Lessons I didn’t learn from breast cancer

bk1Five Lessons I Didn’t Learn from Breast Cancer (And One Big One I Did) is the title of a book by Shelly Lewis, which is described as the antidote to the cancer as life changing experience school of thought.

This is not a book filled with ‘Look on the bright side’ advice”, Lewis says. “This is  for women who don’t have and don’t want a spiritual makeover after breast cancer . . . and don’t expect breast cancer to fix what’s wrong with them. Furthermore, my only growth was the one removed by my surgeon”.

While I would find myself firmly in the camp of those who do find a deeper meaning in their cancer experience, and I believe that for some people experiencing serious illness can be a transformative experience, I also believe very strongly that each person’s experience is individual and it doesn’t have to conform to societal expectations of cancer patients to be upbeat, stoic and positive all the time. There is a terrific pressure on cancer patients to show the world only that upbeat, bravely battling cancer face (particularly seen on high-profile cancer patients).   I also wrote about this in an earlier post the language of cancer.

What if you don’t see the “silver lining”? What if there is no epiphany? Then I imagine Lewis’ book will help you not to feel so alone in feeling this, when the world expects otherwise of you. Reading the Amazon reviews, this book has done just that for many of its readers.  

Lewis also casts a critical eye on the breast cancer awareness industry, what she calls the whole “pinkapalooza”. I agree wholeheartedly with her urging caution when it comes to some of the many websites out there peddling their pink ribbons et al. Where does the money truly go? I would question that too.  

So, in conclusion, while I would not personally share Lewis’ words that “breast cancer wasn’t a journey that led me anywhere worth going, and you will never, ever hear me say I was glad I had it, for any reason…breast cancer didn’t transform me. It didn’t reform me. It did sort of deform me, but only a little…” her book does offer readers who do share her opinion validation and it also contains good practical advice for dealing with treatment.