“Tinged Pink: When The Cancer Narrative Can’t Compass Your Loss.” By Erika Anderson, Gawker.

The American insistence on hope has become a burden. It’s the smile stamped on tragedy. Not only must you brace for the inevitable, but you must do so with glee. Consider the man who marathons even though he’s dying of brain cancer. Facebook loves him into the thousands. We are told there is one way to do cancer: Be brave, soldier on, fight the battle, but do it with a smile. How can you get well if you’re not happy?

Four years ago, a woman I love—a friend who felt sisterly and vibrant—died of breast cancer. She was 33. I feel like I must spell it out: thirty-three. I want to paint it on a brick wall in the middle of the night. I want to wear it like the scarlet letter A. I want every billboard to read two numbers: 3 and 3. Her name was Julia.

Across America, or at least across Brooklyn, where I live now, posters of women defeating breast cancer with a smile and a pink shirt adorn the streets, the buses, and the subway cars. The word survivor is always followed by an exclamation mark. Cancer is so fun. Cancer is pretty in pink.Cancer is arms raised, fists pumping. Cancer is woo-hoo. Cancer is commodified: Revlon, Avon, the women’s brands, the brands that care, own this disease. I feel like each poster is telling me that Julia made the wrong choice. They add to the weight of her loss, as do the supposed words of wisdom from well-meaning friends: She didn’t want to heal, she should have been happy to be alive—as if the only emotion permitted after diagnosis is joy.

More »


Be Sociable, Share!

Articles & Posts