Yesterday there was a video of a woman throwing a dance party in the operating room on the way in to her double mastectomy. The headline called what she did “awesome” and the writer of the piece said she wanted to go clubbing with the woman after she “was all healed.”
The video went viral. Many people thought it was, as the headline had said, “awesome.” The piece called her “brave.”
So what’s the problem?
I have no judgment on the woman who had the dance party. You want to shake your booty to Beyonce before you go off to dreamland for cancer surgery? If your surgical team feels it doesn’t compromise anything about the environment, go for it.
But why a video of this goes viral and everyone cheers “Awesome! Brave!” … well, the implication is that if you didn’t do that as you went in to your double mastectomy, you’re not awesome. Or brave.
On the morning of my double mastectomy in 2007, I packed my two older children off to school after making sure they had warm hats and gloves, typed out a schedule for those would be taking care of my children while I was in the hospital for a few days, reluctantly left my third child (only seven months old), went to the hospital, got prepped for surgery and laughed with my surgeon as he (unnecessarily, it seemed to me) signed both of my breasts with purple Sharpie to indicate which body parts needed to be removed.
True awareness means showing the spectrum of what experiences are like for people with breast cancer, and not making them feel less than “awesome” if they don’t want to dance into their operation and just want to be wheeled in as usual. Videos of dancing patients reinforce putting a carefree, happy face on a disease that — even if detected early– still has a 20-30% chance of metastasizing, sometimes decades later.
I did everything possible to keep my cancer from returning. But it did anyway. I now have stage IV breast cancer, a diagnosis considered incurable.
I am no less awesome just because I didn’t dance and sing when they wheeled me in to surgery six years ago. I smile and laugh and write on my blog many days a week to educate and inform readers. But that isn’t as “fun” as showing a video of a dance session in the OR. I think the way we all rally to treat this disease deserves recognition.
There are many ways to be inspirational, and they don’t all involve flash mobs in the operating room. Unfortunately, however, feather boas and booty dances are the stories that get the public’s attention.