Breast Cancer and That “Terrifying” Battle Information

OK, there were times during the course of the illness when I was hard pushed to remain my normal, cheerful self. Only whenever I felt sorry for myself I would remember some of my co-chemo warriors, several of whom were far worse off than I was.

One was just 36 years old, a single mother, and was now having chemo after her second mastectomy (she had been through it all previously with the other breast.) Another woman had a bad heart condition and was blind. A third – also a single mum – had had her kids taken into care after their father disappeared and social workers decided she was unfit to look after them while undergoing chemotherapy. And so on.

Now I know it sounds like spiteful sourgrapes. But whereas we ordinary women deal with breast cancer quietly, without complaining too much and often continuing to work and care for our families, famous women seem to get it much worse, if you believe the journalists. And if these women do carry on regardless, they are headlined as heroines….

“XXX wins horrendous breast cancer battle”

“XXX keeps working despite breast cancer ordeal”

“XXX struck down by deadly breast cancer threat”

“XXX’s brave battle with breast cancer while the show goes on”

As I suggested, it does seem petty in a way to point the finger at women like Jennifer Saunders, Kylie Minogue, Olivia Newton-John, Dame Maggie Smith, Claire Rayner, Linda Nolan, Marianne Faithfull, etc. because they were probably scared witless by their breast cancers just like we all were.

But if you’re a single mum in your thirties on income support with little help from your family and you’ve just been diagnosed with the dreaded beast, you could be forgiven for feeling resentful about these wealthy stars who can afford all the support and care they need.

That doesn’t make the famous version of breast cancer any easier to cope with emotionally, but it sure as hell takes care of the practical problems which often surpass the emotional ones in terms of difficulty to deal with. And the rich and famous can choose to comfort themselves in the most lavish of private hospitals, with no worries about the “postcode” lottery if the latest breast cancer drug doesn’t happen to have been approved by their particular UK strategic health authority or NHS Trust.

On the other hand, publicizing the stars’ breast (and other) cancers does serve as a useful tool in bringing people’s attention to the need for vigilance. When Kylie Minogue’s breast cancer was first trumpeted in the press in 2005 the number of women seeking GP appointments to check out lumps and bumps rose noticeably, especially amongst the younger age groups. And this was valuable. Later on, Minogue continued raising awareness, persuading other celebrities to help out.

Equally the work done by singer Sheryl Crow since her diagnosis in 2006 has been effective in raising awareness, especially in the USA. Australian singer Olivia Newton John has done much the same.

So what do we have here? On the one hand, tabloid journalists’ sensationalist reporting of the stars’ brave battles with breast cancer can, and do, make ordinary women feel like second-class citizens who, if diagnosed, just have to get on with it. On the other hand, many of the stars who have been through breast cancer have done and are still doing a lot to get women checking themselves for lumps (still thought to be the most effective means of early detection.

Overall – and despite the fact that it makes my skin crawl – I favour the sensationalist brandishing of stars’ misfortunes in the media, because raising awareness of breast cancer does save lives.

Read more Breast Cancer Foundation Saves Lives of Women and Treatments for metastatic breast cancer on my blog thanks.

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