“… pretty bubbles in the air …”

I’m forever blowing bubbles

Pretty bubbles in the air,

They fly so high,

Nearly reach the sky,

This is from the chorus of a song writen in 1918 called I’m forever blowing bubbles which has become the anthem of West Ham Football Club – though don’t ask me why.  I was thinking that this should be the anthem of all the Pink Survivors, except that the rest of the chorus goes

Then like my dreams,

They fade and die.

Fortune’s always hiding,

I’ve looked everywhere,

I’m forever blowing bubbles,

Pretty bubbles in the air.

So maybe this is more of an anthem for metathrivers?

What is really holding back the advancement of research and treatment for those with Metastatic Breast Cancer?  I am coming to the conclusion that it is the breast cancer community itself.  We have two sides in this story – those who truly believe in Pinktober (‘Believers’) and think it is all about surviving and early detection v. those who Think Before They Pink (‘Thinkers’) and who see how little is being done to actually deal with this pandemic of misery and death.  Can the two sides ever come together?  Let’s deal with these one at a time…

  • ‘Believers’

I really hope that these are all people who have had early stage breast cancer, or not actually had it although they may know and love someone who has.  It may include those who lost someone to breast cancer and who still believe that Pinktober is trying to DO something and ACHIEVE something.  Personally I think they must be in denial about what has happened to their loved one/friend, or have been far enough removed from it all not to have seen the truth.  This group may also include some people who have experience the reality of a Metastatic Breast Cancer diagnosis and who are also in some form of denial.

  • ‘Thinkers’

Those who have thought about what is actually going on and who realise that Pinktober is one of those pretty bubbles in the air mentioned in the song.  They are the once who face a reality that they would wish on no one else on this planet; the people who would love to believe in Pinktober, but who have taken off the rose coloured glasses and are facing the cold light of day.  This group includes the vast majority of those with Metastatic Breast Cancer and those who have witnessed it at first hand and know the reality.

One big problem is that the Thinkers don’t really want to burst the bubbles of the Believers and, lets face it, the Believers think that they know what breast cancer is all about.  They may not know if they are hormone positive or negative, they may not know whether they are HER2 positive or negative (in fact they may not even know what HER2 is) but one thing they do know is about breast cancer awareness, mammograms, early detection and that they are a ‘survivor’.  These days when I think of survivors I think of the bit in Miss Congeniality where Sandra Bullock’s character is doing her Miss America interview on stage and answering a question about what she would like for the world.  Sandra’s character says something that the audience just cannot comprehend because they are so attuned to the party line, and this is met with silence.  Then the character adds ‘and of course World Peace’ and the place erupts.  They have been told what they have been programmed to understand and recognise as the correct response.  Pavlov’s dogs anyone?

The problem is that a lot of the breast cancer community and the public at large, aided and abetted by the media, PR and marketing, are so attuned to ‘Survivors’ that they just can’t comprehend when a ‘Thinker’ comes along and says something that they are not pre-programmed to accept.  But does this make the thinkers message any less real?  Any less urgent?  Any less the truth?

To use another film line (am I turning into Di Nozzo – I watch too much NCIS) ‘Show me the money’.  Fundraisers, the public and both survivors and thinkers have been showing them the money of years – but what have we got to show for it?  Breast cancer patients have been showing the money to the pharmaceutical companies for decades and yet genuine progress it slow.  Billions of £ and $ have been spent on research but the effect to me is that it is scattered and incoherant because there is not enough sharing of knowledge, and solid research data to base this knowledge on.  It is all a bit of a cloud of pretty bubbles in the air which just burst rather than joining together to make a mega-bubble of co-operation and understanding.  It seems to be about the race, not for a cure, but for a patent, or a paper in a prestigeous and learned Journal to further the status and career of the author(s).  Excuse me, but there are people trapped in those bubbles and every time you burst one someone dies.

Part of what holds me back is that I don’t want to burst the pretty bubbles of the survivors.  In a way I am delighted that they really can’t see past being a survivor, that they still believe in all things Pink; but this is because Pink is not threatening them yet and using the kind of strong-arm tactics that some of us are familiar with.  Am I not secretly pleased that they can’t comprehend what I am trying to say?  Am I not secretly pleased that they are still Pink virgins?  I take their feelings into consideration, but is this reciprocated?  Hell no!  Survivors are ‘upset’, ‘hurt’ or ‘offended’ when you try to get them to empathise or think outside the box of the Pink Message.  Of course it is not upsetting, hurtful or offensive that they just don’t want to listen or understand; that they don’t want to support us whilst expecting us to support them in every way possible, and undertand and empathise with them.  Hell yes it is.  It is even more upsetting, hurtful and offensive because it seems to be quite purposeful on their behalf.

Two years ago today a friend died of Metastatic Breast Cancer.  Today is also her daughter’s birthday.  It is a birthday that she will never completely be able to celebrate again because of the painful memories of a young girl who lost the physical presence of her mother on what should have been her day.  It will never be only her day again.  This friend went to a breast cancer support group and was told in no uncertain terms not to say that she had metastatic breast cancer.  This woman gave support, encouragement and help to the survivors and got nothing in return.

I’m forever blowing bubbles

Pretty bubbles in the air,

They fly so high,

Nearly reach the sky,

Then like my dreams,

They fade and die.

Fortune’s always hiding,

I’ve looked everywhere,

I’m forever blowing bubbles,

Pretty bubbles in the air.

RIP Tess.

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1 Comment

  1. Janz

    So true. To me you nailed it in a way I have never read before…. And Unfortunately to get the attention we need, the tactics might not end up being very pretty. Bursting bubbles is not very much fun.

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