Sunday, November 18, 2018

American Optimism and Breast Cancer Commercials

I can't imagine more of a fun challenge than metastatic breast cancer--going by the various American commercials advertising Ibrance, the stuff that's keeping me alive (oh, with the shot of Fulvestrant in each buttock every month, the needle as long as a chopstick). I should be grateful, and I am--all this is much nicer than the chemo infusions I had before, which made me sleepy and nonfunctional and are allegedly chemically cousin to mustard gas. But the idea that cancer is merely pesky, that you can forget all about it--ahh, the commercials make that seem possible: "Alice calls it her new normal . . . because a lot has changed--but a lot hasn't." Or this line: "Metastatic breast cancer never quits . . . so neither do I!" Go, prizefighter! The voice-over tells you the stuff is great at "delaying disease progression" but no one can tell you how many golden drops of life that delay contains. Eight ounces? Just a teaspoon? How about the Atlantic ocean? I'm reminded of Thor getting tricked into saying he could finish off a whole drinking horn . . . only to discover that it was attached to the sea. I want that ocean--the ocean of life. The days when I never thought in terms of limited time, but in terms of forevers. I assumed a great deal. I assumed I'd live to see my children married, to become a grandma, to write a few more books, to get some second honeymoons with my husband. But what if the Ibrance only works for another few months? Then there's the Verzenio:
Yeah, cancer's tough, but so am I! Okay, got the message. You can look young and gorgeous even though all these meds are for postmenopausal women. Meanwhile, enjoy forgetting all about cancer. If I forget something that big, it's likelier a sign of brain rot, one of the side effects listed on the back of the package. The drug companies don't use that term, but when your estrogen's chemically compelled to dry up the first thing to go is memory. Am I complaining that big Pharma is really inventing big ways to prolong my life? Of course not. I'm inclined to find perkiness suspect, is all. I'd go for a commercial with dark humor or wit. I'd go for anything that doesn't call cancer "a journey." I'd go for something other than battle imagery, with the women as the lone fighter against the big bad monster. The underdog kicking the giant "to the curb." That American underdog stuff is old. I want something new: in the meds department it should be sweet, chewable, painless and entirely lacking in side effects. In the cure department it should be, well, complete.

5 comments:

  1. Well said. After the Keytruda nearly killed my brother (he did die a few weeks later, but peacefully rather than violently -- his own immune system wasn't attacking him), I couldn't bear to watch those ads. There's so much b.s. attached to these advertisements. The drug companies are making big bucks, but the number of people who really do fantastically are small. Most people get a few more months, not many more years, as the ads imply. Doctors make a lot of money prescribing these treatments, and hope springs eternal in America, where people hope to live forever.

    I think the key is to live each day fully, because you can step off a curb tomorrow and die. Cancer makes you realize the need to live in the moment like virtually nothing else (except having people you love die). For you, though, I am glad to see that breast cancer treatments have become really effective. I do think many women live for years with Stage 4 BC, something that isn't at all true with most other metastasized cancers. Methinks there are more books, more vacations, and all those good things.

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  2. A genetic testing for breast cancer gene is a blood test that checks to see if you have a genetic mutation that may increase your risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

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  3. Have had the test! Thanks. There are several. See other posts for more information.

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  4. I enjoy your blog! Just wanted to mention, krystina Haje, I’m probably not spelling her name right, from that commercial and the tv show Head of the Class, really does have metastatic breast cancer. Im glad at least in these commercials they are showing real women that are living with it.

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  5. Thanks for telling me! I didn't know that, and I'm glad they're using real women who have breast cancer. It's just that relentlessly upbeat tone . . . I prefer the ironic twist, myself. Do come back with more comments anytime.

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