Geckos have very sticky feet apparently. That is why they can scuttle up and down walls, along the ceilings and in and out of corners without regularly falling onto the floor. I must have some of that stickiness when I write because I quite like to sit snugly on the fence during many of the lively discussions which we have online.
I find myself losing my grip and sliding off the fence just a little this weekend, following a bit of an altercation with Facebook.
I am in the excruciating situation of having been taken in by the latest awareness raising game or activity on Facebook. A couple of years ago women put their bra colours on their status updates and watched as comments of puzzlement came from the male membership of Facebook. The idea behind it was to make people stop and think and with the reference being to bras, there was a link to breast cancer. Hence raising awareness. I guess.
Last night I saw a Facebook status update posted by a recently married friend, referring to a number of weeks, and craving a certain food. There was a string of comments, sending warm congratulations and expressing delight at the prospect of her being x weeks pregnant. Thinking this was a lovely piece of news, I added my own warm wishes, preparing to tell the great news to hubby J. It was not long before my friend posted very quickly that this was not about pregnancy and had to issue a very direct update to put folks right. I was mortified. I might as well have put my red face right up there on Facebook too, as that is the side bonus of the misunderstanding – it is VERY public. They should add a “cringe” button, as I would certainly have clicked it beside my comment.
Usually I step back from these campaigns a bit. I don’t want to upset those particularly who have given me enormous support during breast cancer. But this prompted an unusual amount of nighttime thinking, which is taking the form of this seriously, “off the fence” rant about this Facebook activity.
So what is my problem? Why am I particularly struggling with this awareness campaign?
Well, there are a number of reason…………….
- I personally feel bad for attacking it. There is a feeling that by taking part in this, it offers support and solidarity to women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I feel guilty that I am rejecting the support being offered to me by people I am close to.
- Awareness raising is about EVERYONE and should not be withheld from a very large part of the population. Why for women alone? Men can also get breast cancer. And how about the men in our lives who have looked after us and loved us unconditionally throughout this. Is it fair to exclude them? And do men have sisters, wives, daughters, mothers and friends who have been diagnosed?
- The risqué tone of the campaign also feels a bit unnecessary. We don’t need to have an undertone or insinuation to make a point. Breast cancer is not cute, it is not fluffy and pink. And it is difficult in many contexts even to say that you have breast cancer, it is too private. There are many cancers which are forgotten or hidden and don’t have the attention that breast cancer does.
- Updates which clearly suggest pregnancy are at risk of being insensitive to those affected by fertility issues following active and prophylactic treatment. Chemo and radiation frequently affect fertility. We affectionately call it the “chemopause”. Women who carry a BRCA mutation gene often have elective surgery – oopherectomy and mastectomy. I had never heard of an oopherectomy before my own breast cancer experience. This is the removal of the ovaries, a procedure taken by many women who are at a higher risk of ovarian cancer. A step taken by many young women and a dreadfully tough decision to take for many who have to choose between having children and the increased probability or breast or ovarian cancer.
- Awareness raising is indeed still critical, in many contexts, as I have just discussed here. However, there is a huge need, as is widely discussed by some highly informed and well researched blogs and articles, for focus on research, targeted treatment and metastatic disease. If you want to get a feeling for the wide and complex variety of issues around breast cancer, follow the #bcsm (breast cancer social media) hash tag on Twitter.
Please, don’t think that I am ungrateful for the enormous solidarity and support in this game, especially as I know that many are reaching out to me personally offering love and support. Please know how much I value and appreciate it. I trust that you know how much I hesitated before deciding to post this.
There is a huge big black storm cloud outside right now, and I feel as if have played a part in its formation! Time to slip back onto my cosy place on the fence.