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:

THE TWO VERY IMPORTANT REASONS WHY THE BALD PRINCESS MEME GIVES ME HULK RAGE.

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. 


8 comments:

  1. Then call me an asshole.

    I guess because I saw the American Girl announcement first that I don't think that the bald Disney princess is about making girls with cancer feel beautiful. In my opinion, it's the same reason people keep saying there needs to be a plus-sized princess or a non-Christian princess: relateability. Even though they should be looking to their parents and siblings and teachers and friends, girls still look up to and admire people in the media, animated characters included. Yes, the meme (which I have yet to see) focuses on cancer, but as American Girl pointed out in their announcement of the release a bald doll, there're also non-cancerous diseases that leave people without hair. And anyway, it's the screwed and fucked up society we live in: you have to look and dress and act a certain way in order to be considered beautiful. People just want Disney to help change that.

    And sharing these is probably more about awareness than doing it to not appear heartless. However, what people should do is just like what American Girl said people did to them: write letters to Disney requesting the princesses they want to see, not share a picture depicting what they want.

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  2. Well, like I said, I understand why this meme has popped up and why it's spreading. The concept is not baffling. But, as a person who has traumatic experience with childhood cancer, this is how I feel about it.

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  3. I'm a creepy lurker. I blog hopped into you forever ago from your post about the story behind your tattoo and it was so... moving. I loved it so I've followed since.

    Anyway, I love this post. LOVE love it. I've never been there so I have no idea what it's like but I have some friends who are blind and they experience different things that are related to this as well. What I've come to realize is that those who are overly sensitive to differences and the campaign to make people feel included are people who aren't the ones with the ailment at all. Like my blind friends, so many people are afraid of them and asking questions and, "Oh shoot! I just asked them if they 'saw' a certain movie. Is that rude?" People are people and it is the different qualities and the unique traits that make us the beautiful people we are. I love my blind friends and it is because they are so different and abnormal that I have learned so much from them. They have different outlook on life and see things differently and talking to them makes me a better person. I just want people to be left alone to live their lives the best they can and to quit trying to make the mold bigger to include everyone. Personally, I think we should eliminate molds. And yeah, if people truly cared about a cause, they should go out there and do something real about it instead of taking a passive, "Oh that picture makes me feel sad so I'll 'like' it." Lame lame lame.

    Plus, let's face it, you wouldn't have made an impact on my life if you hadn't gotten that tattoo on your foot. Your story is unique and your love for your sister is evident. There is nothing wrong with what has happened in your life, your story is simply different than most and that's what makes it so wonderful. I have no doubt that losing a sibling is overwhelmingly difficult, but that loss has given you a story to tell and that story is beautiful.

    So, accept this virtual high five from a stranger for a post well done.

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  4. I am currently going through chemo for Inflammatory Breast Cancer and a good friend sent me the Princesses Picture.I LOVE IT!!! It gives me a warm fuzzy when I see it. I wear my bald head out and about proudly and it tickles me to see an animated drawing like this!
    Just sayin'........

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  5. I am currently going through weekly chemo for uterine cancer. I've had a complete hysterectomy - everything internal that makes me a girl is gone. I've also lost my hair and am losing my eyebrows and my eye lashes. I don't feel pretty. I don't feel female. I hardly even feel like a human after a tough bout with the chemo. I LOVE this picture. In fact, I just made it my FB cover picture. If that makes you want to punch me in the face, too bad. The picture reminds me that I am still a woman and I am still beautiful. It doesn't take my hair to make me feel like a princess. It reminds me that I can still be girly without girly parts. So lighten up a little.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for this input! Sorry for joining this conversation really late! We did a Google image search for the Disney Princess picture and found this blog.

      We're getting ready to work on a blog post asking some top artists to make a homemade card of Disney princesses without hair. We get so many Elsa cards, but wanted to get something we thought the cancer patients could directly relate to.

      It's helpful to see both perspectives. We guess since we're encouraging people to take action and do something for kids in hospitals then we're helping to erase the second point. Also, if people make these cards it can help provide some positive experiences that Patti and Wendy touched on. Either way we'll make sure the staff gives them to the correct patients. Thanks again!

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  6. Meet Ella The Enchanted Princess! She is my bald princess that I created because I know first hand how it feels when people stare at you. I am a Breast Cancer survivor and Ella is the results of my experiences through the challenges of breast cancer. Follow Ella and her adventurers as she learns to believe in herself.

    Http://www.ellatheenchantedprincess.com

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