Breast Cancer on the Run in October: (Day 19) Celebrities Unleashed


Hardly a month goes by without a celebrity or public figure informing us that they have breast cancer. Breast cancer is a common condition and celebrities and public figures are not immune.

img_1314We have chronicled Betty Ford and Happy Rockefeller already. Interestingly, another Republican First Lady developed it while her husband was in office. That would be Nancy Reagan. She survived it.

Shirley Temple Black is credited with being the first celebrity with the disease. Little Shirley Temple. Not much was made of it then as opposed to now when celebrities or public figures will detail and chronicle or have filmed every aspect of their treatment. Some will remain quiet and dignified about their struggle.

We are a celebrity and information obsessed culture. We have to ask if all this is good or not. It brings attention to the disease and it brings to our attention aspects of the treatment about which there are many misconceptions. And then there are the sad attention seekers

The list of famous women with breast cancer is long and illustrious. I remember Betty Rollin, a journalist, who wrote about her struggle with breast cancer in a book that became a movie, “At First You Cry.” I read Susan Sontag book “illness as Metaphor” in the seventies and appreciated her insights into the different views of illness in societies and literature. She had breast cancer as did Rachel Carson who wrote “Silent Spring.”

There are earlier victims of breast cancer discovered archeologically from the distant past who never made the cover of “People” magazine. An Egyptian aristocrat, a woman from the Sudan, and a Siberian “ice princess” are included in this list. These cases go back 2-4,000 years.

And let us not forget the men with breast cancer who have come forward: Richard Roundtree who played the bad dude in “Shaft,”  Senator Edward Brooke, the first African American Senator, and  the drummer for the rock group “Kiss.”

Every breast cancer victim has a story and perhaps celebrities and public figures, like bards of the past, can tell their stories in a special way that shed important light on our human condition.

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