Recently there have been numerous articles surfacing here and there offering commentary on ABC’s Good Morning America’s Amy Robach’s recent interviews in which she shared thoughts on her cancer experience. I didn’t think I had any more to add and maybe I really don’t, but something’s been bothering me and so I’m “writing it out” here.
You can read one of Ms. Robach’s most recent interviews (and the one I’m talking about in this post) here in it’s entirety, but the particular words in this interview that bothered, okay, irritated me most were these:
There are nearly 2 million breast cancer survivors in this country, and we are thriving, excelling, living. Yes, it is a hellish journey through surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and drug therapy. But you will emerge a better person. I promise. You are stronger than you think, and you will find your inner warrior. Your family and friends will marvel at your strength, and they will weep with you on those days when you just don’t want to get out of bed. It gets easier, and after this, there’s nothing you can’t do!
I realize Ms. Robach intended her message to be uplifting and supportive. I realize she has been sharing her entire experience with completely good intentions, but she sits in an important chair every morning in front of a lot of people and she’s the one who started doing the talking and sharing about her disease and thus, she opened herself up to “feedback”. In addition, she is a journalist who is supposed to stick to the facts. Has she been doing that? Many, me included, would say no she has not been.
Why didn’t she get things quite right this time?
Because every woman (and man) who has had a breast cancer diagnosis is not thriving and excelling. Heck, I don’t consider myself to be thriving. Yes, I am surviving and living most certainly and most gratefully, but thriving? Not there yet. Saying such a thing is presumptuous and even if unintentionally done, it diminishes the real experiences many survivors are struggling with each and every day.
And to say that your family and friends will marvel at your strength – hmmm… again presumptuous, or maybe the rest of us just aren’t as strong as Ms. Robach. And as for her words, there’s nothing you can’t do (after treatment – again presuming your treatment ends), I won’t even go there. I don’t need to.
But the real kicker for me was this part:
You will emerge a better person. I promise.
She promises you will be a better person!
Yikes, for me that’s like hearing that horrible screeching noise on a chalkboard.
Do you hear it?
This particular cancer expectation is one of my pet peeves. I wrote a post a while back called, “After a Cancer Diagnosis You’re a Better Person, Right?” I won’t repeat myself here; you can read it if you’re interested.
Bottom line is, I don’t think I am a better person because of my cancer diagnosis. I don’t believe cancer miraculously makes you better or worse.
I’ve read comments from Ms. Robach’s supporters here and there too. Many of them say things like, why can’t we just support one another? Or why do we have to pick on Amy?
No one is picking on Amy and I certainly wish her the best. I do. And again, she opened herself up to feedback and yes, criticism the minute she went public with her personal story.
And let’s not forget that Ms. Robach is getting plenty of support from family and friends (which is wonderful by the way), so we don’t need to worry much about her lacking any kind of support.
But many women (and men) do not have that kind of support and I would say it is Ms. Robach who is not supporting those individuals, not the other way around. She is the one who lumped all two million of us together and made sweeping generalizations, good-intentioned or not.
If we want to more fully support one another, let’s stop implying that every woman’s experience and every cancer situation is the same.
Because obviously they are not.