Fluent in french, swedish, and british english, Marie-Laurence Waldelöf of Paris, France specialized in copywriting and communications. After her breast cancer diagnosis in 2009, she began exploring the cultures and contexts of breast cancer. Triumphant survivorship did not represent her reality, as a patient, a person, or a woman. Connecting with other diagnosed women in France and beyond, Marie began observing and documenting the vagaries of “cancerland” from an outsider’s perspective. Sharing her observations, feelings and questions with others strengthened her convictions and commitment to challenging common assumptions about breast cancer culture, medical technology, research, and patient advocacy. Marie-Laurence was a woman I was destined to know. I am grateful to Cathie Malhouitre of the organization “Au sein de sa différence” [Within our differences] for making our introduction.
Marie-Laurence was a member of “Au sein de sa différence” and a regular contributor to the organization. She helped to develop an on-line reference library called E-Bib to share information, bridge differences, and help people move forward “in a world that is not as rosy as we like to say it is.” Marie argued that breast cancer, “is a social challenge wherever you live, a global issue beyond nationalities and across borders.” Sharing this message, Marie wrote a 40-page synthesis of my book, “Pink Ribbon Blues” in french, Le Blues du Ruban Rose. I was astounded and honored, humbled that she and Cathie found enough value in the book to put so much energy into sharing its message. When we first met on SKYPE (thanks to the power of Internet video-conferencing), I almost cried when we saw each other face to face for the first time. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I also knew that collaboration was in our future.
For October 2012 Au sein de sa différence developed a communications campaign to spur discussion of pink ribbon culture in France. The campaign has a booklet entitled, “Questions Roses” (Pink Questions) and includes a dialogue between french senologist-oncologist Dr. Dominique Gros and me. Dr. Gros asked about the commercial interests in breast cancer awareness campaigns, the upbeat messaging that seems to hide private experiences that don’t match the trope of triumphant survivorship, and the lack of information about the realities of metastatic breast cancer. I asked him what role the medical community should play in advocacy, shaping public perceptions, and confronting the use of the Cause for commercial rather than public health purposes. “Questions Roses” (in french) was distributed to cancer centers in Paris. Au sein de sa différence also released a video interview with Dr. Dominique Gros in Strasbourg, France.
[A summation of my part of "Questions Roses" (in english) can be found here. Marie-Laurence was in the process of translating Dr. Gros' comments into English.]
As Marie-Laurence and Cathie Malhouitre worked on Pink Questions, I was in the process of establishing the Breast Cancer Consortium – an international network committed to energizing scientific and public discourse about breast cancer and promoting collaborative initiatives among researchers, advocates, health professionals, educators, and others committed to changing the conversation about breast cancer. Both Marie and Cathie were founding members. Only in existence since October 2012, the consortium already felt the significance of their contributions. Marie-Laurence was a smart, skilled, witty, and brutally honest woman who was loved by many. As we grieve the loss of our friend and collaborator, the legacy Marie-Laurence leaves behind fuels our commitment to continuing what we started.
I hold Marie’s spirit and commitment close to my heart.
A ceremony will be held Friday, January 4, 2013 at 10:15 am at the Père Lachaise Crematorium, 71 rue des Rondeaux, Paris 20e. In lieu of flowers people may contact Marie-Laurence’s son, Rasmus, to make arrangements for donations her name. [E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org].