Today's post might seem more like a rant than a post, but I will try to taper it a bit. And not be so ranty.
But, I'm upset.
I've been upset about this before and have managed to just roll my eyes and move on. This time it feels different and I really feel like maybe now is the time to say something.
This is what appears in the AARP Magazine this month:
I saw this and at first I kind of rolled my eyes, but the more I thought about it, the more unhappy I became.
And I don't care how Melissa Etheridge handled, or continues to handle, her cancer. But you know what? She's made this about more than her. And she's giving misinformation. And a major magazine is publishing it with what seems like no big deal.
I'm glad she changed her diet. I'm glad she is less acidic. I think it's fine if she feels like now she didn't need to be tested for the BrCa gene mutation.
But to say, people don't need to be tested. I'm sorry. If you don't have the BrCa 2 mutation, at 70 your chances of breast cancer are 1 in 8 (that number we so often hear in October - yeah, it only applies to those who are 70 and older. It's not 1 in 8 at 20 or 30 or 50 or 60). If you are BrCa 2+, it's 6 in 10. That's a whole lot higher risk, from 12% to 60%.
It's okay to choose not to be tested, if that is what you want. It's not okay, I think, to say people don't need to be tested because they can just simply not turn the gene on.
Wait, what? Oh yes, Apparently we can turn our genes on. PHEW! Because I was feeling a bit short, so I think I'll just think about how my DNA might change so I can start to grow. Now. At 35.
Oh, yeah, not that simple.
Also, Etheridge had chemo. She did have the blood test done.
I'm happy she feels great and has made lifestyle changes, but that doesn't mean her cancer won't or can't come back.
What will she do if she does? She already blames herself for her cancer - saying it was her fault. She has also said in several interviews that people have to take responsibility for the environment they put their body into it.
So, I guess, yes, now, I should step up and ask my family to forgive me for the environment I put my body into that caused me to get cancer. That environment of home-cooked family meals, eating lots of vegetables (okay, maybe not during some of my childhood years, but I grew out of that), of eating fruits, of drinking water, of eating organic before it was cool or the thing to do, avoiding plastic in the kitchen when I could (again, before it became the thing to do), of cooking from scratch when I could (there was an entire year we didn't buy a loaf of bread because I baked every single one. Myself. With unbleached, and sometimes organic flour).
No. I won't do it. I won't say I caused my cancer. I won't say it's my fault. And I certainly will NEVER make another person diagnosed with cancer - any kind of cancer for that matter - feel the same way. I just won't.
[Side note: yes, I know eating healthy is good for our bodies for a
multitude of reasons, but I'm a lot more forgiving of myself now if I
need to eat ::gasp:: processed foods! I'm just saying, don't assume
people didn't eat well before and so they got cancer. And don't assume
that eating healthy will protect you from cancer.]
Now I shared this on Facebook and got some good feedback from friends. Most agreed, however it was pointed out that it is the responsibility of the reader to realize that Etheridge isn't, in fact a medical doctor. That maybe the issue isn't that a magazine printed it, but that people should be more informed and not just blindly follow a celebrity when they give medical opinions or advice.
Hey, I agree. But I also think the truth is there are people out there who will take it very seriously.
someone might read this and then not remember who said it - they might
confuse it for hearing it from a doctor or a friend. They might assume
she is repeating what a valid medical doctor told her. Someone might
quote it without attributing it correctly. Even if someone isn't putting
a lot of stock into what a celebrity says, these words can get shared. I
see it every day on facebook ... things that aren't true get shared all
also think that publications have a responsibility with what they
print. And it is important. Because again, someone might not be taking
medical advice per se, but if they see things like this printed in a
reputable magazine (or spoken of on the news, etc) it can create an
impact. There are also people out there who believe you get cancer because you
are a bad person and have done wrong things - I don't think AARP would
put that opinion up on their page though, do you? Furthermore, AARP
titles the page Lessons for All of Us. So the lesson is that if you turn
on your genes or eat too much acid or are too stressed, you will get cancer. It's your fault. Accept it, change, and move on.
The truth is we have no ability to prevent breast cancer. We can lower our risk. There are things we can do to be healthier. But we can't prevent it.
No matter who says it. Or who tries to sell you something. Or tells you we can.
There is not an ounce of scientific proof that genes can be turned on or off.
There is not an ounce of proof that stress can turn the gene on or off or cause cancer. It is true that lowering your stress does have other health benefits, but not this one.
No woman, NOT A SINGLE ONE, should ever feel that her cancer is her fault. Not. A. Single. One.
Except, so many women - myself including - think it must have been. We wonder what we could have done differently. We wonder if we caused this. We wonder if we have already screwed it up for our children and that they might have to follow in our very awful footsteps. We feel guilty. We wonder if it's karma, and if so, what did we do that would cause it. Even though, we also know it really isn't our fault. And yet, we wonder.
The truth is that the guilt is already there. I don't need someone else to tell me to take responsibility for the environment my body has lived in. Or that I stressed too much. Or that I have too much acid. I don't need it. And neither does any other woman.
But not only do we feel guilty, it seems that society also wants to blame us.
Do you see that ... 50% of people from this poll said that they believe breast cancer progressed because patients didn't treat it right or didn't take preventative measures.
Never mind the first fact on that graphic - 30% of all breast cancers will spread and turn into stage iv breast cancer (that is incurable) REGARDLESS of if it was caught early. Or if they did chemo. Or a mastectomy. Or radiation. Or took pills. Or lowered their acid level. Or stopped eating sugar. Or ate candy. Or were stressed. Or meditated daily.
Did you know, that the earliest writings about breast cancer are from the Edwin Smith Papyrus. It is from 1500 BCE. And some believe it was a copy of writings from that date back to 3000-2500 BCE? That means it is at least 3500 years old. And maybe it's 5000ish years old.
Hippocrates (who lived from 460-370 BCE) thought that breast cancer was the result of a wandering womb. Along with a lot of other female issues.
The Ice Princess (a woman's corpse from Syberia who was found in Russia in 1993 and was so well preserved they could see tattoos!) lived in what scientists believe was the 5th century AD. They just discovered she had breast cancer that had spread. They estimate she was in her 20's.
Mastectomies as treatment were performed as early as 548 AD. We have prints from the 1600's AD of women undergoing surgery for breast cancer.
To say that this is a new disease or caused by our modern lifestyle is a myth. It is entirely untrue. Breast cancer has existed for a very long time. It predates GMO's, It predates high fructose corn syrup. It predates diets high in sugar. It predates process foods. It predates fast food. It predates sedentary lifestyles. It predates pollution.
So let's just stop. Let's stop telling women that it is their fault that they got breast cancer. Let's stop assuming that if breast cancer spreads or kills, it was the woman's fault - that she must not have prevented it properly or listened to her doctors or that she had bad juju in the world or anything.
And let's not print people who say otherwise and tell all those who see that print that it is a lesson for everyone. Because frankly, it's not. The science doesn't support it. History doesn't support it.
As a society we can do much better than this. Women going through cancer need better and deserve better.
*H/T to AnneMarie of ChemoBrain ... In the Fog for bringing the article to my attention on facebook.