Is Lisa Adams a too public reminder of a private fear?

Emma Keller, whose writing on Lisa Adams has ignited a storm of protest.

Emma Keller, whose writing on Lisa Adams has ignited a storm of protest.

Since I posted a summary yesterday of the backlash against the Kellers’ opinions on Lisa Adam’s sharing her experience of Stage IV  cancer with the world via social media, there has been a veritable storm of great commentary and debate Both Gayle Sulik and Nancy Stordahl make a good point which I think has been lost slightly in the brouhaha caused by the offending articles. Somewhere nestled among the inaccurate reporting, the snide commentary, and crass insensitivity of the Kellers, there exists the germ of an idea – the potential for an open and honest debate about society’s attitudes to how we live and die today. But that conversation is something best left to writers more eloquent and thoughtful than the Kellers.

I was curious to know how the Kellers have reacted to the backlash, and it turns out they feel they have been misunderstood in their intentions. Emma Keller expressed her dismay in a tweet saying that “It has been an overwhelming experience to be so misread to say the least!”  And once again, the irony of the remark seems to have bypassed this pair, who are, as Nancy on her blog rightly points out, so wide of the mark when it comes to Lisa’s intentions and the way that online patient communities work.

But here is an interesting fact that I only vaguely registered before now. Emma Keller has had her own brush with breast cancer. Keller two years ago wrote of her diagnosis of “Stage 0″ breast cancer and subsequent mastectomy. “My goal all along has been to put this experience behind me as fast as possible before carrying on with life as normal,” she said at the time.

Now I find that statement very interesting, for if Keller had managed to put it behind her as completely as she set out to do, why would she be taking such a personal interest in how many times Lisa Adams has tweeted about her experience? All along, while reading Keller’s vitriol something nagged at the back of my mind. Why so personal?

Having cancer is not a onetime event but an ongoing process of change in which we learn to live with an uncertain future. Once cancer has touched your life nothing will ever be the same. Life is uncertain for all of us, but those with a cancer diagnosis have a heightened awareness of that uncertainty. Cancer lays bare your vulnerability and underlines the uncertainty of life. Could it be that this is the nub of what makes Keller so uncomfortable? She writes of being uneasy with her voyeuristic following of Lisa’s tweets, but again, why so interested, if cancer is in the past for her?

I will leave those questions hanging in the air for now. Anything more and I will be in danger of straying into Keller territory – ascribing motivations and thoughts to someone I only know from a cursory glance at their writing.

Still. It’s an interesting question to consider. Can we ever truly put cancer behind us? Isn’t it always lurking just behind the door, ready to pounce on us again? And does Lisa Adams represent our worst fears about cancer returning? Is that the real reason Ms Keller why she should just stay quiet and not be so in our faces – a public reminder of a private fear? A fear which maybe so hidden it can never be publicly acknowledged?