We live in a society full of bias which leads to racism, discrimination, fear and hatred. The media recently has reflected this with headlines full of racism, bias, discrimination, alt-right vs alt-left, protests, anti-protests, riots, deaths, fear, hatred and more. But it reminds me that there is bias, fear, and discrimination for those of us with cancer.
We are born one way and learn about bias, fear, and discrimination based on where we start. With a cancer diagnosis, all of this is turned upside down and we learn about more bias, fear and discrimination based on that single word 'cancer'.
First, let me say times are changing and it is getting better for those of us with cancer. I met a young woman once who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 17 about 1980s. Her parents were embarrassed that their family member (daughter) had cancer and never told her and never allowed he to have the appropriate follow up treatment, radioactive iodine. She has had multiple recurrences since. Times are certainly better but not perfect, as seen in today's headlines.
For those of us with cancer, we face these issues all the time:
Fear: how many of you have been avoided after your cancer diagnosis? All? I think so. Those are the 'friends' who are scared cancer is 'catching'. Or they do not know how to react to someone with cancer.
Discrimination: Don't tell your current or any potential boss you have cancer or you will face discrimination somewhere along the line. "She's a perfect candidate, but with her health will she be able to do the job long term? She will probably need a lot of time off for doctor appointments." This is illegal but it happens. Its not shouted but whispered. And all it takes is one person to think this who looks at your resume to put it in the discard pile to seal your fate.
Bias: You are sick so obviously cannot be expected to be in with the 'cool kids' any more. You are in with the dweebs at the back of the class again. Your social fate is also doomed. And those who welcome you are doing so with phony smiles over their secret fears.
With our cancer diagnoses under our belts, we learn who are friends are and go forward with them to face the fear, discrimination, and bias that is now in our lives forever. With big smiles on our faces.
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