The Stigma of Breast Cancer and Divorce


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So far, everything here at the castle is going great. My homesickness has started to ease and I’m meeting a lot of new people and learning new things. I still cannot get over how beautiful it is. Classes started on Monday and my Literary Foundations professor said something that really struck me. We were discussing the Bronze Age and the reasons people in that time period were writing. It was because that was the only form of documentation anyone had of anything. Therefore, if it wasn’t written, it didn’t exist.

He asked us about facebook and twitter and all of these social networking sites- are they a way for us to say “I’m here”? Do we subconsciously feel that, if we tweet about the rude girl that cut us off on our way to work this morning, we are saying to the world, “Don’t forget about me”?

This got me thinking- man is a social creature. He wants to know that he has someone to go to, someone that will come to him. To exist, he needs the world to know he does. He doesn’t want to be forgotten.

One of the most controversial subjects among breast cancer patients, survivors, and the stigma in general, is that if a woman gets cancer, her husband is likely to leave. It is a completely normal and logical fear to have because cancer is not something that’s easy to deal with. It can be lonely and you feel like you’re the only one going through it. You fear that cancer will make you wither and people will forget you. But this is not true in any sense.

It frustrates me when I hear people on talk shows discussing the issue of cancer and divorce. The last thing patients and families need is someone telling them that diagnosis can end a marriage. Yet, it is an issue that arises because of our inherent need for social interaction, and our need to love and be loved back. It is one of my greatest wishes that patients and families will trust one another and know that they will get through whatever life throws at them because they have each other. What is most important in a cancer family is the patient’s well-being and support system. It is the love that binds the family, no matter how functionally dysfunctional it may be. There are so many other factors and concerns that need to be addressed at the time of diagnosis, and it is my opinion that divorce should not be at the top of the list. Yes, my parents divorced some time during my mom’s treatment process, but cancer wasn’t the cause, and my whole family (including BOTH of my parents) fought through it. We realized that some things are just more important and deserve more attention than others.

One thing we need to understand is that life doesn’t stop. It is such a constant cycle that we all go through- day by day, year by year. We all get mad, cry, laugh, smile, fear, love, everything. It is in this way that we are always connected. We cannot be forgotten if the person next to us or even halfway around the world feels what we feel. Emotions are what bind us. They give us the need to feel connected, but they also connect us. Cancer treatment can be one of the loneliest times a patient will have in their lives, but they are never alone. No one is ever alone because we have friends, family, and above all, we have each other.

In the word’s of my secret celebrity crush, Michael Buble, “When you feel like you’re done, and the darkness has won…you are not alone. I am there with you.” This is what I hold onto whenever I get scared. Someone somewhere, be it my mom or my dad or someone on the other side of the world, is there with me, just like I am there with you.