I have said before that with all the talk about surgery in the breast cancer community, the idea gets normalized. That is, if you are part of support groups, you talk about various aspects of surgery a lot. Surgery is the primary treatment for breast cancer. It is the treatment that all early stage patients experience. There is still a lot of fear around surgery, but a lot of the aspects become normalized.
What I realized was that I also seem have normalized the idea of young. Breast cancer is predominantly a disease of post-menopausal women. It is rare to get breast cancer before you are 50, and yet it happens. Because of this, I am part of a couple young survivor groups, where those diagnosed under 45 (or 50) talk about issues that are slightly different to older women. Some of the women in my support group have young children, others are of childbearing age and having to make difficult decisions about having a baby or staying on anti-hormone therapy. Then there are the economic issues and employment issues.
But back to my point. When people look at me and see the ‘cancer sucks’ stickers on my laptop, they don’t connect me with breast cancer. I remember during my first infusion, sitting in the chair in the ITA (infusion treatment area) and the gentleman sitting across from me said I was too young to be there.
It is also a weird age to have cancer. You are not a childhood cancer survivor, and yet you are too young to have cancer. It is odd.
But since most of my community in the breast cancer world are young survivors, it means I get a sense that being a young survivor is normal. It means that when I see and hear about other breast cancer survivors, I assume they are young. In my mind, the picture of a ‘typical’ survivor is someone my age – and that isn’t true. My experiences in many ways is atypical.
It is an interesting observation.