end of the chapter on my parent's life with cancer.

The story is now about my siblings and me and our various struggles with cancer, which have already started.

I, like you, would like to utilise the energy of others to treat my cancer when it arises (as I expect will happen), but focus on the cancer, please, not me.

But then, we do blog, don't we?

All the best

P.S. My older sister is this week having her 1 year follow-up for breast cancer..

Ryan Stewart said...

I would have never understood what you were talking about until my sister Susan, who was diagnosed w/ breast cancer at 29 yrs told me something I never have forgotten. The whole family was gung-ho with breast cancer pink, pins, shirts, etc. We were having Thanksgiving dinner and my older sister had a pink ribbon pin on her shirt. Susan privately started to cry and I asked her what was the matter. She said that although she loved the support, WE were constantly reminding her that she had breast cancer. Almost like she were the display.

What a lesson I learned. It is so hard. I wish you the very best through this challenging time.

Cindy Stewart

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