I read an article a little while ago about a Conservative politician who just finished treatment for breast cancer. The article was probably meant to make me feel inspired but instead I just go angry.
I felt guilty for not being more charitable (is that a word used in this sense by anyone other than those raised Catholic?) and disappointed in my own lack of empathy.
I bookmarked the story and decided to postpone writing about it until I could understand my reaction.
It's been a couple of weeks. I reread the article and got angry all over again.
I work very hard at not being judgmental of others' choices. This is a hard thing when you hold strong opinions but I do try my very best to underline that I've made what I consider to be the best choices for me. So why am I so annoyed at the choices of someone else?
Paula Peroni (the Conservative politician from Sudbury) is to be commended for her strength. Her approach to diagnosis and treatment seems to be very different from my own. She wore a wig, never stopped working, and told no one until after she had finished treatment. She seems most concerned that someone will think less of her for having had cancer. Perhaps that comes with being in politics.
While Peroni seems to stress that these were the right choices for her, the writer of the article seems to frame them as a goal to which we all should aspire. And Peroni herself seems to frame the path she chose as being the most virtuous:
"When you tell people you have cancer, "you put a responsibility on them they didn't ask for," said the longtime trustee with the Sudbury Catholic District School Board.
They care about you and worry about you, so you don't want to add to their burden.We all have a right to privacy but someone who chooses to stay private is not morally superior or more altruistic than those of us who make our struggles more public. I don't think it's just a "burden" to share our stories. In my experience, people genuinely want to help and I think that helping each other makes us stronger individually and together.
'It's nice to tell people (about it) when I'm on this side of it so they don't have to do the guilt and the worry or the condolences or whatever it is they feel is necessary,' said Peroni."
There are many kinds and cancers and as many kinds of treatment. Some people get sicker than others from the illness and its treatment. Some need more help from outside the immediate family, for a whole host of reasons. There is no shame in this.
And finally, perhaps it's my own metastatic status that colours my response. We are immersed in a culture of pink and a belief that you've just go keep a smile on your face, go through it and move on - and if you can do it without missing a step, you are to be applauded. Those of us with mets very often feel invisible.
Is this all just my own baggage speaking? Go read the article. Come back and tell me what you think. I'd love to know.
Possibly gratuitous and definitely snarky addendum:
"Peroni believes she is where she is supposed to be and if there was ever a time for Sudbury
to go Tory blue, it is now." Does this "work that needs to be done" involve deep cuts to the health care system from which she has so profoundly benefited?