With the passing of the famous novelist, Jackie Collins, so many questions come to mind about the reasons why she did not share her breast cancer diagnosis and treatments with anyone other than her three daughters. However, lost in this aspect of discussion is a piece of information that was initially shared that she had actually discovered a lump in her breast two years before she took any action. Although all references to that have evidently been removed, it does not change the fact that if this were, in fact, the case, she would not have been alone in her choice to do nothing. This is a side of breast cancer awareness that few will ever know but I would like to share the reasons that I have come to understand about why this is occurring.
While many are honored during October for being survivors, there is another whole group who will never be able to even be counted in the survivor group because they were never in a position to either seek or receive help on so many levels and for so many reasons. Barbara Jacoby
One of the primary reasons that a woman does not seek treatment is because she does not have any, or enough, medical insurance. Despite the fact that the goal was for all Americans to have insurance in this country, the reality has not come close to meeting this lofty goal. In addition, many who do have insurance coverage have found that certain treatments that they may need are not covered or that coverage has been denied. With this being the case, some women who are armed with this knowledge have chosen to not seek any, or perhaps additional, care and to live out the rest of their lives with a quality and dignity that they have determined is the preferred choice for them.
Another reason that some choose not to seek care even if they have found a lump or have other reasons to suspect that all is not well is that they do not find themselves in a financial position to have surgery and go through the follow up treatment. For many in this group, they are either the only, or the primary, breadwinner in their families. If they do not continue to work without this interruption, there is no one else to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads. Therefore, they choose to keep on going for as long as possible with the hope that it will be long enough for their children to be able to take care of themselves or for there to be another answer or choice that allows for them to be able to deal with their own medical concerns and issues.
There is another group who do not seek the requisite medical diagnosis or treatment because they understand that because of the nature of the relationship in which they find themselves with a spouse or partner, they will most likely be abandoned because their partner would not be capable of dealing with such an issue. Just because someone has shared their life with someone else for a few or many years, that does not mean that if a true life crisis strikes, that they can count on that partner to stay and support them. Many may have observed in the past on other levels that when the going gets tough, their partners get going. Rather than having to face a diagnosis of breast cancer and surgery and treatment and recovery alone, they find it preferable to say and do nothing and just keep on going as if nothing has changed. And unless they find a different alternative for themselves, most likely it will be way too late to do anything to stop the cancer unless the research brings forth other choices in the interim.
There are those whose are most concerned about their public image as representing them as the person who they are. This does not refer to those only who may be in the public eye as the result of their work but it does include those who believe that looks are everything. For this group, they may have spent a life of time and expense to create the perfect body and wardrobe and collection of stuff. The very idea that they may have to carry the scars of breast cancer surgery and/or diminished outward beauty as a result of chemo or radiation therapies is not conceivable. Their preference will be to go to the grave looking gorgeous rather than doing anything that would mar their lifetime work of having a perfect appearance.
And the reality is that there is a group who have seen how a diagnosis of breast cancer and subsequent treatment has affected someone that they know and will choose to have no part of dealing with their own possible diagnosis and treatment. Many have seen incredible losses of family and friends who can’t deal or won’t deal with the patient. They have seen unbelievable abuse because the patient is no longer able to carry on with the physical work and activities needed to keep a household, care for the children and perform a full-time job at the same time. They have seen how fellow employees have been treated on the job where the woman has been pushed to the brink so that she will quit her job, or where she finds all sorts of contrived reasons why she is no longer suitable for her position or where her position has been eliminated and “reclassified” in order to hire someone new. And they have seen situations where a person is truly no longer able to perform on the job as in the past and she is set out to pasture to find a new way to earn a living, most likely with the loss of her former insurance benefits that have covered her continuing treatments.
These are only a few of the reasons that a person does not seek breast cancer treatment or follow up care. So for anyone who might not understand why there are so many individuals and groups and organizations who are involved on so many different levels to raise funds and awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I ask that you understand that the issues in dealing with breast cancer go so much deeper than what you see during fund-raising events and what you read in the press. While many are honored during October for being survivors, there is another whole group who will never be able to even be counted in the survivor group because they were never in a position to either seek or receive help on so many levels and for so many reasons. No one person, group or organization can take on this disease alone. Even the collective of all that currently exists will never be able to assist all who need it. Therefore, it is my hope that perhaps the day will come when we can individually seek out one person who needs the help and care and direction that they may not currently have and do everything possible to help just that one person to get what they need. And even then we may not be able to that alone but doing the very best that we can changes everything.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.