Awareness: Autism and Breast Cancer

When my son, Ben, was 3 years old, I knew there was something wrong.  Having nearly 20 years of experience as an Educational Psychologist, I analyzed the possible diagnoses: cognitive delay, learning disability, autism, or some other syndrome?  Whatever they called it would not change the reality of his deficits.   When he was finally diagnosed with autism in April, 2008, I breathed a sigh of relief.  If he was going to wear some label to describe his lack of communication and socialization skills then the autism label gave him the best chances of getting the supports he needed.  There is a huge awareness campaign around the autism spectrum disorders these days. Awareness brings lobbying which brings money which brings solutions.   For the past 4 years we have had a trained ABA therapist come to our home every day to work with Ben, paid for by the Government.  That is what comes of increasing awareness.

October, of course, is breast cancer awareness month.  Many people question the value of raising awareness…….and just what it is that we are raising awareness of.   Personally, I think that awareness is a good thing, and even though I too sometimes feel sick at the sight of so much pink, the reality is, resources will go to where awareness is the greatest.   I do understand why some people take issue with the pink campaign.  It is a fact that this campaign focuses mainly on the “survivors”, while sometimes downplaying those who are in stage 4 or who die of the disease.  However that is a reflection of the society we live in.  People do not want to be reminded of the “sad stuff” and are more likely to support the cause when they see the “success stories.”  (That said, I have to give accolades to our local Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation who has put the spot light on stage 4 sur-thrivor, Dana Blackwood Cox, and our  local Canadian Cancer Society who recognizes the contributions of stage 4 sur-thrivor Dulcie Osmond.)

Marie, at Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer, brings awareness to the issues of those who are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives once their cancer treatments have ended and there is no evidence of disease (NED) in their bodies.  She wrote a very interesting post this week, in which she states: “Someone contacted me during the past week to say that my involvement with the NED retreat upset her, as to her mind, it was excluding those who have metastatic cancer.”      In my opinion, Marie should be commended, not criticized,  for the work that she does around cancer… matter what the body part affected or the stage of the disease!  Why do we as a community of people affected by cancer set up these “points of contention”?

Here is an idea:  let us all just live and let live.  If I want to call myself a survivor, then let me call myself a survivor.  It is not meant to show disrespect to anyone who has died of the disease. If I want to wear pink, let me wear pink.  It is not meant to offend anyone with a diagnosis of breast cancer. If I want to see the gifts or blessings or perks in having cancer, then let me see it this way.  It is not meant to offend those of you who do not share my attitude.  If I want to help people who are living the NED life, then do not criticize me, it is not meant to de-value those who are living with cancer.  In the final analysis, we all want the same thing: a world that is free from cancer (or at least a body that is free from cancer).  Let our differences NOT divide us!

6 thoughts on “Awareness: Autism and Breast Cancer

  1. Yes, yes, and YES!! To each, her own. No one way is the right way – we all have our own path to travel and we should encourage each other along the way. Great words, Florence!

  2. Awareness has helped bring our disease out of the closet and there is nothing wrong with that. If it has been commercialized, well, that means people are paying attention, and hopefully a cure (or a prevention) will be found one day. I’m not a big fan of “Save the TaTas” but most of the other stuff has led to more research,and more research means more lives saved.

  3. Exactly! I’m so tired of contention. It’s just a distraction to finding a cure. And if you’re living and breathing, you’re a survivor or whatever you want to call it.

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