Almost a year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not surprisingly, this pissed me off.
In the next few months, hundreds of strangers would strip me to the waist and touch, push on, measure, cut and burn my right breast. For the doctors, nurses and technicians, who were kind, efficient and professional, it was what they were trained for. There is no training for humiliation, pain and fear. Oh, and the anger. But I already mentioned that.
Outside the radiation treatment area hung a large bell. When you finished your last treatment, when your breast was so burned that the skin was peeling and weeping, you were supposed to joyfully ring the bell. Really? Like at Weight Watchers when they all clap for every ounce lost? The bell seemed childish to me.
When I entered the radiation treatment room for the last time, the technicians asked expectantly, “Are you going to ring the bell today?”
I hadn’t rehearsed my answer, but in that instant all the fatigue, pain, humiliation and powerlessness took verbal shape.
“Hell no! What I want is a completely naked, all-male brass band, and a huge brown paper bag crammed full with crisp one dollar bills”
The technicians were only mildly surprised.
Despite all the years of research, the miles of awful pink ribbons that make every October look like Disney threw up all over it, the treatments for breast cancer are only marginally improved versions of the mutilate, burn and poison used when my friend Nancy died in 2002
No amount of bell ringing will change that.