Friday, July 6, 2012

My Thoughts on Cancer, or Why Posting That "Disney Should Make A Bald Princess So Little Girls With Cancer Can Feel Beautiful" Meme Makes Me Want to Punch You in the Face

Have you seen this?

Lately I've been seeing it all over the internet, usually accompanied by the caption "Disney should make a bald princess so that every little girl with cancer can feel beautiful!" Then you are commanded to click "like" if you agree! Share this on your wall! Reblog this or you are a heartless monster!

And before I continue, let me just say this. I get it. I get why people think this is cute/adorable/sweet. I know they think that reposting this kind of thing makes them a good person. I get that they are just trying to be sympathetic to the poor kids with cancer. I get it. 

HOWEVER. Every time I see this meme I get mad. Beyond mad. I get Hulk rage. And if you are my friend on facebook and you've posted this, chances are I've already mentally punched your face a little bit. Probably more than once. I'm really sorry.

Here's the thing though, for a long time I seriously had no idea why this bothered me so much (I mean, I had an inkling, but you know.) Why would it? This is a really nice sentiment, right? People are just trying to be cool to little sick kids, Kate, back off! But I just couldn't shake the anger, and finally I just gave in to it. 

And here is why.

My sister had cancer. Her name was Ansley and at the beginning of 4th grade she found a lump on her foot that turned out to be rhabdomyosarcoma, a kind of soft tissue cancerous tumor. This discovery catapulted Ansley and our family into a horrendous seven year journey that included multiple relapses, experimental treatments, and eventually her death in 2008 at age seventeen. The abstract "poor little bald girl" that you sympathize with when you post this meme was my reality. And not just my reality, that poor little bald girl was my little sister. Which leads me to:


I.) Superficiality 
At it's core, the message of this meme is "Look at those poor little girls with cancer! They're BALD, guys! That is so sad. Seriously, guys. Those little girls must feel so bad about themselves. I mean, there is no way they can feel pretty. They are missing their hair! OMG I have the best idea! Disney should make a bald princess so they can feel pretty! DID I MENTION THAT THEY ARE BALD?"

Now, I'm just drawing from my own experience here, but when my sister got diagnosed with cancer her potential lack of hair was seriously the least of her worries. In fact, amid the stress of her being constantly sick, the doctor visits, the operations, and the ever looming fear of death, her hair loss was, like, fun. In sick and twisted way, Ansley loosing her hair was the consolation prize of every relapse. The first time she was diagnosed, we plucked it off her head in clumps and threw it at each other. We draped it over our Barbies blond hair to give them a new look. We hid piles of it under things to scare people. We played hair salon. Later relapses had us cutting her hair really short and then picking out designs onto her scalp. And after her last relapse my mom, in one of her more brilliant moments, had the idea of braiding her hair into little tiny braids all over her head. Then, as they fell out one at a time, she allowed Ansley to put them under her pillow for money Tooth-Fairy style.

Also, every time she had to face losing her hair again, she got to pick out a new wig - a highlight for any girl, cancerous or not. She had blond, brown, and red, in varying hair styles. Beauty for every mood and occasion. 

Ansley in her favorite wig.

Please don't reduce little girls with cancer to superficial babies who only care about their looks. Being bald is not a big deal. You know what is? Having cancer and trying not to die.

II) Diminishing the Issue

If you only posted about little girls with cancer, this whole thing wouldn't be an issue. If you did Relay for Life, and raised money for cancer every weekend, and volunteered in a children's hospital on the regular I don't think this would be a problem for me. But the main reason this meme ticks me off so much is that people re-post and forget. People see the picture, think it's sad, and click "share" and then it leaves their mind forever. And that's okay for most people; for the many lucky people who haven't experienced childhood cancer. But when you repost that picture and someone like me sees it? It sure as heck doesn't make us feel warm and fuzzy or brighten our day. It reminds us of something that has affected our lives in a tremendous way. It reminds us of loss. It reminds us of a life experience that has shaped us to our very core. And it makes me want to tell you to shut up because you don't know what you're talking about. Little girls with cancer are my thing, thank you very much, and when you fully experience what it's like to be one of those little girls, or be a little girl with a bald sister, or - God forbid - have a little girl of your own with cancer, then you can talk about it all you want and we will listen. But you don't. So stop.

Posting the bald princes picture because you think it's cute, and then posting the picture of Justin Bieber and One Direction, and then posting that quote about how boys suck and you need a real man totally negates how seriously you obviously care about cancerous kids. Please do not make me think of my dying sister and Justin Bieber in the same minute. It makes me hate you.

So, that's it. Are my reasons biased and a tad illogical? Very possibly. But, before anyone tries to start an argument with me, remember, I have the trump card. My sister died of cancer and if you disagree with me you are an asshole.