Tuesday, November 06, 2007
The day that Dina died
Dina Rabinovitch (Photo from Guardian.co.uk)
Another post I've been meaning to make since last week's nightmare of busy-ness began, compounded by the countdown effect to leaving the country this Friday.
Last week, Dina Rabinovitch died.
She was a Guardian journalist and writer, who wrote about other things very very well but became most famous for chronicling her battle with breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 2004 and went through operations, mastectomies, chemo, radiotherapy, herceptin, tykerb and lord knows what else. She was Jewish, but did not have the breast cancer gene, and yet the cancer kept recurring. All this time she also mothered a large family and kept up her writing.
When I was diagnosed earlier this year one of my first reactions was to consume everything I could on the subject. Medical pieces, diet books, newspaper articles, memoirs - the lot. Her book, "Take off your party dress", was one of the things I read which I identified with most closely.
It's terribly sad she has died, and I can't help thinking of her husband and their children, and wondering quite how they are going to cope without her.
But these passages of life, death and survival, and the reporting thereof, have a huge impact on breast cancer patients everywhere.
When I was being diagnosed, the big media role model du jour was Kylie. Just back from a year of treatment, she was on stage and back to her shiny, bouncy, Kylie self. At least I could think of her and see someone who had made it through the wilderness of diagnosis and treatment and was out the other side, unchanged to the casual observer. I think this was significant to the way I was able to process the information I received and look at the whole thing as 'a hijacking' of life, rather than some sort of death sentence.
And yet there will be those women who will be getting diagnosed this week. And the next. And the next after that. For them, who will see Dina's name loom large in the headlines of articles they will be scouring, it must feel more like a death sentence.
Dina's own example of how to live with cancer is a very positive one, and yet she still died. The very fact of her death, or rather its prominence in the media coverage of such a disease, will undeniably have a chilling and negative effect on other women in her situation.
This is difficult to say, as we all like to think our first thoughts to be altruistic. I'd like to think that my first thought upon hearing of her death was of her husband and family. But that wasn't even my second thought - it came third.
It came right behind "That could have been me" and, more frighteningly, "That could still be me."
And I challenge anyone with any history of breast cancer not to feel the same horrible flickering of relief and dread in their gut when they hear such news.
We are, inherently, such terribly selfish creatures.
at 5:03 pm