I was horrified when I read the Bill Keller’s opinion piece criticizing Lisa Adams for sharing her experiences with metastatic breast cancer on social media.  He uncomfortably ponders “Her decision to live her cancer onstage invites us to think about it, debate it, learn from it.”  Yes, it does and rightfully so!

Lisa Adams deserves plaudits on her bravery and willingness to share her experiences with a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment with the world.  It’s hard to think about the bad things that can happen to us. It’s so much easier to quickly paint them over with pink and words like “survivor” in an attempt to project a measure of control. But breast cancer and its treatment are anything but pink and living with this diagnosis is a lesson in learning that everything is not in our control.

By blogging and tweeting about her experiences, Lisa has done a wonderful job of putting a real face on a disease that takes too many women in their prime.  She has shown the cost of the cure, which goes beyond dollars to the look on your child’s face when you start to lose your hair or the permanent neuropathy that can be a result of the chemotherapy.  As women, we are trained to be “good girls” and not complain and as a result, we have too long been silent about the short and long term consequences of the treatment of breast cancer.  We saw this when our call for collateral damage via the [HOW] Study, received thousands of responses! Lisa Adams has bravely gone beyond the celebratory pink ribbon or “pinkwashing” as Barbara Brenner used to say, to create a real-time documentary on what it means to have breast cancer.

I applaud Lisa’s courage to be so open about her disease and also her willingness to participate in research.  If more women were willing to come out about the experiences of breast cancer treatment and even more about reality of metastatic breast cancer, maybe we could find the will and the money to look for the cause and end this disease once and for all!

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Dr. Susan Love, MD, MBA, who has dedicated her professional life to the eradication of breast cancer, is the Chief Visionary Officer of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. A former breast surgeon, Dr. Love is best known as a trusted guide to women worldwide through her book: Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book. Her activist reputation comes from her role as one of the “founding mothers” of the breast cancer advocacy movement in the early 1990’s and as one of the founders of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC).
Read more about her on her blog. blog.dslrf.org/.
  • With all due respect, Dr. Love, I don’t think this is necessarily about women and men “coming out” about their metastatic disease. We the 150,000 US people living with metastatic breast cancer are the inconvenient truth for a pink-saturated breast cancer community and the general public.

    Flip your calendar back three pages. How many metastatic people did you see on ABC 7′s “Going Pink” campaign during October? I don’t recall any. What I DID see was a lot of cheering and flag waving–mostly celebrating those with early stage breast cancer. When I wrote to Chicago’s ABC outlet to complain, they actually REFUSED to forward my email on the grounds I dared to be critical of their reporter who herself has breast cancer.

    Here are some women and men who ARE using their voices:
    http://animoto.com/play/R02vUPrfTBHZQMNzsPvejg

    I am so pleased your organization has joined the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance. I am one of the people featured in the video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyTAf3niEO0

    So we are out there. The question is who is listening?

    The Keller/Adams debacle clearly illustrates why the Alliance is needed. Note that Bill Keller compared Adams, a 40-something wife and mother, to his elderly father-in-law. Lisa Adams is currently having a rough patch in her treatment. She’s having pallative radiation and washed out of a clinical trial. The fact that Keller ASSUMES Keller is actively dying betrays his ignorance of what it is like to live with metastatic breast cancer. What Keller terms “Heroic Measures” is what people living with the disease would call “Business As Usual.”

    Katherine O’Brien
    Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer Since 2009

  • Admin

    Thanks so much for your thoughts, Katherine. It’s through dialogue that we’ll raise awareness for survivorship and all the cancers that have plagued our lives. Bravo!