The Daily Breast

Starting up a new site.

I’ll be blogging over at The Daily Breast from here on out.

See you there.

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A Portion of This Paper…

So I mentioned that I’ve been reading a lot (more) about cancer; I’m currently writing a seminar paper on 21st century women’s cancer narratives, which I’ll be turning into a conference paper to present on a panel at the Michigan Women’s Studies Association conference–“Leading the Way: Feminism, Education, and Social Change”– in March. I presented a version of this in class yesterday. Abstract below.

A Portion of This Paper Will Help Fight Breast Cancer: Women’s Cancer Narratives and Twenty-First Century Survivor Subjectivity

 The rise of the breast cancer narrative as a popular genre evolves largely out of the establishment, in 1985—and the subsequent commercial propagation—of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: an annual cultural phenomenon sponsored by the pharmeceutical company AstraZeneca. The genre’s initial emergence in the 80s and 90s marks the emergence of a new subjectivity—the “politicized patient”—and a new genre: a Foucauldian “counternarrative to medical discourse.” [1]  In the twenty-five years since its inception, breast cancer awareness culture has moved from a model of a politicized patient to an increasingly commercialized one; adopted by corporate culture as a “cause,” breast cancer becomes a brand name. In the twenty-first century, the breast cancer narrative therefore demands not only a counternarrative to medical discourse, but a counternarrative to the commercial discourse in which women’s stories are used as useful marketing tools for the cultivation of the uniform subjectivity of “survivor.” Thirty years on from the publication of Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor and Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals, a second generation of female cancer patient subjectivity persists: a sentimentally politicized patienthood, carrying with it a ubiquitously commercialized, normalized ur-narrative of “survival.” In this paper, I explore the ways in which American women’s cancer narratives operate in the post-feminist twenty-first century, particularly how the “survivor” subjectivity is constructed, or deconstructed, against the backdrop of American commercial culture.

[1] See Lisa Diedrich, Treatments: Language, Politics, and the Culture of Illness. (Minneapolis: Univ of Minnesota Press, 2007), pp. 25-6.

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Cancer? I laughed so hard I cried.

I’ve been reading a lot about cancer lately. As in, a lot more than usual. More on this later. For now, I just want to take a moment here to publicly profess my love for Tania Katan. I’ll admit, I was a little put off by the cupcake on the cover of her memoir, My One Night Stand With Cancer, when I picked it up alongside Geralyn Lucas’ Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy (which I’ll feign to reserve judgement on, as I’ve not yet read it).

But Tania. Katan. Kicks. Ass. Jewish, queer, BRCA-positive, comic, writer, two time breast cancer survivor (at 21 and 31). And she’s turned it into a one-woman show: Saving Tania’s Privates. Trailer:

I love women with cancer. I love funny women. Funny women with cancer…amazing.

Which is why I’m sort of enamored with this girl–author of the blog Cancer is Hilarious and the forthcoming “world’s awesomest comic book,” Terminally Illin’.


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Welcome to my morning

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On Jill

Per yesterday’s post, I randomly decided to check up on Jill’s blog at noon yesterday.

Today I find that, according to a post by her sister, Jill died two hours later.

Jill was diagnosed with Stage II triple negative breast cancer in 2004. It returned in 2009, having metastatized to her brain, lungs, and rib. She leaves behind a husband and a teenage son.

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I’m in a study carrel at the University of Michigan library, and I want to scream and cry and kick the four walls of my enclosure.  

Yesterday during a break from class I opened up my New York Times homepage to find Elizabeth Edwards had died. This morning I woke up to Elizabeth Edwards’ voice on NPR, from an interview in which she calmly accepts her own death. She could not believe, she said, in a God who allows senseless tragedies to happen. A sixteen year old who dies in a car crash. And breast cancer. The swift erasure of so many women.

Today I procrastinate during paper writing by checking in with the blogosphere, to find that one of  the breast cancer bloggers from my blogroll, Jill, who has been living with Stage 4 triple-negative breast cancer, is in the hospital and not doing at all well. Her family is asking for prayers.

Breast cancer, I fucking hate you.

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In our time (at our age): Facts & Figures

1. “During 2002-2006, women aged 20-24 had the lowest incidence rate, 1.4 cases per 100,000 women.”

2. “The 5-year relative survival rate is slightly lower among women diagnosed with breast cancer before age 40 (83%) compared to women diagnosed at ages 40 or older (90%). This may be due to tumors diagnosed at younger ages being more aggressive and less responsive to treatment.”

3. “Women with breast cancer also are at risk for developing a second primary cancer. There is a strong relationship between younger age at diagnosis of the primary breast cancer and risk of subsequent cancer. Women diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer (age <40) have almost a 3-fold increased risk of any subsequent cancer, with a 4.5-fold increased risk of subsequent breast cancer.”

Source: American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Facts and Figures, 2009-2010.

The oncologist has spoken to the gynecologist re: me.

Oncologist: the gynecologist thinks you’re depressed. Are you?

Is it any wonder?

She writes me a prescription for an antidepressant that causes headaches and tremors and hands me a radiology requisition for a chest x-ray as I’ve been complaining of chest/rib pain. I walk down to Radiology, then turn and walk out of the hospital. I tucked the x-ray requisition, along with the antidepressant prescription, into a copy of Foucault’s The Birth of the Clinic, where both have remained since.

I’m tired of tests and drugs.

My problem, I told her, is not a seratonin imbalance or a residual, inexplicable melancholy. My problem is cancer.

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