I have met brave women who are exploring the outer edge of human possibility with no history to guide them, and with a courage to make themselves vulnerable that I find moving beyond words – Gloria Steinem.
I read these words and couldn’t help but think, not just of Lisa Adams but of all the women who have the courage to show the real face of cancer – not the pink beribboned confection that we are so often exposed to.
I think back to a time, just a short two decades ago, when cancer was called by euphemistic terms like the Big C; when it was not acceptable to talk about it in polite society and when there was no public education about its causes, biology, prevention or progression. Breast cancer was a dreaded disease which involved mutilation, fear, shame and death.
The stigma which kept women quiet about their experience has been, for the most part, eliminated in the western world, but only if you conform to the model of the thriving survivor. If you move into the territory of metastatic breast cancer, then you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking you were catapulted back into an earlier time of less enlightenment (as last week’s events have proved).
But women, like Lisa Adams and Katherine O’Brien, and a growing number of others with MBC are changing all that. They are in the words of one commentator explorers ” sending dispatches from one part of a frontier where we will all surely follow.”
The issue is not Lisa’s use of social media to tell her story, but that her use of it is outside the historical literary context of doing so. When Christopher Hitchens wrote about his terminal esophageal cancer in Vanity Fair, his columns were widely-read and praised; but Lisa’s writing is no less moving and literary. It just happens to be in a different form, not filtered through time or editorial constraints. It is happening right here, right now. Perhaps it is this immediacy that makes some uncomfortable? Would it be more acceptable at a remove of time? Whatever your answer to these questions, there is no doubt in my mind that Lisa Adams is blazing a trail and we are following in her footsteps – some more gingerly than others, but nevertheless moving in the right direction.