I was horrified last night when I finally got around to reading the Sunday New York Times and found Bill Keller’s opinion piece criticizing Lisa Adams for sharing her experiences with metastatic breast cancer on social media.  He uncomfortably ponders “Her decision to live her cancer onstage invites us to think about it, debate it, learn from it.”  Yes, it does and rightfully so!

Lisa Adams deserves plaudits on her bravery and willingness to share her experiences with a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment with the world.  It’s hard to think about the bad things that can happen to us. It’s so much easier to quickly paint them over with pink and words like “survivor” in an attempt to project a measure of control. But breast cancer and its treatment are anything but pink and living with this diagnosis is a lesson in learning that everything is not in our control.

By blogging and tweeting about her experiences, Lisa has done a wonderful job of putting a real face on a disease that takes too many women in their prime.  She has shown the cost of the cure, which goes beyond dollars to the look on your child’s face when you start to lose your hair or the permanent neuropathy that can be a result of the chemotherapy.  As women, we are trained to be “good girls” and not complain and as a result, we have too long been silent about the short and long term consequences of the treatment of breast cancer.  We saw this when our call for collateral damage via the [HOW] Study, received thousands of responses! Lisa Adams has bravely gone beyond the celebratory pink ribbon or “pinkwashing” as Barbara Brenner used to say, to create a real-time documentary on what it means to have breast cancer.

I applaud Lisa’s courage to be so open about her disease and also her willingness to participate in research.  If more women were willing to come out about the experiences of breast cancer treatment and even more about reality of metastatic breast cancer, maybe we could find the will and the money to look for the cause and end this disease once and for all!


To read the full New York Times piece, click here

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9 Responses to Cancer Out Loud!

  1. Catherine says:

    I certainly do applaude Lisa for how much she’s given to raising awareness. She is active and present in a way that must take so much emotional and physical energy. I’d like to add that there are many amazing women online with metastic cancer sharing that hardship through their blogging and tweeting while also participating in clinical trials. But for those who don’t share, I can understand that as well. This is hard, and this is exhausting. Life away from cancer is needed too.

  2. Barbara Westfall says:

    I appreciate your response to Bill Keller’s disturbing editorial piece. I can only hope that in the midst of the media storm, someone, somewhere, is becoming more aware of metastatic breast cancer and the personal emotional toll and collateral damage it brings.

  3. chave says:

    After reading Bill Keller’s editorial, I didn’t see it as a criticism to blogging or Lisa’s choices. Rather it seemed to be raising awareness that, instead of just pink ribbons and warrior worship, there are other courageous options. –3 year survivor.

  4. Lynnette says:

    Keller does throw a few jabs but I also think some points and near points that were/also needing to be aired. What of the ever rising health care costs, for terminal and non-terminal patients, for young and for old, able and disabled? What of the hype for so many of this treatment and that, so expensive and so little or even questionable gain? No one really dies OR lives alone. Each of our lives and decisions in some way affects others. I was surprised that there were not more people volunteering for trials, as Keller said. I would like to know what’s up with that?. What I would do now at 60 I am sure is a lot different than what I would have done at 35 or 42… with kids. If I chose not to fight, it could be for “fighting” reasons of my own. Was there ever any surrender that didn’t have a lot of fight in it? I am a health care provider and cancer survivor and there is as much variety as there are choices made with the people I serve. Some, looking at their world from my perspective, I can’t see their choices… but the circumstances always humble me.

  5. Yvette Benson says:

    I feel this all points out that the cancer journey is an individual one and not one size fits all. Others should not judge but rather educate or advise and then let the individual do what’s right for them.

  6. Anne says:

    Bill Keller’s article opens with a misleading statement about Lisa’s seven year “cage fight against death.” He reported she had two children, when in fact she has three. That a former editor of the NY Times would make such egregious reporting errors says much about the state of journalism today – it is not good.

    Keller also compares Lisa’s “war” on cancer with his 79-year-old father-in-law’s “gentle death.” That is a false comparison, for many reasons.

    By the time I was 22, both my parents died of cancer. My mother, like Lisa, fought hard for every day. When her cancer metastasized, her doctors gave her nine months. She won nine additional months – living 18 months after the recurrence was diagnosed (this was many years ago.) In those nine extra months, she was able to celebrate my sisters’ birthdays; she got to see me with my braces off; she got to celebrate a surprising win I had in one of my athletic activities. That extra time we had with her is something I will treasure forever.

    My father died 10 years after my mother. When he was told the kidney cancer had come back, he decided not to pursue “heroic measures.” His doctors told him the death would be gentle. It was not gentle at all – it was a terrible death, actually. It is false for Keller to suggest that refusing “heroic measures” guarantees a “gentle death.”

    Bill Keller’s wife, Emma (a DCIS survivor), wrote a column about Lisa Adams a few days before Bill’s story was published. Emma’s story has since been taken down by the Guardian. Emma’s story, to me, is less about what she wrote and more about what it’s really about – the fear of a cancer survivor looking at another cancer survivor who’s dealing with metastatic cancer. Emma’s column was awful – and it was unethical to interview a cancer patient without telling her she was the subject of a story.

    That both the Kellers double-teamed one cancer patient, attacking both her attempts to seek treatment and her work at communicating her experience, is a travesty.

    People bashed Betty Ford in 1974 for being open about her mastectomy. The Kellers have not advanced the conversation at all. But Lisa Adams certainly has.

  7. Sue Beem says:

    I think the NY Times Columnist is typical of a lot of people: not wanting to hear the bad news, that people die daily of cancer. If he examined his thoughts and feelings deeply, he would recognize the fear that we all face, and if uncomfortable not read the blog of someone dealing with stage IV cancer, that not all survivors make it onto the oval tracks of relays, or run for miles looking the peak of good health. He could, instead, bury his head in the sand, and not explore what type of research is needed to combat this disease,and not pay attention to the difficult paths many people have to take.

  8. Christine says:

    Again, a concise reasoned response from Dr. Love. Thank you.

  9. Christine says:

    To Anne: “People bashed Betty Ford in 1974 for being open about her mastectomy”? Really? Who? I don’t remember it that way at all. I was 20 years old then and not big on following the national news, but I remember that story, and I remember her portrayal as a woman being lauded for her courage to be frank and open about a disease that the general public was terrified of and generally heard nothing about. Frankness was one of Betty Ford’s telltale personality characteristics. At that time and previously, cancer in general was a hush-hush subject that many people only whispered about. Betty Ford instantly made breast cancer common knowledge, and she transformed it into something that a woman should not be ashamed of or embarrassed about. I thought she was stunning.

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