14. The Cancer Show: A Cast of Thousands

This summer I wrote an essay on the Pink Ribbon Blues Blog called, “Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud.” It was one of the few times I revealed how much cancer influences my life both as a researcher and as a person. Breast cancer is my primary topic of study, but sometimes I am overwhelmed by the fact that so many people in my life are dealing with the ongoing drudgery of the disease.

Of course, many people continue to thrive after a cancer diagnosis, even amid major difficulties. But the weight of cancer and its impact on people’s lives is palpable. Just look around.

Diagnoses. Treatments. Side Effects. Recurrences. Diminished quality of life. Stress on interpersonal relationships. Guilt about how cancer affects loved ones. Financial difficulties from health care costs or having no health insurance at all. Changes in capacity to work and live the kind of lives they want to live. This shortlist barely scratches the surface.

After I wrote the cloud essay, I heard from quite a few people that they too are overwhelmed with cancer. One of them is Stephanie McCanles from The Cancer Show. THE CANCER SHOW is a documentary project that takes a “light-hearted look at how U.S. health policy politics and profit-driven healthcare drive common misperceptions about cancer to the general public at large – while ignoring the possible causes.” No doubt breast cancer is a leading character in this tale of carcinogenic proportions along with environmental cancer risks, blind consumption, and the cancer industry. The creators of the show hope to inspire, entertain, and illuminate as they encourage public participation in one of the most critical problems facing citizens today. Here is what Stephanie wrote:

The Cancer Show: A Cast of Thousands

Gayle Sulik, whose book PINK RIBBON BLUES is required reading at THE CANCER SHOW, has posted something heartbreaking, true and basic to our current view of cancer. She is such a bright light of sanity in a dark subject.

We here at THE CANCER SHOW are hardly immune. Lately, we’ve been a little hard hit. As one of us waits for the results of a biopsy for a beloved parent, the other two of us are resigned to hear that the experimental treatment they tried on our sister-in-law hasn’t worked.

The cancer waiting room is enormous. The majority of us are sitting in it – for ourselves, for our families, our friends. We are waiting for test results, treatment results and “eventual outcomes”.

When you are young you joke about dying young. The “idea” of death is so weirdly seductive at that age. You’re still living in a self-absorbed poem of your own creation. But the reality of it is like a rip in the sky, a torn page out of your reality. Who needs alien abduction when there’s cancer, thinning out our ranks, taking those we love from us…

People ask WHY a movie about cancer. [Sulik writes:]

“Cancer is a human evolutionary condition. It is also an epidemic rooted in a society and culture that fails to recognize it for what it is and what it is not. Cancer is not a ribbon, a screening test, or a leisure activity. It is not a sassy t-shirt, a proclamation of survivorship, or a gift worth giving. It is a life-changing event; a disease process that ignites what is all too often a cycle of medical surveillance and interventions, of which some succeed and others cause irreparable harm. For 65 percent of those who are diagnosed, it will be the eventual cause of death. To ignore this reality for the sake of convenience, feel-good activities, fund-raising, ideological or political grandstanding, or profiteering is to alienate, burden, deny, and forsake those for whom cancer is a major cause of suffering. They deserve better than this, and so do we.”

Amen.

After I drew my heart back out of my gut from reading this, I realized more deeply the importance of remembering that hope involves an ongoing conversation with despair. And that speaking our truths about cancer — even those that are difficult to utter and maybe even harder to hear — can truly make a difference.

For more consciousness raising essays, check out “30 Days of Breast Cancer Awareness.”

Be Sociable, Share!

2 comments to 14. The Cancer Show: A Cast of Thousands

  • i just wanted to leave a quick note. i wandered over here while searching for a new ‘cure cancer’ graphic for my blog’s sidebar. no, my blog has nothing to do with ‘cancer’…but having lost my sister to breast cancer, brother to gastric cancer, father to prostate cancer…i am always brought to tears when i hear other people’s stories. i feel their pain. deeply. anyway, i’m glad i stopped in…and will be back to look around.

  • This “conversation with despair” is necessary despite it being hard for many to hear. My response to those who don’t want listen, is this. Try hearing the words “you have cancer”. That’s harder. I can’t wait for this film.

To speak her truth, she needed to give her words and identity away, to a trusted poet and friend @stevedavenport breastcancerconsortium.net/ov…

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

Paperback includes a new Introduction on fundraising controversies and a color insert with images of, and reactions to, the pinking of breast cancer (2012).


Praise » 

Flyer »

Press Release »

Hardback Cover »

Paperback Cover »

Request Review Copies »

Order the Paperback »

* GAYLE IN THE MEDIA *

"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause iafrica.com

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' KCRW

Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer The New York Times Magazine.

The Story Behind the Pink Ribbon Campaign Sisters Talk Radio

WISH Interview Women's International Summit for Health

Making Cancer About The Patient, Not The Body Part CBS Pittsburgh

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients USA Today

The perils of pink The Daily

Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some Dallas Morning News

A yellow flag for the NFL's pink New York Daily

Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed Philly Inquirer

Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion? Salon.com

Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood. In Deep with Angie Coiro

Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue? NPR's All Things Considered

How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health? America’s Radio News Network

Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
Marie Claire

Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases? Slate

Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red The Sacramento Bee

Get Your Pink Off Ottawa Citizen

Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions USA Today

** MORE MEDIA LINKS **
** MORE RADIO INTERVIEWS **