Feb 8th Discussion

Readings

Getting the News: A Signer Among Signs

Welcome to Cancerland

 Questions                       

Getting the News: A Signer Among Signs

  1. “Words matter”; similar to Dr. Bearing in Wit, Mary dissects the language that is chosen to describe her ailment (Dr. Bearing talks about the words”pernicious” and “insidious”, whereas Mary talks about “ragged”, “pointed”, “spiculated”, etc.) “Words do matter, and yet there’s a way in which a tumor is like nothing but itself.” What are some of the issues that doctors face when describing an ailment to a patient?
  2. Mary talks a lot about the “infantilizing” that appears to be going on, where patients are reduced to children, commanded to follow the doctor’s instructions. Should patients have more of a say in the kind of treatment that they receive, especially when current treatment is based on a science “fraught with doubt”?
  3. Mary brings up the breast cancer community’s apparent intolerance to negativity, especially when directed at the support system itself. Is there too much pressure from the breast cancer community to conform to a preconceived narrative of strength and perseverance?
  4. “A person’s cancer is new to her but not to itself, and that’s all I can deal with right now: its newness to me, to one who generally despises “new.” I’ve always preferred old. I’m a purveyor of junk and secondhand goods, a frequenter of thrift shops, yard sales, and old houses. Old things have life in them; new things remind me of death.” – Often times the “new” is thought of as full of life, potential etc. Why do you think Mary sees things that are old as things that have life in them? How does Mary’s preference of things that are old rather than new translate into her relationship with her cancer?

Welcome to Cancerland

  1. “Unfortunately, there is a cancer.” In Barbara’s diagnosis, the doctor omits the “having” and merely states that the cancer exists; it has replaced Barbara. What about the nature of cancer, an uncontrolled proliferation of cells, makes it different from other diseases in this regard?
  2. Barbara refers several times to the “career” of a breast cancer patient. Is the path of a breast cancer patient’s rehabilitation so pre-determined at this point (due to an overwhelming social presence) that the specifics of the individual case are neglected?
  3. “I have picked up this warning vibe in the changing room, which, in my increasingly anxious state, translates into: femininity is death.” In your opinion, what is the ironic nature of the “femininity” of Barbara’s changing room experience and the stigma of breast cancer currently in juxtaposition with the varying feminine movements of the past that improved true breast cancer awareness and treatment?
  4. “Battling” or “fighting”; “bravely” or “fiercely”; “survivor”; what impact do these words have on the public impression of breast cancer patients, and more importantly, on their own impressions of themselves?
  5. Barbara’s consistent frustration with and anger towards the social stigmas of breast cancer seemed to be somewhat of a needle in a haystack of positive outlooks. Why do you think that, for the most part, most women do not seem to share the same opinions and frustrations as Barbara if they went through similar or more aggressive treatment? To what extent do you think the social “popularization” of breast cancer and breast cancer awareness has helped or hurt the patient?