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One of Ours

January 13, 2014

At work blogging

Lisa Bonchek Adams is one of ours and she’s under attack from some of the biggest media outlets in the world because of it.

The 37-year-old mother of three is going through cancer, and she is blogging and tweeting about it. She’s tweeting a lot – up to 200 times a day. Not just about cancer, but about life, her life, as she shares ideas and news and information.

First, Emma Keller wrote an opinion piece in the Guardian wondering about Adams’ sharing so much.

Will our memories be the ones she wants? What is the appeal of watching someone trying to stay alive? Is this the new way of death? You can put a “no visitors sign” on the door of your hospital room, but you welcome the world into your orbit and describe every last Fentanyl patch. Would we, the readers, be more dignified if we turned away? Or is this part of the human experience?

Emma Keller’s piece asks questions rather than giving Keller’s opinion of Adams’ writing, but the implication seems clear to me – “Why so much truth?”

Then, remarkably, several days later, Emma Keller’s husband Bill took to the pages of the New York times to tell Lisa, in so many words, to shut up and die.

In October 2012 I wrote about my father-in-law’s death from cancer in a British hospital. There, more routinely than in the United States, patients are offered the option of being unplugged from everything except pain killers and allowed to slip peacefully from life. His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America.

Not content to merely discuss the merits of ending cancer treatment versus treating it aggressively (while ignoring that a 37-year-old mother may have different motivations than an elderly man), Bill Keller throws mud on Adams and her relationship with the treating hospital, even tossing in a little sneer about therapy dogs in the process:

The first thing I would say is that her decision to treat her terminal disease as a military campaign has worked for her. Her relationship with the hospital provides her with intensive, premium medical care, including not just constant maintenance and aggressive treatment but such Sloan-Kettering amenities as the Caring Canines program, in which patients get a playful cuddle with visiting dogs. (Neither Adams nor Sloan-Kettering would tell me what all this costs or whether it is covered by insurance.)

I don’t have a lot to say. I think you can read the two opinion pieces and see how disgusting they are for yourself. I just wanted to record a few words of support for Lisa, because she is one of us, and by “one of us,” I mean more than just being a blogger.

There are many types of bloggers, but only a small percentage are truth-tellers, people who are on the journey not to sell and not to self-promote, but to tell the truth, the honest and beautiful and painful truth, about life as it is, not as how they wish it would be.

There are always those who hate the truth. Any truth-teller who has been at it for long has heard the criticism, often posed in the form of a question: Why are you doing this? Who do you think you are? Why are you so special? Don’t you know that others have it worse than you do? Shouldn’t you be doing something better with your time? Why don’t you give it up?

Lisa is one of ours. She tells the kind of story that is hard to hear and easy to turn away from. That’s ok, though. She’s not telling it for those who can’t stand it. She’s telling it for those who need it, one of whom is her.

Rock on, Lisa. Rock on.

  1. January 13, 2014 08:40

    People are gross. The mistake that the writers of those opinion pieces make is their idea that it is any of their business to criticize. Their opinion pieces is their way of making it all about themselves. They are too dense to realize that Lisa’s blog, her words, are for her. That’s her space. Leave it alone.

  2. kizzbeth permalink
    January 13, 2014 11:31

    I agree with Cindy, it says so much more about them than about Lisa? Is it making them uncomfortable? Do they want to look away? Tough noogies! Lisa can’t look away and anyone who respects her will understand why she’s embracing that. Damn.

  3. January 13, 2014 12:25

    Great piece, Suebob. Maybe their gripe should be with the unseen force that makes them read Lisa’s tweets (when they so very much don’t want to) instead of with Lisa. The sheer audacity of them to think they have a right to sneer. To dictate how a person should face death. Or what they do to try to stay alive.
    As if there’s some proper decorum to follow.
    Anyway, time assures they too will approach that threshold, I wonder what their version of stoic discipline will look like. Especially now that they’ve set themselves up.
    Sending out a healing prayer to Lisa, and anybody else that needs one,

  4. Darlene permalink
    January 15, 2014 10:11

    Lisa has invited us into her life. The desire to share the most intimate details of her fight is, to me, completely understandable. In 2008, before Social Media is what it is today, I spent months documenting my sister’s battle with cancer – via an email list. It made me feel that the combined positive energy “out there” would somehow help by surrounding her with healing thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into crystals and such (although my sis was). But I can relate to the sharing aspect of all of this. As for the minute details of Lisa’s treatment – this is her day to day life at this time. Learn from it.

    This past weekend I lost a gentleman from overseas that I followed on Twitter. I interacted very infrequently with he and his wife during his illness. My tweet to him, upon hearing he was not doing well, was the last Tweet he favorited. I hope he felt that love and acceptance I was sending.

  5. January 20, 2014 18:08

    Why would anyone criticize this person for expressing what her ordeal is like? I just don’t get it.

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