The Big C

April 1, 2009

I can’t stop thinking about last Friday’s article in The Post about Congresswoman Wasserman Shultz’s decision to keep her breast cancer a secret.  While I commend her for her strength and respect that, in the end, the decision was absolutely hers to make, something about the whole thing just doesn’t sit right with me.

I have been trying to figure out what it is and this is the best I can come up with:  In keeping it a secret I feel like she is encouraging others to do the same- that cancer, and illness in general, should be kept a secret and dealt with more or less alone.  

Now it doesn’t bother me that she didn’t tell colleagues or the press.  I think she was probably right to do that and I actually really agreed with the explanation that everything said about her in the press would have contained a mention of her cancer and taken away from the issue at hand. But keeping it a secret from family seems extreme.  I understand the desire to protect her children from the news but at the same time I can’t imagine that they didn’t realize something was wrong and may very well have been scared at the secrecy surrounding their mom being tired more, unable to hug them in the same way, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of the over-sharing parenting technique.  I don’t think parents should tell their kids about their sex lives, their marital issues, or their financial woes, but letting your kids know that mommy isn’t feeling well but is seeing good doctors, that seems like maybe it might assuage the fear that kids pick up on and then internalize.

Also, maybe it is just me, but I would want the support of the people I love.  I would want to be able to talk about it with people- and I am the queen of “it’s no big deal” martyrdom when it comes with illness and other hardships…

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