The article I'm referring to was written by the indomitable Gayle A. Sulik, PhD (author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health and founder of the Breast Cancer Consortium)...
The piece Sulik penned appears in the August 2013 edition of the Virtual Mentor, the American Medical Association's online ethics journal and is entitled, "What Cancer Survivorship Means." My favorite Sulik soundbites are below. (To read the Virtual Mentor story in its entirety, just click here.)
- "Many cancer survivors do not actually survive cancer: Just over half of people labeled as 'survivors' ultimately died of cancer. This contradiction creates confusion about the meaning of survivorship."
- "There is an odd impression in American society that cancer is a passinginconvenience for most, an opportunity for personal growth for all, and a badge of honor for those that 'survive."
- "Stories about courageous survivors abound, but the realities of many people’s lives look nothing like the celebratory events, sound bites, or marketing materials that pervade the cultural landscape."
- "Fundraisers and public spaces brought cancer survivors to the forefront as audiences sang songs and purchased survivor gear. While the celebration resonated with some, it left the difficult realities of cancer on the sidelines, isolating those with terminal conditions and creating a backlash against survivorship culture itself."
- Optimistic attitudes "may help people to feel better emotionally," but they don't "positively impact cancer progression or survival... People who think positively get cancer and die from cancer at the same rates as people who do not."
- "Tragically, the image of the triumphant survivor who cheerfully lives on suggests implicitly that those who do not survive were simply not optimistic enough."
- "Survivors of all types want to be heard, want control, and want choice. More than anything else, they want health, longevity, and quality of life."
- "Until health practitioners become actively involved in survivorship at all levels of care ... survivors will continue to 'see cancer reflected endlessly around them like a hall of mirrors.'"
Thank you, Gayle Sulik, for this incredible piece and for your commitment to patient advocacy and to the breast cancer community at large.