Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blaming the Victim

A woman recently made a comment on my blog, saying that my diet probably contributed to my cancer. She said, I can't imagine trying to get well from cancer by stuffing myself with crap-food... full of man-made preservative-laden junk that probably helped you to get cancer in the first place.I corrected her, as a) there is no proof that anything in your diet will cause breast cancer, b) my diet has always been extremely healthy with few processed foods, c) my post was not about recovering from cancer (as I know I won't) but recovering from colitis, d) it had a large dose of humor and exaggeration and wasn't meant to be taken seriously, and:

e) I will not tolerate any form of "blame the victim" on my blog.

That "policy" is not for me, but for all the freshly diagnosed women who find this blog and are looking for truthful answers and hope. I don't want them to blame themselves more than newbies to cancer already do - and trust me, they do.  It's part of the process that newly diagnosed women go through. "Why did I get this?  What did I do wrong? Was it that wild weekend I had in 1978?"

When I was told I had breast cancer, I was shocked, and looked for reasons as most do.  I said to my oncologist, "but, I have no risk factors."  He looked at me and said, "You do.  You were born a woman."

That was all I needed to hear to stop the blame game.  It wasn't my fault.

It's not yours either.

On my blog, even if a person did contribute to their cancer, let's say they have lung cancer and smoked, this is a blame-free zone.  Nobody deserves cancer, no matter what they did, and nobody deserves that sort of guilt.  What's done is done and any discussion should not be about blame, but about moving forward.

I'd have left well-enough alone, but the woman who made the comment has a blog, and she wrote about me there (posted in it's entirety below).  Her contention was that I have no common sense for not taking her advice.  She ignored the fact that I was under the guidance of a professional nutritionist, and that if I ate the way she wanted, it would not be digestible for me and could send me back to the hospital.

In a bit of hypocrisy too delicious for me to pass up, she also did not mention her professed love of whiskey,  her love of tattoos (both of which cause health risks of their own) and then after a rant calling me names, sums up her blog by stating that she believes that no creature "with nerve-endings" deserve abuse.

She must know about my neuropathy.

Oh, and by the way, all this attacking is okay because she knows people with cancer. Presumably ones who did not follow her advice, otherwise (ta-da!) they would not have cancer.

I started to wonder why she thought the way she thought, and why she thought it was okay to trash me the way she did.  Instead of continuing a back and forth conversation in the comments section, she ranted about me on her blog - where you can't comment.

What drove her?

After giving it some thought,  I think I understand why she did what she did.  She is playing "Blame the Victim."  While she did it in a much harsher and classless way than most, she is not alone in wanting to create distance from a cancer patient - or really, any sort of victim.

Blaming the victim is a popular game in this country.  You've done it, and I have done it.  I've first noticed this years ago, long before I got cancer.   Somebody would get in a car accident, and it would come up in conversation.  People would say, "Oh, they were probably drunk."  When it turns out alcohol wasn't involved, conversation would turn to statements like, "Well, I'd never be out that late at night." "I'd don't go on that highway."  "I'd never drive that kind of car."   A home invasion robbery turns into, "Why did they open the door?"  "Why did they have cash in their house?" "That would never happen in my neighborhood."

I still find myself instinctively doing it when I read a story in the newspaper, especially one that scares me, such as one involving an accident with a child.  But, now I remind myself that I don't know the complete story and horrible things happen to good people through no fault of their own.

Perhaps, with so much cancer in her family, this woman is terrified, and is trying to control the uncontrollable the only way she thinks she knows how - through diet.

This "blame the victim" is a protective mechanism we instinctively do to allow us to believe we are immune from random tragedy; that it can't happen to us.

But, it can.  The woman who wrote that blog post can get cancer, just as I did.  The truth is, nobody knows why people get cancer.  Sure, there is a genetic component for a very few.  But for most of us, it's just bad luck.  It's probably a complex combination of genetics, external environment, internal environment, diet, proteins in cells, hormones,and a million other body and DNA-specific things that in any given combination, can cause an error in cell division and thus, cancer.

There is just no answer.  People don't like not having answers, but if it was as easy as eating green, leafy, organic vegetables - there would be no cancer.

While an extreme example, people like the woman who blamed me for my cancer because of my supposed diet are no different than the fools of the Westboro Baptist Church who picket the funerals of our service men and women because of the policies of the military.   They blame the victim for something not their fault, for merely joining the military, and feel justified in their cruelness.

They are the ones to feel sorry for, not those of us with cancer.


I will put her post here just for context.   This is it in its entirety so don't go looking for it and give her any hits, and she doesn't allow comments so there is no reason to try to spark a discussion with her.


"Common sense is not so common." ~Voltaire

I swear to gawd on high that there's no truer words ever spoken on this earth than the ones above.

I was going through some blogs that I read on a pretty steady basis & read one from a woman who has Stage IV cancer. Yeah, she's been through hell & back, as most cancer patients have been. My dad, my brother, my 41yo cousin, many friends, many family, many acquaintainces have had it. Some died from it & some haven't. This particular blogger is fighting for her life at the moment & is most recently trying to recover from a difficult surgery & C-diff. She weighs 90 lbs & is trying to gain weight... by eating processed cheese food-like substances, candy, canned preservative-ladened salt-ladened soups, and other really nutritious foods like that (read with sarcasm added!). I suggested to her, in the comment section of her blog entry, that she might do well to try fresh organic leafy green vegetable juices & fresh organic fruit juices & stay away from the chemically processed crap and sugar. After all that's probably what helped cause her cancer to begin with, in my viewpoint.

She responded like a raging bull, accusing me of saying that she caused her own cancer.

I give up on stupidity & stupid people. If this chick thinks she can recover well from her recent surgery, the C-diff, & cancer in general by eating bon-bons, there's nothing I can do or say to change her mind. If someone in this condition thinks that Fannie May & Progresso will make life all better, I wish her well.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but "well" is the last thing she's going to be, eating shit like she's eating. But why should I care? I dunno... I'm a sucker for stupid people, I guess.

Her profile:

Feminist lover of nature, land preservation, hard music, good whiskey & tattoos. Warrior woman for many causes, including the right of all living things with nerve endings to be free of abuse & torture, both human & animal alike. On topics I'm passionate about it's best not to cross me. I'm knowledgable about those subjects thus you will never win. Plus I can get very ugly!


  1. Isn't she just a ball of I'm sitting here waiting for my appointment with my oncologist tomorrow to see if my tumor markers are still high and what a bone scan turned up...if anything.
    Who needs to read that crap and why are people so into thinking "they know best".
    I got cancer, I've done everything I can to get heathly...but gosh darn I will have my bacon and I will go eat my favorite frozen yogurt!!!

    1. Well? How are you doing and what did your scan show? I'm hoping nothing but healthy bone!

  2. You have already given this woman too much power. Let her go!

    I didn't cause my cancer. You didn't cause yours. Sometimes you just get the wrong toss of the dice. I fully assume that others will blame me too. It is just so much easier to do "blame the patient" than fully let the idea that cancer can truly happen to anyone is too jolting to the system.

    Hope that your healing is continuing and that everyday brings you more strength. *susan*

  3. What a nut job. She doesn't deserve the time you took to consider her motivations.

  4. You are all right. I've long thought about the "blame the victim" via the newspaper story before but never had a reason to write about it until now. I probably should have done it without mentioning this woman but it was fresh on my mind. We just had a poor child killed in our town and my immediate thought was "that could never happen to me." But, it could have. It's a natural instinct to do that and we all need to try to get away from it.

    But, I guess I shouldn't have used her as an example - it's what I get for being a fast writer. :)

  5. Oh, but PS. I won't be getting in any blog war with her and won't be reading her blog again. So, that won't happen for those who fear it. I just wanted to make that one point.

  6. wow she's a real winner. she may follow your blog but clearly she doesn't pay attention to it.

  7. Whew, even if she did have a comment section, you could never discuss anything with her because she knows it all. It would be a total waste of time and energy. I had cancer and did all the 'right' things before I got it. I refuse, too, to believe that I created the cancer in both breasts. I still try to eat healthfully and I still enjoy those iced coffees and just try to do the best I can, knowing that sometimes,that won't in itself, be enough. You keep taking care of YOU and don't let negative people like this cause you to give what they are saying, a second thought. Dee

  8. Wow, just wow. I'm glad you did post this because I live in my happy land and sometimes need to be reminded that there are people like this in the world. People who are so clueless about cancer,(and not to mention just plain mean!) and especially clueless about c-diff! There's no way you could eat the green healthy stuff while recovering from that! (I had it too after rads for colon cancer). There are several women I know who were healthy eaters (like yourself) that still got cancer. There is no rhyme or reason to who gets it. I think you are right though, she is scared.
    You have been through so much, and I hope you are feeling better. I have been keeping you in my prayers!

  9. Did she stop to consider that another contributor is interacting with poisonous people? It appears that several of the people she has interaction with have "had it". I suggest we have all had it with her and the other poisonous people. I simply do not have time for them any more.

  10. Blame the victim is tough...and you are correct; the victim blames themself enough. I read her blog last night and was completely aggregated by her ignorance. Sometimes you need to put your thoughts on paper. I hope it was therapeutic for you :)


  11. As Grandma said, "Rise above it, young lady." That thoughtless person is hiding behind the perceived power of internet anonimity so prevalent today. You are the heroine here, Ann. You speak the truth you've found through experience and research. (I read several other rants she wrote, trying to figure out WHY? Waste of time...)

    Please keep doing whatever you can, eating whatever you can, laughing as often as you can to get your strength back. That's what is important.


  12. I'm a biochemist. Reading that woman's blog has made me incredibly irritated as a scientist, and even moreso as a decent human being.

  13. Ann...

    I have a blog post going up right now about this. I was OUTRAGED when I saw this.... I hope you deleted the links from the dust up, too. My post is going up in an hour. I am pissed off. Between spending time volunteering on the surgical floor with breast cancer patients and then having to fight my way home behind the wheel of my car jockeying for position between the cabbies, I got some anger to release.

    You stay well, my friend... and as we all know.... eat whatever your body can tolerate.

    My best to you....


  14. Ann, Keep your positive attitude going so that you can recover from the c-diff and fight on. As I grow older and study my cancer, I realize that there are many people who know very little and are easily swayed by whatever the talk shows and tabloids and the evening news presents without exploring the entire story. We educate ourselves, as you do, and she failed in that respect. I'm glad you wrote about her because we've all experienced that person, and it helps me refocus on what's important. You're a hero. Keep going. Chemteach

  15. Eeeeesh, shakes head......... So glad you fired back.

  16. Wow, she needs to take a chill pill. Sorry you had to take her abuse. Interesting she doesn't allow comments....guess her opinion is the only one that matters.

    Years ago while I was waiting for my turn on the radiation table, a woman in the waiting room was talking to another woman. They were both there waiting for their husbands (the cancer patients). One of them said "I guess I did everything right, because I do not have cancer". I remember sitting there thinking "what the hell?.....and I did everything wrong?" I was probably 25 to 30 years younger than she was. That was over 12 years ago, guess it really stuck with me, cause I thought of her the moment I started reading your post.

    Take care, I hope you are doing better.

  17. I always told my children what Thumper's Mom told him, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I can't say anything nice about this woman so I'm leaving it right there!

    Ann, so glad you are doing better. Keep eating what you can tolerate ... I don't ever wish to lose weight like you did, but I've gained 30 poouds in 3 years on AIs and chemo and would love to figure out how to lose some. Oh, I know, eat green leafy vegetables. LOL!

  18. Evil people are everywhere! I found your blog toward the end of my treatment and was thankful. I'm sorry that someone would have such a cold heart. She is angry and took it out on you, this should have never happened. I was using hormone replacement therapy when I was diagnosed and was sure the cancer was my fault. People like you that have shared their wisdom are what has helped me to get by. Remember that life is a full circle and I fear for her, you can't go through life treating other people like this. Thank you Ann for sharing your journey with me.

  19. Oh, Ann...good grief.

    Actually, I'm glad you posted her words, because there are so many folks -- some of them with breast cancer themselves even -- who end up saying the most astonishingly thoughtless, uninformed, remarkably presumptuous things to other folks, especially in cyberspace it seems, without even realizing it. I know people who have said nearly the same sort of things, in the same tone, with no idea at all of how they come across. I've had a few cyberfriends go at me or each other on Facebook now & then (put a stop to that very quickly, believe me) like a couple of alley cats. And these were women with breast cancer who should know better. Recently, another of our blog sisters had an entire blog post, including the title of the blog, plagiarized, lifted word for word, by another woman, as the first post on her new breast cancer blog. Unreal. Hard to know what she was thinking. A bunch of us posted comments to protest, and she took the blog down.

    One thing I've certainly learned is that having cancer does not induce people to be nice to you automatically. In fact, it seems to induce quite a lot of people to do their worst. Another thing I've learned is that having cancer doesn't make someone a nice person or a 'better' person. And the folks who insist it does drive me just as nuts as the people who write stuff like this woman did about you.

    If humans could just stop with the assumptions, stop insisting that their point of view is the only right one, huh? Sigh.

    Hope your colitis flare-up is calming down. Take care of yourself. Kathi

    1. I read about the blog post theft. It's almost unbelievable. You either have your own experience or you don't. Why you'd want to steal a post is beyond me.

  20. In response to the scared troll. In her challenge to cross her, she is confusing her irrational opinion with knowledge.
    When you are undergoing treatments that compromise the immunity system you are instructed to avoid foods that are "organic", raw, or are that are more likely to introduce food born illnesses.
    Oh yeah, in case you want to know, my wife had cancer and I read the guidance provided by her doctors and other health care providers.

  21. Ann, this made me so upset. Her words were sharp and hurtful.

    I think you hit the nail on the head though - we are a culture of victim blaming. I think we tend to do this much more heavily to females than males though. But you know what? Victim blaming doesn't get us anywhere. It doesn't move us forward. It keeps us stuck ... instead of blaming victims, we should use that energy to figure out how to help people.

  22. Ann when I first read this I was angry and then I realized we were giving her just what she wants, attention and a reaction. This is not a very happy person, insecure and probably has very little love in her love. So ignorant, I almost feel sorry for her.
    Please take care of yourself, I love how you fight for others but I want you to have healthy energy to fight for yourself......:-)Hugs

  23. I should of proof read my comment before publishing it, I meant to say "little love in her life"....Hugs

  24. Well hey...Im KsGal. I found and read your blog even before I had ever joined a support site. So appreciated your wonderful writing and the sense of humor you share with us all in your blog posts. You had me literally laughing out loud. About this post, I would agree with the last line of her description "I can get very ugly." Just like to say my great grandfather was a doctor around 1900. He lived on a farm in Kansas, grew all his own vegetable, raised or shot his own meat, no smoking or drinking..pretty wholesome life out in the country, and got cancer. He wasn't even exposed to the onslaught of environmental contaminants we are exposed to every day in stores, restaurants and even our own homes. Of course, like all of us Im sure, I try to eat healthy, and I'm trying to use "green" products in my home, but truth is there is no medical evidence this will slow down my disease or would have prevented it in the first place. And fact is, you have gone through a terrible battle and been very ill lately, and were trying to inject a bit of humor into the situation where you could find it, and its not always easy to find lately. So kudos to you. Keep on keeping on, mending and recovering. You are an inspiration to many more than you know. ((hugs))

  25. well done for not descending to her level. I think your response was calm, measured and wholly rational, no to mention thought provoking.

    i remember very clearly - about this time last year, when I was in hospital after having the first of my 3 operations and newly diagnosed with breast cancer that there was a major spread in a national newspaper about the 'breast cancer epidemic' sweeping the world. it was trumpeting the news that in the UK the chance of a woman getting BC had risen from 1 in 9 to 1 in 8 women, and pretty much categorically stated that this was entirely due to obesity, drinking too much alcohol, smoking and not having a healthy diet.

    at the time I was 39, reasonably slim, had never smoked, enjoyed the occasional glass of wine but not to excess, and all of my diet was home cooked, and much organic, with a high proportion of fruit and veg......and yet I had STILL got cancer

    I was incensed by that article - and still am everytime the topic is raised again. by all means note that those 'unhealthy' factors can increase someone's risk profile but it is not the full picture and is actually fairly unhelpful to propagate such an unbalanced viewpoint.

    as you say Ann, people with cancer can easily fall into the trap of feeling guilty, of blaming something they have (or haven't) done - it is natural to try to find the 'cause', the 'reason' for you being in such a situation, but we all have enough to worry about without guilt being added to the pile.

  26. To anyone who blames me for my cancers I say 'oh bite me baby, go soak your head'. If they know what caused my cancer and how to undo it, feel free but otherwise take a really long hike, preferably off a cliff. I don't do that blame game either. If I did, I would be miserable.

  27. Whoa.

    Interesting little factoid. At the family Christmas party I saw my cousin and her children. The girls were wearing matching purple dresses. The oldest had a darling knit cap on that made her eyes look just huge. I commented on that, and was told that she has no hair. Leukemia. Little Miss Granola needs to know that this child is the child of the ultimate earth mother. The woman who is a beekeeper, who makes her own bread, DAILY. They have their own garden. Homeschooled children. The whole works. The child has cancer. It happens, and sometimes there are obvious contributing factors. Sometimes...not so much.

    You were being humorous, and that has been a powerful medicine for you.

    She called you stupid. I call her judgemental. Insensitive. Malicious. Oh. And ugly when she's crossed.

  28. Can we all say "Bi-polar narcissist" in unison? All together, now!!! What a twat she is!!!

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. You hit the nail right on the head. We are conditioned to live in a world of perpetual fear, and many people deal with it by blaming the victim in a way that makes them feel better that something like cancer cannot happen to them. I also think that this is why we are re-entering an age of ultraconservative rabid religious fanatacism - her view is really no different from those who like to think that god is on their side but others didn't pray hard enough. Your empathy with her ignorance is definitely the right path through such nonsense.

  31. love it, ann. so glad that you stuck up for yourself. she is one of those smug preachers who thinks she has all the answers, but you are absolutely right to identify it as a defense mechanism.

    you are NOT to blame. hell, if the positivity cures crew wants to know why their theory doesn't always work, they just need to read your awesome blog.

  32. My BIGGEST pet peeve in cancer-land is the "blame the victim" game. I was a non-smoking, non-drinking, physically active, vegetarian health nut diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30, so people who say that cancer is avoidable through diet and lifestyle changes can SHOVE IT. You tell 'em, Ann.

  33. Gees, Ann. Does she blame her family members for their cancer? Did she give them an earful? Bet they appreciated that. I blamed myself for a while for drinking soymilk, but let it go, as my oncologist sighed and said, it's not my fault. I could tell he heard this blame thing before. Interesting, she won't allow comments. I guess she wouldn't learn anything anyway, just that she pissed off our whole community and she'd hate that even more.

  34. Ann,
    She is none of the things she professes to be In her profile. She is better summed up by these two words, arrogant bully.
    Take good care of yourself.

  35. Hi Ann.

    I love reading your blog but one thing I do not understand is your negativity on living. Many people I know live with metastatic cancer and live full and productive lives.

    I just read an excerpt in the book "Chicken Soup for the Soul". A young woman who has maybe only a month or so left because her cancer has spread to her brain. As she said "she cannot sit around just waiting for the cancer to progress...she has to think about things that she can do and the life that she can I'm living, and my heart sings with joy for the days that follow"

    I am stage 3 with breast cancer and also now dealing with skin cancer. A few of my friends that read your blog and are newly diagnosed have become afraid and seem to think that the future doesn't hold much for them and wonder if all of this will happen to them. For myself I live my life to the fullest and will not let it get the best of me.

    You have gone through so much but remember there is always hope and we cannot give up.

    1. I'm sorry I come across as being negative on living. It couldn't be further from the truth. Would a women who doesn't want to live buy booty pop panties? I just refuse to deny that I have stage IV cancer and will die from it. I hope I live ten years. I hope they have a cure in my lifetime. I hope I will see my son's marriage, my grandchildren, my great grands even. But, millions of women with Stage IV cancer have wished the same thing and they are dead. So, instead of constantly posting about hoping to live, I try to post about living my life. Since I've been sick for three months, maybe that is taking over - I'll have to re-read. But, I have a positive attitude and sure don't want to scare women off! I've said on this blog many many times, that most women won't end up Stage IV.

    2. Ann, thank you for staying positive and polite. Thank you for making me laugh. You are in my prayers always.

  36. There are a lot of ignorant people out there, and this nut job is clearly one of them. I just wanted to tell you that I enjoy your blog so much and I thank you for having the courage to write so openly about your breast cancer experience. You have helped people with your blog, while she has chosen to hurt people with hers...

  37. Her words were harsh..just truly harsh. What a cruel, evil person. I echo what others have said about her comments. They arent worth your time. YOU my dear are a warrior. I found your blog after I was diagnosed with breast cancer insitu. Everyone has their own deductions about what insitu is. One oncologist told me that carcinoma insitu was not even cancer. Why did I remove my breasts then? I was told to do lumpectomy with radiation. It was my choice to go with bilateral mastectomy. I guess my point is, no one knows what they would do unless they were in the situation themselves. She has no right to tell you how to do what you are doing to survive. That is just wrong. I hope she never has to deal with cancer personally....

  38. Okay, while I think she had a lot of nerve to write that (I mean, REALLY?!, it's not her life), it sounds she read one snippet of one day of your life and ran with it. I also do believe there are connections, but shouldn't eat one healthily anyway? Nor do I think that a grilled cheese sandwich is going to kill us (and I LOVE me a good grilled cheese). I mean, seriously?!

    I was actually horrified last year to find a website that discusses reconstruction. It actually states that "women who do not choose to have a reconstruction possess a special kind of self-confidence". Oh, so the rest of of who simply want to look like we did before DON'T have self-confidence? I was no Playboy model before and am not aspiring to go there. I simply want the boob that I had and since I didn't deserve to lose it, why should I be punished? I think just dealing with ANY of this bc crap requires an amazing amount of self-confidence.

    Glad you did not link to her, as you are correct, she doesn't need anyone reading that crap and believing it. I'm also really, really sorry for what you've been through and even sorrier you have to deal with winners like her...argh.

    1. Those women are doing this same thing this woman is - justifying their choices. If you have to justify your choice, it means you have some doubt about it.

      I did it purely so I'd look normal in clothes, it's certainly not comfortable (although I didn't know that then). But, I'm not less than heroic for wanting to look normal and I don't think women who choose not to reconstruct are heroes. We are all just women with cancer who make the best choices we can at the time.

    2. Exactly! The funny thing is that I just had my final reconstruction (minus tweaking) and for the first time in 15 months, I feel GOOD about myself. Not that i felt particularly bad before, as I took up running and that helped me lose that stubborn baby weight. But, geez, I do something that makes me feel good and that means I have no self-confidence?!

      I blogged about it here as I was so upset about that website and like you, gave them no credit. It's just so undermining...shouldn't we try to support others choices, whether or not they are our own?

  39. The fact that this blogger doesn't allow comments says all you need to know. She may talk a big game, but she is easily intimidated by differing opinions, and not very tolerant of others. Quite frankly, who gives a hoot what she thinks or says?

  40. Ugh, what a nut bar.

    I'm in the cancer research field myself, and have been for my whole career. I currently work with a group of breast and ovarian cancer researchers who have labs full of people trying to figure out what causes these cancers. If it was as easy as "not eating enough broccoli" we'd have figured it out by now.

    Incidentally, my mum has two sisters, a year apart, who many people mistake for identical twins. One of them is incredibly healthy: eats very well, rarely drinks, exercises every day, has never smoked, and is one of the happiest and calmest people I know. The other is an alcoholic chainsmoking nervous wreck. Guess which one got breast cancer? (Ten year survivor now!)

  41. This is someone who clearly is not in touch with who she is. I've found that when people try to tell me who they are, it's generally who they wish they were, such as stating she is someone who believes in "the right of all living things with nerve endings to be free of abuse & torture", as well as "On topics I'm passionate about it's best not to cross me. I'm knowledgable about those subjects thus you will never win." I can't confess to being so knowledgeable about anything that someone can't show up who knows more or something new. "You will never win" is very telling. What she is saying is she won't confront her beliefs with anyone, consequently, she WILL win -- hence her blog doesn't take responses. But she does have one personal insight: "I can get very ugly" -- leaked out somehow. She may think it's a sign of strength. I used to think being tough was a sign of strength. I'm learning that it's a sign of defense; it closes me off and walls me in and perpetuates my own fear and pain. Being flexible and gentle and graceful in the face of attack takes more courage. It's also harder to do. I will try to learn from you, Non-Pink-Liking Lady.

  42. WOW - I'll tell a little story....

    One day, I'm walking towards my office, and a woman in my department stops me and asks: What did you do, to cause your cancer? I looked at her and couldn't come up with a response... and she goes on - you know, like lung cancer? And smoking?

    Right.... That pretty much ruined my next few hours at work...

    I realize that cancer is scary.
    I realize that NONE of us has a clue as to how to talk about it.
    It's not like we get sensitivity training for trauma and crappy diseases.

    But really?

    I hope you are having a peaceful and pain-free day.....


  43. I blog "Don't Blame the Victim" rants, too... here are my two main ones:

  44. Blaming the victim is as common here in New Zealand as it is in any other part of the world (I suspect). I agree, that it is often used by people as a "protective mechanism" - if they can (erroneously) believe that something a person who has cancer did caused the disease to develop, and that "something" is not something that they do, then they can somehow feel "safer" from getting cancer themselves. And then of course there is the double whammy of not only blaming the victim for causing their cancer to develop in the first place, but then to blame them for not managing it properly - and it is therefore the cancer patient's fault that they get sicker - another form of "self protection"; I think this type of blaming comes from people trying to reassure themselves that even if they did get cancer they would survive - because they know what to do! It is sad that those of us with cancer have to experience these "criticisms", but at least if we know where they are coming from it can help us to not take them personally.

  45. I wish I could respond to everybody. I always do, but it's just not possible. Thank you to everybody though, even if I can't respond individually.

    I debated writing this post, and then I debated posting it. I decided to because she took a cancer patient's dirty little secret - that people blame us - and put it in the public realm. I've written about it before, but now people get to see it and what we go through. Many people do it kindly, not like her. They sincerely want to know what we did to get cancer, like somebody wrote above, not understanding what they are saying to us. I cut them some slack, as I would have cut her slack had she been kind. The media has made it appear, with all their cancer press releases, that something we did can cause it. They tell people to stay away from things, and people think if they do, they will be safe. They say alcohol can cause it, but then forget that it was a small study with triple negatives and has been contested. (Obviously, alcohol is bad for you but if you like a glass of wine on a weekend, you shouldn't feel guilty). People don't know what to say or do when they see us, and can't see it from our perspective. And, it's understandable that they want to "not be us." I get it completely. I'm rarely insulted by the things folks say as I know that in most cases, they mean well.

    But, I thought this was a perfect example of a person who wants to think its our fault in order to protect herself. The telling part was when she said her father, cousin and too many people in her life to count had cancer, and some died and some didn't. That must be quite frightening and if you are superstitious, you are going to mentally protect yourself however you can. The magic leafy vegetables labeled organic will save you.

    Of course, had she not been mean about it, and if she had allowed comments, I wouldn't have posted it here, or perhaps I would have disguised why I was thinking about the blame game.

    Anyway, as always, the support of my readers means the world to me. You lift my spirits up and I'm so glad so many of you read and respond to my blog.


    Oh, I want to thank the professionals who read this blog and laugh at me. I know there is a better way to say this sentence, "It's probably a complex combination of genetics, external environment, internal environment, diet, proteins in cells, hormones,and a million other body and DNA-specific things that in any given combination, can cause an error in cell division and thus, cancer." You must have been chuckling - but I know you all know what I meant. :)

  46. "It's probably a complex combination of genetics, external environment, internal environment, diet, proteins in cells, hormones,and a million other body and DNA-specific things that in any given combination, can cause an error in cell division and thus, cancer."

    Actually, that's pretty much spot-on, and very close to how I would try to describe it myself!

  47. Oh Ann, I wish you would just ignore these types of people. The media tells us its our fault every single day when they run stories of how drinking, not excersizing, eating red meat, eating sugar, having kids over 30, not nursing (though I did), being on the pill, have diabetes, drinking alcohol...the list goes on and on...can be a risk factor in getting and dying from breast cancer. I believe that everyone DOES believe it is somehow our fault. I know that every single person that knows I was treated for breast cancer somewhere in their head thinks its my fault. This makes them feel safe. I know this. You know this. Why feed into this? sorry I'm anonymous...none of the options apply to me.

  48. I. am. agog. And, appalled. And, probably a lot of other 'a' words I can't think of right now. You're so right--we spend a great deal of our time blaming ourselves in the beginning (and the middle and the end--it's the circle of life, isn't it?), we sure as hell don't need a troll to come along and stick the knife in deeper. People never cease to amaze me--luckily, it is for the most part, in a good way.
    Cheers, girl--Wendy (a little c)

  49. The last word in her profile says it all... ugly.

  50. Can I say- YOU ARE AWESOME- I can't imagine you at 110% what are you at -12%? and you are kickin' butt. I usually ignore trolls, but ya know a little troll served up for lunch has to be good for your health. PS This is hypochondriac anon- your note to me was appreciated. I will plan to go to Hawai1! :-)

  51. PS (Anon again)

    Regarding negativity etc.---sometimes it's called REALITY. I can't imagine stage IV cancer....geez, I think you are allowed to be honest on you own freaking blog. My husband is going blind, no one allows him to "live it" no one asks, no one cares ( caregivers included) no one- it's easier on them. I say turn it around and say- For God's sake why can't you be compassionate? It's not you- maybe you could take 10 minutes and suffer my suffering?" Nope- they just want everyone to pretend. Thank you for not pretending and by the way - I find you real, and hopeful given the circumstances.

  52. Congratulations! You have been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award. To accept this nomination, you must do three things:
    -Thank the person who nominated you (that would be me,
    -List 7 interesting things about yourself.
    -Nominate 15 fellow bloggers.
    You can learn more by following this link:

  53. Ann,
    Thanks for not hitting the delete key on this, I am sorry that this person used you for an example in voicing what has been noted the thoughts of so many towards us with BC. It hurts. Like you, with most people I can ignore their ignorance, but the restraint you have shown this lady is amazing... for all of us whiskey drinking, tattooed ladies out there, I'm sorry for the words of one who hurt you and your family. ;)

  54. omg please STOP....this running commentary trashing this woman or anybody no matter who or what or where her pain comes from is just too much...we all have so little time, why spend it on this?

  55. There was no trashing here. In fact, Ann took the high road. She tried to understand this woman. I think it was very therapeutic. The interactions we have with other people either negative or positive, if we allow it, can bring us perspective.
    Ann you are a very positive person. You have taken a very negative situation and found humor...something i had a very hard time finding when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Power on!!

  56. how does blame help anyone??? As a bc survivor, I'm offended by this woman. I say AMEN, Ann! You rock!!!

  57. Gosh, Ann. Your response REALLY got under her skin. But, I think it's offensive she chose to highlight your situation on her blog. It's none of her business. What the hell does she know? Even though i have BC, I would ever espouse to be an "expert" on what causes/doesn't cause BC. She lacks credibility.

    I remember sitting in my Oncologists office after being diagnosed. They ran through their long list of "risk factors.". I had one. No smoking, drinking, drugs, hormones, early menses, breast fed the kids, yadda yadda. It's all crap. They don't know. No one knows. And, BTW, even non-smokers get lung cancer, with no logical conclusions as to why. The fear of the unknown haunts us all. I am just hoping they can figure it out before my daughter becomes an adult. But, I am sad to say, I don't hold out much hope. BILLIONS being spent on breast and other cancer research and I don't feel we are that much closer, sadly.

    People want to bundle things and place them in "neat" little piles based on what makes sense to them and makes them feel better. She'll never get it until she gets diagnosed with cancer, or another serious malady someday.

    I hope you are healing quickly from c-diff. Any luck on the weight-gaining front?

  58. I am astounded by this post, Ann. I think it's one of the best you've written for many reasons. I'm sorry you were subjected to this blogger's insensitivity and misinformed criticism. It's simply ridiculous. Mostly, thank you for your important message here about the "blame game" that so often goes on regarding cancer. You said it all. Thank you.

  59. Keep doing what you're doing, Ann. Sorry for the insensitivity displayed by some people.

  60. This blog is a great source of information which is very useful for me. Thank you very much.


  61. It seems that the woman is coming from a place where she intends to help, but simply sucks at it. The way she approached the subject is not respectful or particularly polite but she was trying to make a point that she believed was true. Now I am not defending her approach, I am saying that her intent does not seem vicious or mean, it just seems horribly misguided and a bit arrogant. As someone who has not had cancer - she may simply be completely unaware of how amazingly crass her "helpful advice" can come off.

  62. I would love to hit that blogger (the insensitive one) upside the head (as my friend's grandma used to say).

    what an idiot.


  63. See, the thing is, SHE spent HER time to come in, FULL OF BENEVOLENCE, and tell you exactly what YOU need to be doing to SAVE YOUR OWN LIFE! Clearly, YOU are too close to the situation to see the problem, and need someone more enlightened to show you the way! After all, you were the one silly enough to get the cancer in the first place. OBVIOUSLY you can barely even dress yourself in the morning and need a much smarter, wiser person to help you out. She was being so kind!

    And you didn't even appreciate it! Shame on you!


  64. We live in a 'blame the victim' culture. It's sad but true. I'm 33, and was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer about 5 months ago. Everyone was surprised, not only because of my age, but because I am one of the healthiest people they know. I don't eat meat, I avoid processed food for the most part, I work out consistently. I have a VERY healthy lifestyle and yet, I have cancer. I actually had an oncologist I consulted tell me I got cancer because I had been on birth control for so long. She told me it was "silly" to have been on the pill for as long as I had been. This was a doctor!
    I have cancer. It's not my fault. It happens. I'm dealing with it. Enough said.
    Love your blog, I've found blogging about my cancer to be very helpful, not just for me, but for my friends and family. It's an easy way to answer their questions. Thank you for your writing.

  65. SO happy to find a blame-free zone. It's so easy to blame myself for cancer, though, as you, I had no risk factors that were under my control. We all just do our best with what we're given, and that other blogger would do well to remember that. Thanks so much for writing this and all your other posts.

  66. Wow, this is an amazingly insensitive person. The blame-the-victim mentality permeates our culture as surely as dye on watercolor paper, for no good reason. I'm so sorry this idiot told you that, and didn't even have the decency to allow you to counter her attacks on her own blog. I'm glad so many in our community are not like that. Thanks for posting this as a warning to us all.

  67. Wow, is she for real? I agree, it is all out of fear. If you live your life exactly like her, you, and she will be safe from cancer-whatever!
    I met a woman who had lung cancer. She was so frustrated because when she told people the majority of people would respond with something like "well, your a smoker, right?" Well, no, she never smoked in her life. She was fit, healthy and young. Hope you are feeling better Ann!
    Bak from bco

  68. i checked her profile (after finding her comment on your previous blog entry) - couldn't help myself, just had to see it - and she's deleted the post and has re-done her profile. lol i guess she took it back.

  69. Thank you so much for being so articulate on this topic. I consider those who blame the victim akin to those who suggest a definitive cure has been found, or the "breast cancer messiahs", as I call them. Both come from the same place, and I have learned quickly that these folks use my cancer to help them feel protected. I am very straightforward and fight back when I'm told cottage cheese or reducing my stress will save me. I no longer expend my energy to make other people feel better about MY cancer! Those who are worth it heard me, like my best pal who said I had to stay positive to save myself. My reply: if being positive were the ticket, I wouldn't have gotten this to begin with. He really heard me.

    You rock, lady.

  70. wow, this seriously pissed me off. This blogger (not you Ann) is seriously STUPID and ignorant.

  71. Yikes Ann, so sad that you have become the target of this seriously misguided, and blinded woman. Yet, you handle it as gracefully as you seem to handle everything. I'm making this short and sweet, as it has all been said. What did she say, "Common sense is not so common", but really doesn't appear to know the meaning behind the reflection. I hope you are doing well Anne. I haven't been on much, as I have really taken a downhill turn in the last month, as it continues to grow. I haven't even updated my own blog yet, but doc and I made a mutual decision about no more chemo, it's not working. Hospice was here for intake Monday afternoon. Working on more pain meds to get this stupid pain under control. I am now going to shut down and try for a night of real sleep, and hoping for little pain in the am. This is not my fault, but as to who is to blame- you said it best! Until proven different, it's all I have folks. Good night to all, and sweet dreams Ann! Has anyone told you that you rock today?

  72. When I told my mother I had BC her response was "See, it's because of all the diet coke you drink !"

  73. Some people just don't get it. I don't know if something I did or didn't do contributed to my breast cancer..........does it even matter at this point??? One thing I know for sure is, people like her with her superiority and negativity are the last people we need to listen to......wouldn't give her or her oppinions another thought!!!!

    Ann, I find your attitude and humor appropriate and keep it coming!!!!

  74. My mother had lung cancer. She was a smoker in the 60s - but quit when pregnant with my older brother.

    When I logged onto a cancer forum to find out info about her condition, posted an entry, someone responded that she deserved to die, that all lung cancer patients deserved it for being smokers. Being a 26 year old with your mother with stage 4 cancer and having an anonymous person telling me that my awesome mom deserved to die because of a bad habit 35 years ago... it devastated me.

    You go Ann. I believe that my mom got dealt a bad card. My dad died of stomach cancer - too many pizzas? No. Life just sucks that way. Cancer sucks that way.

    I just started reading your blog from the beginning, so sorry for the comment from so long ago. This post just really got to me. You. Rock.

  75. There are so many people who believe they can "out think" cancer by reading a few pop culture articles. I'm a kidney cancer survivor w. no risk factors whatsoever apart from being overweight. One person questioned whether I "really" had cancer because I didn't lose my hair (there's no chemo or radiation for kidney cancer because no treatment works). It's hard enough to go through such a physically and emotionally hard time w/o people offering "advice" and questioning your treatment. Thank you for clarifying how people need to have "scientific" theories & superstitions to feel safe.

  76. Ann, it's too bad there are people like that lady who are so quick to blame people when bad things happen to them.
    I can't give the exact quote, but C.S. Lewis said something about people cannot look down on others and up at God at the same time. Basicly, we shouldn't judge others.
    If I listened to what everyone told me I should and shouldn't eat to prevent recurrence, I would be limited to organic lettuce and filtered water. And some of this comes from fellow breast cancer survivors. One lady gave up tamoxifen to eat organic vegetarian and tries to "convert" me. Her proof? She hasn't had a recurrence? Good for her, I truly hope she doesn't, but is that proof? (I shall continue on with my femara -side effects and all, thank you!)
    My grandmother was a hardworking farmer who grew all her own food, didn't smoke or drink, nursed her babies, never used birth control, and died of breast cancer at 66. My mother-in-law smoked, drank, ate unhealthy (had diabetes 2), and yes, she did die of lung cancer, but she got it at 89!
    I would truly like the "it's your own fault" crowd to explain that.


Thank you for commenting. If the post is over 14 days old, the comment will be moderated and will approved later. This is a spam prevention technique - but I love to hear from you!