I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Women are competitive by nature, and so this phenomenon just transfers to the ideals they hold most dear in their own lives ---> to their own personal breast cancer experience. And the punches even come from some who are not in the fight, but think they know everything about breast cancer, how to prevent it and how to cure it!
I felt the first jabs of this when I was diagnosed two years ago and received a information packet in my mailbox from a dear old well-meaning friend. She proceeded to tell me that I didn't need chemo therapy, and that most people don't benefit from it, and that my surgeon was only performing a mastectomy so that he could "make more money off of me". I quickly responded to her, explaining that my surgeon is military, in a not-for-profit government funded hospital, and he doesn't make one dime more if he performed one or one hundred surgeries. As for my cancer, if I had opted out of chemo therapy I may not be alive this time next year. Those are just the scientific facts. Clearly, she was unaware.
I remember a conversation I had about 6 months ago with a friend who is actually a 5 year breast cancer survivor but who had been stricken with Mesothelioma, an asbestos induced lung cancer, and when I was trying to explain to her that the type of breast cancer I had was a rare type and was not treatable even just a decade ago, and carries a high rate of recurrence. She stopped me in my tracks and said, "You just don't understand, Koryn. This lung cancer is going to kill me. I have a zero chance of survival. I am stage 4. There is no such thing as a stage 5. You are not terminal. You are a survivor - why can't you just embrace that". What? Happy that I got cancer? The "good" cancer because I have a better prognosis? That was the last time I spoke to her - 6 months ago. She clearly did not want to talk to me about hope or courage. For her, these terms were meaningless. She had poised herself on the other side of the battle filed, the "losing side" and did not want to "fraternize" with someone like me. Newsflash - any cancer has the potential to put a woman on the losing side.
Maybe it is because this month of October has been awash in pink everything, but I see the breast cancer forums everywhere on line a buzz with talk about how this or that is the latest greatest, and you should do this or that, or you shouldn't feel that way - There is a whole lot of unsolicited advice to breast cancer patients who are newly diagnosed. Sadly they must feel like they are bombarded with ideas, suggestions and conflicting medical statistics and none of it from educated, trained oncologists. Only a woman with an opinion. There are plenty of those to go around! And some of them insensitive, unintentional, yet cruel jabs at her most personal tragedy. Am I guilty of it myself? Probably so. We women are good at both offending and being offended when it comes to personal issues.
And there's no doubt, cancer is intensely personal. That is why we poise ourselves to fight, and unfortunately we punch at the wrong target.