A Brighter Shade of Pink

That's the title of a general Yahoo site on breast cancer awareness. Elizabeth Edwards wrote a column under this rubric, posted in October. She talks about telling her kids she had cancer and that her hair would fall out. I just read that her cancer has come back, and is in her ribs. Her husband claims he will continue campaigning for president, which means that he will drop out within the week. As Brecht has written, When the Leaders Speak of Peace/
The common folk know/ That war is coming. Her husband says it's not curable but treatable. Like diabetes, he says. Maybe. I've read that her chances of five-year survival are one in five. My chances of recurrence without chemo are 30 percent. With chemo, about half that. I have/had stage 2a. Edwards had stage 3. She had chemo (first), and a lumpectomy, then radiation and more chemo. Her breast cancer was in her lymph nodes. Oddly, when looking up stories about her cancer, I found one from 2004 written by my former college best friend (see two posts ago). We are all connected. Edwards has stage 4 (the last stage) now.

What shade of pink are Elizabeth Edwards' glasses now? That sounds cruel. I'm just tired of the pink pink pink optimism. I started reading a book called Pink Ribbons, Inc., which is critical of the big-business breast cancer complex. I will be quoting from it later.

Even I am tending to blame the victim: she hadn't had a mammogram in four years. Well, I was a few months late with my mammogram and I am a failure at breast self-exams because I can't figure out what's what. Everything is so lumpy and indistinct at the same time. Like trying to map a territory without looking. Still I resolve to do better by my surviving breast.

I turn to Brecht again. From The Shoe of Empedocles: For the mountain believes nothing and is not concerned with us.

That's how I see the universe. I guess that's how I see cancer, except cancer is within. And it responds: to chemo, radiation, food, hormones, exercise. We are the mountain.

And in a fundamental way, Empedocles, who killed himself in old age by jumping into Mount Aetna, became Aetna. His bones and blood turned to lava and dust then rain then drinking water and plants and then the bones and blood of his followers' followers.


Claudia said...

Maybe Elizabeth Edwards, like you, is finding comfort in books. Wind in the Willows is a favorite in this family too, although we have misgivings about its elitist view of the British class system. The working class riff raff are condemned for having very bad manners and laying waste to Toad's mansion.

By the way, Cancer Bitch, did Walter Benjamin arrive?


Anonymous said...

"Her husband claims he will continue campaigning for president, which means that he will drop out within the week."

This really caught me off guard. And that's what we readers like. To be surprised.

Anonymous said...

What a breath of fresh air. I am a cancer survivor too (in situ) and I am more than just a little tired of reading how "inspirational" Elizabeth Edwards is.

In my journey, I did meet inspirational women. The most impressive was the cleaning lady of my neighbor. She had little education and spoke even less English. She lived in a town you wouldn't frequent at night alone and worked various jobs to put food on the table for her small children.

And despite having no no health insurance for herself, she would use the Christmas money her clients would give her - not for gifts but for an annual mammogram and pap smear. At 48 they found a lump and one of her clients found her full-time work in a big pharmaceutical company doing some menial job but where she could have insurance. The details on this story would give you chills. I once asked her if it was hard not to use the Christmas money on better toys for her young kids. This uneducated but exceedingly smart woman said this: "It is not as hard as telling them I did not do my best to be here for them."

Then I think about Elizabeth Edwards and the wealth, intelligence, assistants and opportunities afforded to her. And she put off a mammogram for many years with two little kids who depend on her.

NO ONE deserves cancer, period. But to call Mrs. Edwards inspirational, rather than irresponsible, is an attrocity. She is no role model for healthy behavior.