When I saw a few moments of the Cancer Dance video on the evening news, I was dismayed. The news people smiled and exchanged platitudes about courage and healing. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, they mused, if people everywhere were inspired by the dancing mastectomy patient to face cancer with such joy?
If you’re reading this and you have cancer, and you like the dancing, please forgive me for my bad attitude.
I just feel that it’s one more way to pressure people into masking their trauma and fear and grief. BE HAPPY! Find a silver lining! Things could be worse! Be thankful for the ‘lesson’ of cancer or death!
Our culture offers nothing for the grief-stricken. We just want them to keep quiet or go away. What if some women insisted on wearing black mourning clothes to her mastectomy, to say goodbye to her breasts? That video would not go viral.
I will never be “over” my loss and I will always grieve. I accept that but no one else does, except for the parents I see on online forums, who express their anguish and desperation to strangers who have Been There. Online People can be remarkably patient and compassionate. Real Life people get sick of your morose demeanor. They get sick of hearing you ask with complete sincerity, “Why doesn’t so-and-so just kill themself?” They are upset by your negativity. And they feel helpless in the face of such intractable sadness.
A couple of nights ago, I chatted online with a total stranger who seemed really smart and really nice. I told her my story and asked what to do about facing or avoiding my dark constant companion, as I think of it.
She asked a few questions and then told me that grief was noble. She advised me to look for people I could help, and to honor my son however I could. Her words were a huge comfort.
I’m going to just feel noble instead of hating myself for being sad. I’m not going to dance and act happy, because I’m not a model of courage and positivism. And If I find out I have cancer, I’m going to make a big fuss and take to my bed. I wish America were like Africa, with shaman elders to dance around and perform some rituals for us who have lost our children or breasts or limbs or sanity.
At least there are wise strangers out there in cyberspace.