The Right To Fight

Lisa Adams

Lisa Adams

I recently came across a disturbing article written by Bill Keller of the New York Times, about a 44 year old breast cancer survivor named Lisa Adams, who “…has spent the last seven years in a fierce and very public cage fight with death.” .  (Read it here.)  One might assume from the title “Heroic Measures”, that this piece of journalism pays tribute to the fighting spirit of Lisa Adams,  but in thinking so, one would be wrong.  What Keller actually does in this controversial article is challenge Lisa Adams’ right to fight.

Keller seems to believe that there are two ways for a human being to die.  On one side of the fence are people like his father-in-law, who, rather than take aggressive treatments for cancer, was “…allowed to slip peacefully from life. His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America.”  On the other side of the fence are people like Lisa Adams who choose “…endless “heroic measures” that may or may not prolong life but assure the final days are clamorous, tense and painful. (And they often leave survivors bankrupt.)”  While Keller does not come out and blatantly state that there is a right way and a wrong way to die from cancer, his choice of words certainly send that message!   In case there is any doubt as to which side of the fence Keller is on, these words will surely banish them:  “It seemed to me, and still does, that there is something enviable about going gently.”

So if it came right down to it, which side of the fence would you be on?  Being a three year survivor of stage 3 breast cancer, which yields just over a 50% five year survival rate, I have had plenty of opportunity to ponder that question.   For me, it’s a no-brainer.  I would choose to fight like a girl!  While Keller seems to take offence to the “combat metaphor”, I can think of no better comparison.  Having endured three surgeries resulting in the loss of my left breast; four months of chemo therapy; and 25 radiation treatments, I can honestly say that I did not “journey” with cancer, I battled that bastard, and I continue to do so on a daily basis with drugs and significant lifestyle changes.   That is MY choice and I do not judge any person who chooses to refuse treatments, to decline follow up medication due to side effects, or to alter their lifestyle in any way after a cancer diagnosis. That is THEIR choice.  So why should Lisa Adams or anyone else be judged for exercising their right to fight?  One thing I know for sure, nobody gets out of this world alive.  When my time comes, I hope to go gently in the night and experience the grace of a peaceful death…..but death won’t get ME without a fight!







16 thoughts on “The Right To Fight

  1. Hi Florence,

    It still amazes me the ignorance of some people, and I mean that word…ignorance!! I think that every person on earth, if given the chance, should have a CHOICE….and that it is certainly that persons right not to have to defend their decision either way. I can only assume by his comments that he has not had to face that decision himself or watch on the sidelines and their child has to battle this disease.
    He makes it sound like death is a more honorable choice, well my opinion is that any moments that are spent fighting to share love, make memories, and try to find better cures for this god awful disease are well worth fighting for!
    He should try to understand that his father-in-law had his own reasons in deciding not to take treatments and that his choice should not be considered a more “honorable alternative”, it was just simply “his choice”.
    I commend every person who has the guts to fight this disease every day of their life, we as a family know the destruction and chaos that this disease inflicts. My only advice is to have faith, trust God and put all your problems in his hands. Take Care!

  2. 🙂 And is it really an and/or choice? He paints such a black and white contrast, you wouldn’t imagine varying stages, approaches and perspectives were even possible.

  3. 221/2 years ago I made the decision to fight for a less than 30% survival and I won with great family and community support, great doctors ,surgery, chemo and radiation and prayers of many. I’ve been cancer free 22 years. Was the fight worth it. You bet. along the way I’ve met many courageous people who fought and won and some who didn’t but everyone has the right to choose which path to take. fight on ladies, you’re making a difference in your life and all those who know you.

    • Good for you! There are MANY, MANY documented cases of people who were declared terminal and given very little time to live, who defied all odds. Keller makes reference in his article to “false hope”. In my opinion, there is no such thing as false hope, no more than there is such a thing as false love. Hope is hope and it is always good.

  4. Pingback: The Right To Fight Like A Girl | Misifusa's Blog

  5. Florence, I reblogged your post today in my own as yours ignited a fire within me. Thank you. Keller’s father-in-law chose to go peacefully, which I applaud as it is his choice. To me, Keller’s dismissive tone in regards to the choice that Lisa is making is what set me afire today. As a breast cancer survivor myself, I applaud Lisa’s determination to continue to find a cure and to live. I found Keller’s ignorance in comparing old male apples to young female oranges absurd.
    Here’s a link to my post ~ thanks for being such an amazing blogger and survivor!

  6. Great point about the apples and oranges! If I were an elderly man who felt that I had lived my life, I might decide to “go gently” as well…..but as a mother of young children, as Lisa is, I would want to hang on to every moment of life!

  7. Where do I start? This author is either the most callous ignorant person on the face of the earth, or wanted to write such a ridiculous and inappropriate article as to draw attention to himself. I think both apply in this case. Bravo Mr Keller!

  8. Florence, just found your blog (my friend at Misifusa’s Blog recommended it) and you are a wonderful writer! I have two autistic sons and write at Like you, I’m trying to help as many people as possible. I found your blog to be so inspiring, and am so happy my friend recommended it to me. I love your attitude toward cancer and autism, and look forward to reading more!

  9. Pingback: The Right To Fight Like A Girl / Cure Diva

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