Adieu Marie-Laurence Waldelöf

Marie-Laurence Waldelöf died of breast cancer on December 25, 2012.

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: rasmus.waldelof@gmail.com].

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5 comments to Adieu Marie-Laurence Waldelöf

  • I am very sorry to hear about the death of Marie-Laurence Waldelöf. It is so wonderful that the “Au sein de sa différence” was able to bring the two of you together and it is great that you were able to meet via skype so that you could collaborate. The work that you are doing is so important Gayle as so many of us are making sure we we get the message out to get metastatic breast cancer out of the closet. I think the interview with Dr. Dominique Gros in Strasbourg, France from what I read in the translation is fascinating, and this message is one that needs to be understood globally.

    For now, it is time to reflect on your friend for all of the work and collaboration as well as her journey with breast cancer especially metastatic. Thank you for sharing this. I am sorry that she is no longer with us. We have so much work to do with metastatic breast cancer.

    So many deaths worldwide, and one death every 14 minutes in the US alone. We have made such little progress when it comes to death rates and every death is so upsetting while we work to change the conversation so we can focus on ending metastatic breast cancer. The disease is so cruel and as the deaths of our friends pile up, it is so upsetting. We just have to keep getting the message out, get funding to get rid of metastatic breast cancer (MBC), and keep going until we are moving in the right direction to see a change. I am so tired of losing so many to MBC.

    To Marie-Laurence Waldelöf, her family and friends I send my condolences. There are no words that I can say. Avec amour – Susan

  • I am very sorry to hear about the death of Marie-Laurence Waldelöf. It is so wonderful that the “Au sein de sa différence” was able to bring the two of you together and it is great that you were able to meet via skype so that you could collaborate. The work that you are doing is so important Gayle as so many of us are making sure we we get the message out to get metastatic breast cancer out of the closet. I think the interview with Dr. Dominique Gros in Strasbourg, France from what I read in the translation is fascinating, and this message is one that needs to be understood globally.

    For now, it is time to reflect on your friend for all of the work and collaboration as well as her journey with breast cancer especially metastatic. Thank you for sharing this. I am sorry that she is no longer with us. We have so much work to do with metastatic breast cancer.

    So many deaths worldwide, and one death every 14 minutes in the US alone. We have made such little progress when it comes to death rates and every death is so upsetting while we work to change the conversation so we can focus on ending metastatic breast cancer. The disease is so cruel and as the deaths of our friends pile up, it is so upsetting. We just have to keep getting the message out, get funding to get rid of metastatic breast cancer (MBC), and keep going until we are moving in the right direction to see a change. I am so tired of losing so many to MBC.

    To Marie-Laurence Waldelöf, her family and friends I send my condolences. There are no words that I can say. Avec amour – Susan

  • I’m so sorry about this person’s death. There are way too many deaths from breast cancer, and Marie-Laurence was so integral to changing the conversation about breast cancer. I’m glad you both got to meet via Skype, and I’m so glad she shared a view of survivorship that is not so upbeat. Because breast cancer is just not an upbeat disease.

  • Mary

    God bless you and Marie-Laurence for having and disseminating the “real deal” where breast cancer is concerned. Her loss will be greatly felt. The pink culture fails to take into consideration metastatic disease. There is no “beauty” in it, just as there is no “beauty” in breast cancer in general. I consider my current longevity (7 years) to refusing toxic adjuvant therapy, now commonly prescribed, for early stage disease. I think it would be interesting to see a study, of those with early disease, stage 1-2, that explored how many die of the after effects of treatment as opposed to the cancer itself. Regardless of your stage or grade there are no guarantees whether you choose very toxic treatments or not. Once again thank you for exploring the unseemly under belly of the pink ribbon culture.

  • [...] and networking. It is my everyday work. Cancer also permeates my personal life. Many of my colleagues over the years and some of my closest friends and family members have dealt with cancer [...]

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“Pink Ribbon Blues,” Book

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


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