A friend who is a writer and breast cancer survivor has been talking this morning about something I had not heard about, but now I have and I am appalled.
Two writers, one from the New York Times and one from The Guardian (and apparently a married couple) have decided to tag team a woman who writes about her stage 4 breast cancer named Lisa Bonchek Adams. Lisa writes about her cancer on her blog, twitter , and Facebook.
Lisa Bonchek Adams is living with a horrible stage 4 cancer that threatens to eat her alive from the inside like a twisted game of Ms. Pac Man. So if she wants to dye her hair purple and run around in chartreuse polka dots it is fine with me. But I digress.
Cancer isn’t a four letter word. It just makes you want to spout them occasionally. It isn’t a beauty pageant, either. It is raw, it is topsy-turvy and you experience emotions you did not even know you possessed.
I am one of the lucky ones. And I think dealing with all of this is scary enough some days. Lisa Bonchek Adams who I never read before today is dealing with so much more. So much more.
And for a husband and wife who write for different media outlets (him, Bill Keller The New York Times and her, Emma G. Keller The Guardian) to tag team this woman because of how she chooses to discuss or even deal with her cancer is just so off the charts wrong to me.
You see, it is not the fact that they have a differing opinion from Lisa Bonchek Adams on how she deals with her cancer, it’s the fact that these two write for the monster media conglomerates, are married, and oopsies are both writing about this? Talk about pillow talk! What I want to know is if from a journalistic point of view have they crossed an ethical line? In my humble opinion they have.
As I read their editorials, wow was I disappointed in the craft of journailsm. I am so sick of people who judge anyone who has or had breast cancer writing about the journey. They have absolutely NO idea what it is like to deal with this disease. NO idea. I have said it before and I will say it again that breast cancer is a very public disease with a very private face. You get it and you know millions have it or have had it, but there are some days you feel so alone like the only one on the planet who has it.
And then there is the emotional component. Some of us are alone when we get our diagnosis, some of us are parents and step parents to young children, and some of us are just embarking on the rest of our lives and quite young. You get a diagnosis and your head spins the first time. You go through surgery, treatment, post-treatment and your head spins more on occasion. Every mammogram and blood test and gynecologist visit the rest of your life will always give you pause, even if you are positive. Because as breast cancer survivors we always live with the secret fear of “will it come back?” We live with medical histories that are now stamped “cancer”.
I know many women where the cancer has come back. Sometimes as breast cancer, sometimes as other cancers. So for a pair of seasoned journalists to take pot shots like this at a woman dealing with 3 children, a family, and stage 4 breast cancer? Wow. Words almost escape me. Then they don’t. Here is the PG-13 version: J-E-R-K-S.
Writing about my breast cancer was a saving grace. It was a and is a comfort. Because I have had the ability to do this, write about my journey with breast cancer, it was an extremely productive coping mechanism for me. Being able to get it out and write it down kept me moving forward. And when I have a down day, I still look back to see how far I have come.
I am proud of myself for being able to share this journey on a blog and so are the people who love me. Through this blog I have met some amazing people. I have also met some through Twitter, because umm yes, I Tweet too.
As a woman who has had breast cancer I can’t read about the disease every day. I can’t even talk about it every day. As someone who is more than 2 1/2 years cancer free at this point, the reality is I might not think about it every day, talk about it every day, but it is part of me. It doesn’t define me, but it is part of me.
Not too long ago, someone who used to be a very important part of my life and who was a huge support to me when I was going through treatment left a comment saying my continuing to write about this breast cancer stuff was “milking it.” I don’t see it that way so I told her so. I believe she said that to be deliberately hurtful and I am sorry for her that she feels the need to do that because she is someone whom I will always remember fondly to the end of days.
Matthew 7:1-3 King James Version
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
But people are definitely weird when it comes to dishing cancer. Some people are super secret about it, some people are living it out loud. I was, and continue to be open about it. I do that partially out of respect for the kind and caring women I know who were open about the disease when I received my diagnosis. They wanted me to feel less alone and helped demystify the terror that comes with a diagnosis. It is the worst kind of scary unknown. Because of these women who shared with me I was able to get through and remain positive. And I have told you before, some days that positive thing was a very hard goal to keep.
I don’t know this woman Lisa Bonchek Adams who was targeted by this husband and wife pair of seasoned journalists from Adam’s Housecat. I never read a word of anything she has written until this morning. When I heard about this I dropped everything I was doing around the house and stopped to read her.
To Lisa whom I have never met I say “Brava”. You keep on doing what you are doing. And what is that saying? F them if they can’t take a joke? That too.
And to journalist Emma G Keller and her hubby Bill Keller with their career defining moments here, I hope neither of you ever becomes ill. I don’t think you could handle it. And it must be a pretty slow and pathetic news day when journalists like yourself have to target a woman with breast cancer.
Some of my mentors are journalists. Thank god none of them would do something like this.
Here are the articles:
The Guardian: Forget funeral selfies. What are the ethics of tweeting a terminal illness?
Emma G Keller theguardian.com, Wednesday 8 January 2014 13.40 EST
Lisa Bonchek Adams is dying. She has Stage IV breast cancer and now it’s metastasized to her bones, joints, hips, spine, liver and lungs. She’s in terrible pain. She knows there is no cure, and she wants you to know all about what she is going through. Adams is dying out loud. On her blog and, especially, on Twitter.
She has tweeted over 100,000 times about her health. Lately, she tweets dozens of times an hour. Her Twitter followers are a mixed bag. Some are also battling cancer or work in the medical field, others seem to follow Adams’ life story like a Reality TV show….You can read all about the details of her disease and treatment on her blog right up until about this morning, which is when she posted her latest entry, only a few hours after the previous one.
The New York Times: The Opinion Pages|Op-Ed Columnist Heroic Measures
JAN. 12, 2014 Bill Keller
LISA BONCHEK ADAMS has spent the last seven years in a fierce and very public cage fight with death. Since a mammogram detected the first toxic seeds of cancer in her left breast when she was 37, she has blogged and tweeted copiously about her contest with the advancing disease. She has tweeted through morphine haze and radiation burn….When my wife, who had her own brush with cancer and who has written about Lisa Adams’s case for The Guardian, introduced me to the cancer blog, my first thought was of my father-in-law’s calm death. Lisa Adams’s choice is in a sense the opposite. Her aim was to buy as much time as possible to watch her three children grow up. So she is all about heroic measures. She is constantly engaged in battlefield strategy with her medical team. There is always the prospect of another research trial to excite her hopes. She responds defiantly to any suggestion that the end is approaching…..Steven Goodman, an associate dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, said he cringes at the combat metaphor, because it suggests that those who choose not to spend their final days in battle, using every weapon in the high-tech medical arsenal, lack character or willpower.
*Please Note* The Guardian has removed the article as of this afternoon. I found an online archive of it but I don’t know how long it will stay up. CLICK HERE
Did I miss something? Are they being forced somehow to read her tweets and blog? Bullies.
They aren’t being forced anymore than anyone is forced to read what we write. Bullies is a good description. As a husband and wife journalistic duo, also need to ponder the ethically wonky of it all
I like this piece on gawker about it
And the Nation:
PS The Guardian removed the article. Here is an internet archive of it
I’m glad The Guardian removed the piece and would love to see the New York Times do the same. Even better would be if both writers and their editors personally and publicly apologized to Lisa.
They should apologize to her. Ends up she is part of the pink Moon group I am part of. But the Times won’t apologize, they’re busy trying to justify what they published
I follow Lisa’s blog and I appreciate what she does because it brings awareness and education to those who can relate and want to learn. No one is forced to read her blog if they don’t want to. At the same time, attacking someone for wanting to share her experiences with the public is very low and it lacks empathy. This woman has decided to share such an intimate life experience with us but it is also her way of coping. It is probably therapeutic for her to write about these things. People will always have an opinion until they are faced with the challenge. My respects go out for Lisa. And thank you for posting about this. We live in a very sad world, don’t we?