Barbara Ehrenreich is a cancer survivor who has written about her experiences with cancer treatment over the years she was afflicted with the cancer. She is now cancer-free and has written about her experience, as well as the cancer culture in the United States. Ehrenreich writes about cancer as a business, and how it has become such an accepted part of modern life that cancer seems like a normal thing for Americans to deal with.
She discusses “wellness”, which she believes is actually code for making people feel awful and thus needing cancer treatments (and paying money to do so). Ehrenreich criticizes cancer forums and support groups that emphasize hope and positivity over scientific evidence and quality of life. All these things together create a cancer culture where cancer patients receive the message that they will be back to their normal selves soon after treatment, but this can lead to cancer patients feeling like failures if they can’t live up to this standard.
Ehrenreich discusses how cancer is treated as a modern-day plague, but instead of turning away from those suffering, there are multiple organizations dedicated to cancer research that encourage cancer patients (and their families) to spend money on “miracles”. She also criticizes cancer’s status as an industry at the same time it is so common; she cites cancer survival statistics which show that if you have cancer, the chance of death by cancer has not improved in 40 years even though treatment options and costs have increased significantly.
Ehrenreich focuses on the idea of wellness through her experiences with breast cancer sufferers who turned down chemo because it would interfere with their pursuit of wellness, and cancer patients who took alternative treatments like acupuncture instead of cancer drugs. She argues against the idea that cancer culture is supportive because it encourages cancer patients to rely on hope above science. Ehrenreich also attacks cancer support groups for inducing false hope in cancer sufferers when real cancer treatment options may not offer much improvement for living quality.
Ehrenreich offers her experience with cancer as a way to critique the modern-day cancer industry, especially when it comes to spending money on “miracle” cures that don’t actually improve quality of life or extend longevity in cancer sufferers. Ehrenreich highlights how this culture fails to help cancer patients live well after cancer treatment has ended, and even failing to help cancer patients live longer by giving them false hope.
She also critiques cancer support groups for encouraging cancer patients to continue suffering through chemo in the hopes of being cancer-free, when quality of life should be considered just as important as cancer survival rates. Ehrenreich’s experience with cancer is valuable because it highlights how cancer culture is not supportive, but actually harmful to cancer sufferers who are encouraged to put their trust in alternative medicines that have no scientific backing instead of proven cancer drugs.
Ehrenreich’s cancerland article gives cancer a new meaning. She says cancer is not seen as a disease but instead cancer is seen as the chance for life to begin anew. Ehrenreich writes, “Having cancer – or being the parent, sister, friend or neighbor of someone who has cancer – will now qualify a person for a very particular kind of social sympathya€¦”. The author also adds that cancer patients are infantilized and stripped of their autonomy.
For example, she states this when she talks about how cancer patients have to go under so much surgery and radiation which can be painful and they have no say in what happens because everything including down time must be approved by their doctors. This takes away from the cancer patient’s autonomy. The cancer patients are not given the right to say no about what treatments they will have done, which can be very difficult because cancer treatment can be very painful.
The cancer patient is also objectified by their cancer as it becomes a visible mark on them that cannot be hidden easily. For example, Ehrenreich says, “there are plenty of stories floating around about how cancer victims are flimflammed out of their insurance moneya€¦” this shows how many people feel like cancer patients are not deserving of everything they should be receiving for having cancer and instead see the cancer patient as someone who needs to be tricked out of things they deserve. The author talks about how cancer is seen as beautiful.
She writes, “Cancer is associated with extraordinary health – cancer patients are young and vital” cancer is seen as beautiful because cancer gives cancer patients a reason to live. Cancer patients feel like they have something to fight for so their lives seem more fulfilling than they would be without cancer. Ehrenreich’s article talks about all of these different factors that help cancer be objectified making it no longer seen as the disease that it really is. She makes readers take notice on how cancer has changed over time and how people view cancer patients differently than they did before.
Ehrenreich’s article brings up some good points about cancerland but her facts can still be considered biased at times. For example, she states facts about breast cancer in cancerland but in cancerland she only includes female cancer patients and not male cancer patients. She does this because it helps her make her point about how breast cancer is objectified in cancerland and that women are seen as beautiful even when they have cancer but it leaves many male cancer patients out of the picture which may be considered biased information.
Also, I believe that Ehrenreich’s article can be very triggering for some people to read due to what Ehrenreich writes about how cancer robs patients of their autonomy and how sometimes insurance companies don’t approve certain procedures or down time if they think it will not benefit the patient. Barbara Ehrenreich gives us a somewhat warm welcome, after reading her article I feel that cancerland is a place that we want to be welcomed into and she gives us the courage to face cancer and embrace it.
Barbara’s article has brought cancer into a whole new light and we see cancer for what it truly is which is terrifying. It also tells readers that cancer patients are strong people even though they may feel weak and scared inside and out, which then makes me believe that by reading Ehrenreich’s article I feel more empowered than ever before because everything in my life can go under change when something goes wrong and cancer can be a part of your life, so cancerland is a welcome change to cancer.