Today I came across the following on one of my favorite sites, makesmethink.com (MMT):
“Today, on my mom’s side of the family, the majority of the women have had breast cancer – many of them multiple times. But none of them have died from it. The amazing beauty and strength of the women in my family MMT.” -Sandy
Instinctively, I can’t help but scrunch my eyebrows at this one. While I agree that it is a truly wonderful thing for Sandy’s family to have been blessed by survival, I think that the construction of her idea gives off the wrong idea and falls victim to the temptations of the triumph narrative.
Sandy draws a direct link between the survival of these women, their external appearance, and their inner strength. She paints the image of a group of attractive women whose strength allowed them to beat the odds and conquer cancer. She claims that it is these characteristics of these individuals that “makes me think.” My question is, what is the correlation between these characteristics and their successful evasion of death?
This also seems to undermine the experience of all the women who don’t survive breast cancer; does this mean that those who don’t survive did not have enough will to live?
It’s quite possible that I am entirely overthinking this, but I think that this exemplifies the importance of language as an expression of our understandings of illness. While language can be incredibly empowering, there are times when it can have subtle implications unbeknownst to us.