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The Cancer Journals


Shea Mavrogeanes

on 13 November 2012

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Transcript of The Cancer Journals

The Cancer Journals
Audre Lorde

Chapter III
Power vs. Prosthesis Disability? -Breast cancer is sometimes seen as a cosmetic problem, one which can be solved by a prosthetic pretense.
-The Reach for Recovery woman gave her a bra with a lambswool to put in the right breast pocket. The woman talked about how men wouldn’t know the difference and the way society would view her as "normal."
-"This emphasis upon the cosmetic after surgery reinforces this society’s stereotype of women, that we are only what we look or appear, so this is the only aspect of our existence we need to address.” (58)
-"....in the process of losing a breast I had become a more whole person.” (56)
Negative Effects 1. It encourages women to dwell on the past rather that a future. Prevents a woman from assessing herself in the present, and coming to terms with the new planes of her body. “...she must mourn the loss of her breast in secret, as if it were the result of some crime of which she were guilty. “ (58)
2. It encourages women to view her mastectomy as a cosmetic occurrence. It encourages her to ignore the necessity for nutritional vigilance and psychic preparation that can help prevent recurrence.“With quick cosmetic reassurance, we are told that our feelings are not important, our appearance is all, the sum total of self.” (58) Women With Breast Cancer are Warriors "I have been to war, and still am. So has every woman who had had one or both breasts amputated because of the cancer that is primary physical scourge of our time. For me, my scars are an honorable reminder that I may be a casualty in the cosmetic war against radiation, animal fat, air pollution, McDonald’s hamburgers and Red Dye No. 2, but the fight is still going on, and I am still a part of it. I refuse to have my scars hidden or trivialized behind lambswool or silicone gel. I refuse to be reduced in my own eyes or in the eyes of others from warrior to mere victim, simply because it might render me a fraction more acceptable or less dangerous to the still complacent, those who believe if you cover up a problem it ceases to exist. I refuse to hide my body simply because it might make a woman-phobic world more comfortable.” (61) Nobody Will Know the Difference -Prosthesis offers an empty comfort.
-“If we are to translate the silence surrounding breast cancer into a language and action against this scourge, then the first step is that women with mastectomies must become visible to each other.” (62)
-Silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness.
-Surrounded by women with 2 breasts all day is difficult for Lorde, but then she remembers that she is not alone.
-The visibility and support from other women going through the same thing is such an aid to self-acceptance for her.

American Cancer Society Statistics -Only 50% of women are still alive after three years post surgery.
-This drops to 30% if you are poor, Black, or in some way part of the underside of this society.
-Early detection and early treatment are crucial in the management of breast cancer.
-“But for the incidence of early detection and early treatment to increase, American women must become free enough from social stereotypes concerning their appearance to realize that losing a breast is infinitely preferable to losing one’s life.” (63)
-Greatest incidence of breast cancer in women appears in the ages of 40-55.
False Breasts are Designed for Appearance Only -Only real function of women’s breasts were to appear in a certain shape and size and symmetry to onlookers.
-Attitudes toward prostheses reflect attitudes within our society towards women in general as objectified and depersonalized sexual conveniences.
-“Women have been programmed to view our bodies only in terms of how they look and feel to others, rather than how they feel to ourselves, and how we wish to use them." (65-66)
-Breast prostheses are offered to women after surgery in much the same way that candy is offered to babies after an injection.
-Compared to people who have artificial limbs to perform certain tasks (i.e. walk, write) and dentures that allow people to chew and talk

The Feeling of "Normal" -Normal means: the ‘right’ color, shape, size, number of breasts, etc.
-“those norms have nothing to do with my own perceptions of who I am.” (66)
-Women will spend a large amount of time, money, and energy that seems to promise a “normality” Victimization -“The terror and shabby confidence scheme that happens along the ghost of a breast leads to yet another victimization.” (68)
-Women have reported the loss of jobs and promotions in public and private employment upon their return to work after a mastectomy (whether or not they wore a prostheses)
-“Suggesting prosthesis as a solution to employment discrimination is like saying that the way to fight race prejudice is for Black people to pretend to be white.” (68)

Silence -“..for it keeps the post-mastectomy woman in a position of perpetual and secret insufficiency, infantilized and dependent for her identity upon an external definition by appearance. In this way women are kept from expressing the power of our knowledge and experience,” (59)

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