For a change of pace, I thought it’d be fun, and hopefully inspiring, to share ten of my favorite breast cancer advocacy quotes. I hope you’ll let me know which one is your favorite, share a different one you love or share some words of wisdom of your own. (You know you have some!) Just comment at the end of the post.
Now, let’s get to some of those inspiring words from some amazing activists!
I’ll start with two of my favorites – both from the late activist, Barbara Brenner. Brenner was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. She died from complications of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord) in 2013. She was 61. Learn more about Barbara and read my review of So Much to Be Done: The Writings of Breast Cancer Activist Barbara Brenner.
Being an activist is not for the faint of heart.
Another quote of Brenner’s that’s incredibly succinct and powerful (I’ve shared it in several posts) is this one:
If breast cancer could be cured by shopping, it would be cured by now.
I love the following and unfortunately, I don’t know who first said it. I first heard it at a Living Beyond Breast Cancer event I attended a few years back, so it might be from one of the doctor speakers there. Important words with an important message for patients, especially those with metastatic disease:
Patients do not fail treatments. Treatments fail patients.
(If you know who first said this, let me know so I can give proper credit.)
Cancer is not a ribbon, a screening test, or a leisure activity. It is not a sassy t-shirt, a proclamation of survivorship or a gift worth giving. It is a disease process that ignites what is all too often a cycle of medical surveillance and interventions. For too many, it will be the eventual cause of death.They deserve better than this, and so do we.
Audre Lorde, writer, feminist, poet, activist and author of the Cancer Journals, offered many gems of wisdom in her writings. Lorde was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978. She died from liver cancer in 1992. (I’m not sure if her breast cancer metastasized or if it was a new primary.) My favorite gem is this one:
Your silence will not protect you.
So simple and yet, so powerful. I included it at the beginning of my memoir because it’s so meaningful to me. And not just regarding breast cancer activism.
Another Lorde quote I appreciate is the one below. Lorde was miffed after being chastised by a nurse for not wearing her prosthesis when arriving for a doctor appointment. Somehow by not doing that, she was undermining morale, according to that nurse anyway. Can you believe it? Shocking, not to mention darn-right insensitive, cruel even. Perhaps her experience with that nurse was behind the words below, or the ones above, for that matter.
If we are to translate the silence surrounding breast cancer into language and action against this scourge, then the first step is that women with mastectomies must become visible to one another. For silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness.
I simply MUST include the following words of wisdom about the normalization of breast cancer from Barbara Ehrenreich:
The effect of all this positive thinking is to transform breast cancer into a rite of passage–not an injustice or a tragedy to rail against but a normal marker in the life cycle, like menopause or grandmotherhood. Everything in mainstream breast cancer culture serves…to tame and normalize the disease: the diagnosis may be disastrous, but there are those cunning pink rhinestone pins to buy and races to train for.
And yet another favorite quote from Ehrenreich is this one below about forced positivity – a topic that you likely know by now is one of my hot-button topics. Ugh!
Positive thinking seems to be mandatory in the breast cancer world, to the point of where unhappiness requires a kind of apology…
If you haven’t read Ehrenreich’s book, Bright Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, I highly recommend that you do. Only one chapter is devoted to breast cancer. Not surprisingly, it’s my favorite one.
I’m not entirely sure who first said the words below, but Barbara Brenner says them in the movie documentary, Pink Ribbon, Inc. – a powerful film, if you haven’t seen it.
When ordinary people do a simple thing, it changes the world.
Pretty darn inspiring, right?
I love these words from my friend and fellow blogger, Lisa Valentine. Lisa blogs at Habitual Gratitude. Do check it out. She also wrote one of my favorite posts on the blog, The Sum of All My Parts. I love it. If you haven’t read it, you will too. This quote is from that post:
The sum of my parts makes me whole. I don’t feel less of a woman without breasts, just a woman less her breasts.
Profound. Beautiful. And so true. Thank you, Lisa.
I hope you enjoyed this post and the quotes from some amazing women.
I’ll wrap it up with a few words of my own, for whatever they’re worth:
Cancer was not a gift and it didn’t make me a better person. It’s a horrible disease not an enlightenment program.
Now it’s YOUR turn!
Which one is your favorite quote and why?
Do you have a quote that’s meaningful to you that you’d like to share?
What words of wisdom would YOU like to share? Again, you know you have some!
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