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Why Amy Robach Didn’t Get Things Quite Right

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 then there the women dealing with metastatic disease… Just read my friend Lori Marx Rubiner’s piece for that take on things, or Dr. Peter Bach’s heart-felt aricle. Both are excellent must-reads.

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.

Note:  For another take on things, read this post by my friend Brandie, who blogs at A Journey of 1000 Stitches. 

How do you feel about celebrities sharing their cancer stories?

Do/did Amy Robach’s words bother you at all? 

So you ever wonder why you got #cancer? #breastcancer #BRCA #hereditarycancer
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Deborah

Wednesday 21st of October 2015

Nancy, I just finished listening to Amy Robach's book better. I have always admired Amy and watch her every morning on Good Morning America. I found her book to be unrealistic for so many people that struggle with not only cancer but any type of serious illness. Amy has many privileges that so many (if most) of women do not have. Some of her coping mechanisms were based on financial abundance such as trips - India, Italy; purchasing a new home; family members and colleagues who are in the medical fields (no charge for advise, copayments, etc.). A very good friend of mine has struggled with cancer and it affected not only her health - but her finances drastically. While Amy has had the good fortune of assets with different characteristics - unfortunately so many of the women struggling with this disease and other diseases are not of the same world.

Nancy

Thursday 22nd of October 2015

Deborah, Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Amy's book. I haven't read it and I'm not sure I will. I have a hard time getting past the title.

Sandy sebadduka

Friday 9th of January 2015

Cancer is not a gift

Nancy

Friday 9th of January 2015

Sandy, I agree. A gift it is not. Thank you for stopping by.

Sarah

Friday 5th of September 2014

I hate the battle cliches attached to breast cancer. I am not, nor was I ever, a "warrior".

I got misdiagnosed at first because I was "too young" to have breast cancer. By the time it was caught a year later it had progressed to stage three. My hair didn't grow back after chemo (I'm so jealous of my chemo buddies' luscious hair!) and three years later I just finished reconstruction. My daughter was two when I was diagnosed-- she's never known life without a sick mommy.

My point is, I feel like cancer is something that happened to me and I just got through it because there is no other alternative. I didn't "fight", I wasn't "brave" or "strong". I cried, I felt ugly, I thought my husband would never be attracted to me again. I went through the loss and the procedures just like the rest of us must to live. I am no warrior. I am a woman who had a rotten thing happen and lived through it. To imply that those of us who live through it are somehow fighting harder than those who don't is wrong, hurtful and comes from a true lack of understanding IMO.

Nancy

Friday 5th of September 2014

Sarah, Well said. Very well said. Thank you.

Anonymous

Wednesday 3rd of September 2014

Thriving, NOT! In constant pain daily, YES and it's been almost 2 years since mastectomy! I wish they knew how horrible they make the rest of our "group" feel? For me, also left with massive problems from lyme disease, celebrities talk about how easy that cure was to find! PLEASE give a clue to the rest of us "normal folk" to find these miracle Drs that don't exist in my world!

Nancy

Friday 5th of September 2014

Anonymous, I hear you. Thank you for sharing.

Brandie

Wednesday 27th of August 2014

Just wanted to say thank you for sharing my post. Obviously, I agree that she got it wrong and I want to the world to see all sides of this cancer story! I'm glad you (and other bloggers) paved the way to allow me to do that! Thank you!

Nancy

Thursday 28th of August 2014

Brandie, Thank you for your post. It really got me thinking about this. All stories, angles and experiences need to be seen and heard. I couldn't agree more and it's part of the reason I do what I do and keep doing it. Thanks for reading and commenting.