Sunday, September 4, 2011

the pregnancy game

Late last week, there was a short-lived Facebook "game" that stirred the pot in this community. If you haven't read about it by now, people were posting status updates that said something to the effect of, "I'm ___ weeks along, and I'm craving ___." Now I have absolutely no idea how this got started or exactly what the rules were, but none of that matters. The game upset me.

The strange thing is, I was never truly upset about the pregnancy part of it. Yes, as someone who is infertile, it stung to read the fake pregnancy announcements on Facebook. I've made it clear that I don't find fake pregnancy announcements amusing. Not on April Fools Day. Not on any day. Real pregnancy announcements sting enough. Fake ones only add salt to the wound.

Instead, it upset me more that this "game" was supposedly meant to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer.

As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I am not amused.

This year marks the 11th anniversary of my mom's fight against breast cancer. Some of you longtime readers know the story. For those who don't, I'll retell it as best I can.

My mom found the lump in the lymph node under her arm during a routine self-exam in early 2000. When she first went to the doctor, he was worried she might have an infection - causing the lymph node to swell. He placed her on antibiotics and told her to keep an eye on it. When the lump didn't go away, it became clear she needed surgery. On February 14, 2000, my mom underwent a lumpectomy to remove both the lymph node and the tumor. Four days later, she was diagnosed with cancer. It was stage 2.

I was 14 years old, and I remember having to carefully walk my mom to the bathtub when her chemo treatments became so painful that she could barely bend her knees. I remember sleeping on the floor of her room in a sleeping bag when she was too sick to be alone in the middle of the night. I remember her losing all of her hair, picking out scarves and hats for her to wear when we went out in public, and giving the death look to the people who stared at her in stores - as if they'd never seen someone with cancer before.

I also remember when her oncologist told her she was cancer-free. It was one of the happiest days of my life. 11 years later, she's still not "out of the woods." She goes in for regular scans and blood work. The tiniest spot on a CT scan gets her doctor ordering 10 more tests, just to be sure. I'm not sure the fear of the cancer coming back will ever go away for her. Or for me. Or for my brother. At 14, it was my wake-up call that my time with her wasn't forever.

And last year, at 24, I faced the same fear when I went in to have the tumor removed from my right breast. The fear of a life cut way too short. The fear of not having enough time to do everything I wanted to do.

Now maybe you can understand why I felt angry that someone would start such an immature, childish game to bring awareness to such a serious disease. I'm not sure this person considered the feelings of the survivor community. Does this person realize that many breast cancer survivors are also infertile - unable to become pregnant after going through massive amounts of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, or even hysterectomies? Better yet, does this person realize that, by posting a Facebook status, they are doing absolutely nothing to help find a cure for breast cancer?

That was the point behind my own, retaliatory status on Thursday:

Fake pregnancy Facebook statuses don't lead to a cure for breast cancer. You know what does? Self exams. Donating to legitimate organizations like the American Cancer Society. Getting a mammogram. Playing a status game on Facebook didn't save my mom's life. I'm pretty sure it won't save anyone else's, either.

Posting your bra color. Posting that you're pregnant. None of it matters. If you really give a damn about breast cancer, do something about it. Because in the three minutes it takes someone to play that Facebook game, another woman in this country dies from breast cancer. Another woman loses her life to an illness that we could prevent. Breast cancer is not a game. Breast cancer is real, and it hurts. I don't expect people to understand unless they've been through it as a survivor or a caregiver. But I do expect people to be sensitive toward it.

So for once, I'm not the angry infertile. Instead, I'm just the angry daughter who doesn't want to see people make a mockery over the hell her mom went through.

My absolute favorite organization that benefits cancer research is the American Cancer Society. Please visit this link to learn more about what they are doing for cancer research, how they aid cancer patients on a personal level, and what they are doing in your area in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

26 comments:

Pix said...

Totally.

Kate said...

Great post Katie. Cancer is not a joke, and I wish more people took awareness and advocacy serious. Posting something on Facebook doesn't help cancer survivors, doesn't help those yet to be diagnosed. If someone wanted to post warning signs or a link to donate, I'd be much more understanding. Instead, they're using the cover of a "game" to draw attention to themselves.

Erin said...

Amen. I find these games infuriating. They do nothing to raise awareness and I think they are demeaning to cancer survivors. Donate, volunteer, DO SOMETHING if you want to advocate for cancer patients and survivors...but don't play these meaningless games.

Brave IVF Girl said...

My mom had breast cancer at age 42, when I was 12. This was in 1987. Thankfully the mastectomy got all the cancer.

So yes, I'm mad about it from both perspectives. I'm glad none of my FB friends have joined the meme.

Glad your mom is ok too.

Rebecca said...

Nicely said!!

FyreFry5 said...

Great post. I also posted a similar status, encouraging people to actually DO something instead of giggle immaturely at the idea of pregnancy cravings, bra colors, or fooling people into thinking they're having sex somewhere interesting when really they were talking about their purse. None of these things increase awareness. They just make a mockery of the cause, and cheapen the experience of cancer patients and survivors. Interestingly, my status cause quite the ruckus on FB when some of my FB friends didn't understand my frustration, and accused me of being anti-advocacy. Right...

aunTelcia said...

I am way to out of the fb loop I suppose, but still I have not the foggiest idea of what that game had anything to do with breast cancer. And I'm surprised at the ignorance of those people, because really, it's not fun OR funny, just immature like you said.
My favorite cancer fighting organization isn't an organization. They are individual doctors doing individual research and writing and educating patients and reaping no profit. There is a variety of these doctors with integrity, but they are not as famous as multi-billion dollar organizations. To name the ones I've found, with most proliferative evidence:
Dr. T. Colin Campbell
Dr. Dean Ornish
Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.
Dr. Neal Barnard
Dr. John A. McDougall


read up, they're awesome!

Whitney Anderson said...

Great post and well said. Hugs.

Danielle said...

YES.

foxy said...

I've been having a hard time with those fb posts too, but you have such a great post to explain why you don't like them. I've just been at a loss for words as to how to explain my feelings, so instead I've just stayed quiet.

ps - I want to be your facebook friend! :) Not that I'm actually on fb very often but I do think that you are simply fantastic!

Cherm29 said...

I'm with ya there!! I had the same sinking feeling when I saw someone post that and I agree it's NOT the way to bring awareness. Your suggestions are so much more proactive. I just found your blog. Thank you for sharing your detailed timeline. I too have suffered from several large cysts that have burst but NOONE has ever done anything about it except tell me to get on BCPs. Do your docs think the pituitary imbalance is causing the cycsts secondary to hormone imbalance? Hope I'm not asking to many personal questions...GL to you on your journey!

Jen Has A Pen said...

Very well said. I have so many infertile friends on FB that my heart lept for them when I saw the first two posts like that (obviously not knowing what all the hype was about at the time). I can't understand the joke of it all, or the implication that you are somehow raising awareness about breast cancer. I think sometimes people just don't know any better and I think your post was enlightening. I hope, after reading this, people will put their money where their FB status is and stop playing games disguised as charitable efforts.

Chelle (hanwayink) said...

well said.

Ranae said...

I completely agree with you. My reasons for disliking "the game" were different than yours, but the hurt was much the same. I also blogged about my feelings towards this being an effective way to promote awareness of something so serious. You're welcome to drop in and read what I said, if you want to. Thanks for being so eloquent, and know that I'll be keeping you and your family in my prayers.

erika said...

I totally did not get that status message, and it turns out I was not alone, confused about it.
I would say it was a poor idea, whoever came up with it she or he had obviously had no experience with either breast cancer or other women's issues:(

Thanks for the post, Katie!

m said...

Yes, to everything you said.

As a survivor and an infertile I too posted my own retaliatory update (and ranted about this on my blog - how can you not) and I've seen many more pop up. With links to ACS, Fertile Hope and other places.

I still have no idea where the "craving" idea emerged, but I LOVE that both the IF AND the survivor communities have reclaimed it, cried bullshit, and redirected it in ways that matter.

Maria said...

Beautifully written! I was actually upset by both the infertility thing AND the fact that there was no awareness raised from that ridiculous game. I had to write about it as well and change my status to reflect some *real* education.

Kelly said...

This "game" bothered me a lot too. Your response was spot on!

Anonymous said...

I was led here by my cousin posting a link to this post in anger at that "game". I had no idea what it was about but now I'm instantly furious. I'm also the daughter of a mom who has "survived" breast cancer (only to get two other cancers from the radiation, which are under control.) and this was easily the most useless and offensive status game to show up on FB yet.

BTW I appreciate your candid writing about infertility. If/when I have my own baby I 98% likely not to be able to breast feed, and I'd like to punch the teeth out of every woman who ignorantly derides moms using formula. my husband and I have also talked about adoption over IVF/prolonged drug treatments, in case it comes to that. you have all my love and support.

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree. You may not like the method, but it's hard to deny that it gets attention. The old saying, any press is good press applies here. It isn't making fun of the disease or anything, so the only question is the effectiveness. Think what you will of how well it worked, but I certainly wouldn't have read your article, and gotten the insight it contains, if not for this little game.

Anonymous said...

My mum had breast cancer, however I am not insulted by these games, I think some people should just chill out a bit

Tammy said...

Wow, I must've missed that one. The sad thing is, most people probably DON'T realize that many people who have been through breast cancer are also infertile. I was saying to my husband the other day how I never understood or cared about infertility until I went through it; I never understood or worried much about cancer until I lost dear family and friends to it. I've realized that just because an issue (any issue) doesn't "mean" something to me today doesn't mean it couldn't tomorrow. It's important to always be aware of what surrounds us and to be sensitive to others, even if we don't fully comprehend ourselves. Facebook can be a great way to connect to people; unfortunately, it can also be a great way to be insensitive, to not think things through, to forget how to communicate and take action on a real level. I'm so sorry for what you, your mom, and your family went through, and I am so glad to hear that your mom and you are ok. I'm also sorry for the insensitive things that women were posting last week. Good for you for making your own feelings known!

Rita said...

Well said, Katie. I found the game revolting. Not just for all the reasons you said (which are reason enough), but for all of the people who were fooled into thinking their loved ones were pregnant. I saw some idiot who posted "the game" and had her mother and grandmother freaking out with joy and saying how wonderful a new baby in the family would be after the recent loss of her father. How is it funny to make your friends and family feel like fools? It's mean spirited.

Logical Libby said...

Whenever I see "games" or "repost this" in statuses I always wonder what the people involved are really doing for their causes. Usually, nothing.

Well said.

makingmonkeysoup.com said...

This is so well said. I get irked by all of these little, "this is for cancer" posts people put up, the majority wouldn't know who to donate to, or what to do with someone who was sick if it happened to them.

It also seems that every year there is the "put a cartoon character as your profile picture for child abuse" round that comes. Every year, I just shake my head. This is how child abusers profile children. This is how they get kids to be their "friend."

Hillary Felt said...

As a publicity gimmick, it still did the trick even if it was insensitive to certain demographics. Even my friend that works for a breast reduction surgery practice knows that there are certain lines that will be crossed in order to gain attention. That's just the way it is and fighting it is a war of attrition.