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About Me

In which Anna has something to say about breast cancer

Because another of these appears to be going around Facebook again, Internets, it’s time for me to do another post on the topic of “Please Leave Anna Out of These Status Update Games”. Somebody just tried to loop me into one of these again. I’ve already privately PMed her about that, and this post is not directed at her. It’s for the rest of you.

Y’all may remember that a couple years ago, a game went around Facebook where women were encouraging each other to post cryptic messages about various places they were leaving their handbags, and not telling their male friends why they were posting this stuff. The ostensible idea was to raise awareness of breast cancer. Now, I like a fun Internet meme as much as the next girl. But sorry, for me, this particular one isn’t fun. In fact, I find it actively depressing, for several reasons.

One, first and foremost, hi, I’m a breast cancer survivor. I lucked out and was only stage 0, and never had to do chemo. But I did have to do radiation therapy and a mastectomy. One of my breasts is a stunt breast, and I have big ugly scars under my bra. So trust me, I’m very, very aware of breast cancer. I’d like to be a little bit less aware of it, in fact.

I lost my thyroid as well, due to five, count ’em, five growing tumors on it it that never got to be actual cancer because we took them out of me before they could do that. So yeah, long history here of doctors having to cut out parts of my body to cancerous or pre-cancerous behavior of my tissues.

Two, I really dislike the inherent assumption that one’s male friends aren’t already well aware of breast cancer. I’ve got a male housemate who’s certainly aware of everything I went through, and he and many more of my male friends were very supportive to me all throughout my cycle of treatments and surgeries. I know four other women, friends and/or former coworkers, who’ve gone through more severe versions of the same fight I have–and I guarantee you that every one of their male friends and family members are very, very aware of breast cancer.

And even if a man doesn’t have someone in his life who’s suffered from breast cancer, seriously, people, who isn’t aware of breast cancer in general these days? You can’t escape awareness of it, especially during the month of October, when it seems like every company in North America falls all over itself to slap pink ribbons on its products in the name of raising breast cancer awareness. It’s impossible to miss, in fact.

Three, given my starting point of assuming that yeah, actually, my male friends already know about breast cancer because they have brains in their heads and have observed the world around them, I find absolutely no point whatsoever in doing cutesy, cryptic status updates. If the menfolk already know about the thing you’re ostensibly raising awareness about, then ultimately, sorry, all you’re doing is spamming your Facebook friends with weird little status updates. You may make one or two of your male friends go ‘um, so what’s up with this?’ Assuming that they see your status update at all. And given Facebook’s history of making it tough to see updates from your own friends (another rant entirely), there’s absolutely no guarantee of that anyway.

Four, these games never actually mention breast cancer. You know what works to raise awareness of a thing? Talking about that thing. You know what doesn’t work to raise awareness of a thing? Not talking about that thing.

So if your goal is to raise male awareness of breast cancer, and you go about this by posting cryptic status updates for your male friends to read that never actually mention breast cancer, then how exactly does this raise their awareness?

Pro tip: it doesn’t. Instead, you’re putting way more emphasis on “let’s make the boys notice us” than you are on “let’s raise male awareness about breast cancer”. I like male attention as much as the next het or bi girl, but again, I like to assume that the men I know have brains and that they know how to use them. And that if I need to raise their awareness about something, I can outright say to them, “Hey, guys? There’s a thing I want you to know about.”

And then I tell them about that thing.

Five, these games also never have any actual follow-through. Raising awareness is all well and good, but I have yet to see any of these things proceed to the next step: what to do once you are, in fact, aware of breast cancer.

Because seriously, people, like I said–breast cancer awareness is pervasive in Western society these days. Nobody with half a brain in their heads is unaware that it exists. Raising breast cancer awareness is not the issue we need to be addressing here.

The issue we need to be addressing here is purging the scourge that is cancer off of the goddamn earth. Not just breast cancer, either, though it’s politically easy and safe to talk about that particular form of it just because it gets you cred about being friendly to women. But here’s the thing.

Cancer is not easy. It’s not safe. It fucking well kills people, and if it doesn’t kill you, it may well drive you into financial insolvency if you’re not lucky enough to have decent health insurance (and the fucked-up state of the American health system is yet another rant entirely). My mother died from cancer at the ridiculously young age of 38 because she had a goddamn tumor in her brain. My young cousin Phillip has been battling stage 4 bone cancer for the last couple of years, with ongoing regimens of radiation and chemo. I have a friend whose brain tumor put her so far in the hole financially that she still has to live on state support. My housemate lost a very close friend of his to cancer as well. Two more close friends of mine had a family member have to deal with a brain tumor, though fortunately she was young and strong and came out of it okay.

In the broader picture of society at large, we hear every day about another famous person who’s either suffering from cancer or who’s about to die of it. Ian McKellen has prostate cancer. Cancer just took out Roger Ebert, and we know now that it’s going to take out SF author Iain Banks in only a few more short months.

And given how many people I know who have either suffered from cancer themselves, have loved ones who are doing so, or have lost loved ones to it, I think I can safely say that yes, we’re all on the same page here. The page which has emblazoned upon it, in bright red capital letters: FUCK YOU, CANCER.

So yeah. Please leave me out of the status update games. And if you really want to do something about the problem, people, consider donating your money instead. Go to and find out how you can do so. We don’t have a cure yet, but actual funding helps. Even if a cure hasn’t been found, the improvement of cancer treatments alone in the last three decades has meant that I’ve had it infinitely easier than my mother did. I’ve already lived longer than she did, and I have every expectation of several more decades to come, because I’ve got good medical support at my back.

Thanks for listening.

Here endeth the rant.


The print vs. digital divide

Y’all want to know the fastest way to get an epubbed author’s blood pressure spiking? Refer to printed books as “real” books.

This got shoved into the front of my brain yesterday when one of my favorite local bookstores linked off to an opinion article written by a twenty-something who was stridently against electronic readers–to the point that they’d confessed to having irrational hatred for seeing other people reading them. One of their primary objections to them appeared to be that they could no longer sneak peeks at what those other people are reading, if they’re reading electronically! They proceeded to wax eloquent for several following paragraphs about why they would never stoop so low as to acquire an e-reader, because they loved “real” books too much. Snarky commentary was made about how e-reader enthusiasts got on this person’s case about “what are you, a Mennonite?” And even the bookstore in question, in their linking to this article, dropped a cute little remark about how they “don’t have anything against e-readers, no wait, maybe a little”.

This makes me sad.

Part of it is of course that as an epubbed author, I’m really tired of hearing the print books getting referred to as the “real” books. This carries the automatic implication that digital books are “not real”. Imaginary. Lesser in value than books that were fortunate enough to get put into print. Which is an awfully cruel thing to say to somebody who labored just as hard to get her epubbed book written as the authors who are in print. I guarantee you, people, that to us epubbed authors, our stories are every bit as real to us as the ones that are put down on paper.

Part of it though is the bigger question of the print vs. digital argument. It’s yet another variation of the “this thing vs. that thing” debate that crops up in every single aspect of our daily lives: Coke vs. Pepsi. PC vs. Mac vs. Linux. Emacs vs. vi. Etc., etc., on and on, with each side espousing the virtues of whatever they’ve committed to and often sneering at the other side, who are clearly not clever enough or intelligent enough to realize the virtues of the Right Choice.

Don’t get me wrong. I get that the digital book is a threat to traditional bookstores, and that indie bookstores in particular, who have been struggling for ages against the bigger chains, are going to hunker down and cling to their print books for as long as possible. But I’m really tired of the print side sneering at the digital side, and vice versa. For me as both a writer and a reader, this loses sight of the most important thing: the story.

You tell me a good enough story, I’ll read it in whatever format is available–print, digital, on the back of a cereal box, in fortune cookies, in tweets, in skywriting, whatever. Seriously, I do not care about the format. I care about the story. Print has its virtues for me, such as the art of a beautifully designed book–Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin comes immediately to mind. It’s also lovely for reading if the power is out, or if you’ve left your Nook or iPhone at home and/or uncharged. And although this makes me sad too with my writer hat on, truth be told, writers still are compensated better for print than they are for digital. I’d love to see that change, but I’m not expecting it to do so quickly.

In the meantime, though, digital also has its virtues. Many folks like how a well-used book will have crinkled corners and bent pages and such, and this to them is a sign of how much the book is loved. For me, though, that’s an irritant. Because I love my books, I don’t want to damage them. And if I carry them around in my backpack on a daily basis, they will get damaged. Therefore, for me as a reading choice, a reader makes more sense because in its protective case, it’ll take a lot more abuse than a paperback or trade will. Never mind a hardback, which is often going to be too bulky to carry around easily anyway.

You tell me a good enough story, though? I will buy you in print and digital. Print to keep the archive copy around, and digital for day to day reading. I am living proof that you don’t have to choose one or the other. I long for the day that publishers will start offering sales of both print and digital for one nice premium price, because I will totally put down money for that.

In the meantime, though, print enthusiasts, I beg you, please don’t look down your noses at the digital fans. Digital fans, same goes for you in reverse. Let’s just all just agree that yeah, each of us will have our personal preferences as to how we like to read, and get back to the important thing that we all have in common: i.e., reading. Thank you!