March 26, 2009

Facebook Cancer Spaz

Vote Now: Should I Delete Spaz as A Friend on Facebook?

I’m not trying to go 6th grade on us; I think this is a great topic up for grabs, with a friend who never minds public exposure or controversy (or at least he didn’t 20 years ago; maybe we’ve changed since high school!)

Tuesday night I posted on facebook “Kairol Rosenthal is debating with Shannon about how much money doctors should make.”

Spaz commented on my wall – he’s a high school friend, with whom I used to watch John Hughes movies, attend peace rallies, and kiss in the park.

Spaz wrote “… You used to be into music, movies, activism and all sorts of other things. Is medical stuff and malignant masses really all you are into now? … It’s like people are born again and only talk about Jesus. If this is annoying or rude, delete me as a friend and I’ll understand. Otherwise. Weren’t you married recently?”

Mr. Malignant
Comments went up on my wall defending me, calling him malignant. But Spaz raised a good question that others wouldn’t dare to. Here’s my reply:

Medicine is the central issue of our time; talking about it is activism. Health care impacts the financial status, productivity level, and quality of life of most Americans.

In the last 6 months, I haven’t touched the Arts section of the Times; I used to drink it in. Instead I read about doctors’ pay, pre-existing condition regulations, and a proposal to split FDA in two. These issues profoundly impact on my life, and yours too Spaz.

I get the born again analogy, and could reply, “I have no choice but to talk and think about healthcare. I’ve got cancer.” But that’s bullshit. I have a choice about where my mind goes, and lately I’ve been questioning the direction. Have I had a day in the last three months where I didn’t ruminate on health care? No.

My Bagels and Pajamas
Patients across the country call and email me daily about insurance, getting second opinions, financial resources, and cancer. I love that I, and my book, can help people.

Some days it’s taxing though to be all about cancer, like today when I am just sad and pissed off at the insidious, malignant tumors in my neck. I tell myself to stop the health care chatter: take more walks, watch more ballet on You Tube, write facebook updates about my breakfast or that I’m still in my PJ’s at 1:57 PM.

But who gives a shit about my bagel or PJ’s? Perhaps nobody cares about how much doctors get paid either, but I think we should. We can’t complain about health care if we aren’t educating ourselves and to be part of the solution.

So yes, Spaz, I’m married to Shannon Fisk, an environmental attorney for NRDC. We don’t want kids, love our dog, are total geeks and night owls, and live in Chicago, but wouldn’t mind moving to New York. Last night we climbed into bed, debating if convicted murderers should be allowed to study and practice medicine after serving their sentence. Conversations like this are my passion, just like music, photography, or gardening is for others. I’m damn lucky that I’ve become a healthcare author, and that something I love (and loathe) so much has become my profession.

How would you respond to Spaz? Would you delete him or not? Do you think about your health more than you would like to? Do you discuss health care issues with friends who aren’t young adult cancer survivors?

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  1. mom of julie Says:
    March 26th, 2009 at 8:48 PM

    Kairol, my daughter has cervical cancer from the HPV virus with mets to her lung. According to everything I have read, this is a cancer which can be 100% prevented by a vaccine called Gardisal. It is amazing to me that so many mothers are in complete denial and refuse to subject their daughters to this vaccine. I feel like going to every high school in the US and begging these teens to get the vaccine so that they won’t have to go through what my daughter is going through . Oh yes it is on my mind each and everyday. I don’t think anyone can “get it” if their lives or the lives of family members are affected. You are an inspiration and a support for all young cancer victims. Personally I say dump Spaz. He doesn’t deserve to be your friend.

  2. Wendy S. Harpham, MD Says:
    March 27th, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    It sounds to me as if the ball is in Spaz’s court. He can decide if he wants to delete you as a friend.

    You made powerful arguments in response to his criticism. If he continues to post critical comments, you can continue to use them to bolster the information, insights and advice you are trying to convey to your readers.

    If he sounds superficial, ignorant or mean, it reflects on him, not you. I assume your blog site allows you to screen comments, so you can simply delete comments that cross the line.

    You bring up another topic that I will use as the focus on my next blog post: How much do Healthy Survivors owe it to their loved ones to either talk about medical issues when they don’t want to? And how much do they owe it to their loved ones to keep from talking about medical issues when these survivors need to or would like to talk about them?

    With hope,

  3. Trish Says:
    April 4th, 2009 at 2:12 PM

    For those who do not deal daily with cancer (or who have not had to), the idea that medicine is on your mind every day, is a tough pill to swallow. “get over it” and “don’t you do anything else?” have been responses I have heard when I’ve been neck deep in my cancer stuff. And sometimes, they are right, I need to do other things, think of other things and GASP! have some fun. I do those things too. But I never GET to forget I am and always will be, a cancer patient for the rest of MY life.

    It is uncomfortable for folks to talk about cancer care—even, sometimes, those who have or have had it. Which tell me we need to keep talking about it.

    I think Spaz needs to get a healthy dose of your reality. You are probably still the same person Spaz hung out with, but new and improved, this time with cancer. As Dr Harpham said, you’ve presented a decent defense and I think it’s up to Spaz whether or not to continue. If Spaz can’t live with the idea that your life DOES revolve at least, partially, around cancer and that it is an important thought in your mind, maybe Spaz needs to play in another sand box—perhaps with someone who has no issues, no problems and when things get tough, will go drinking with Spaz to blot out the “icky things” in life.

    Personally, I have either not friended or I have defriended anyone who isn’t supportive—I’m too old and I need my energy to keep my cancer from progressing, rather than fighting with someone who is supposed to be a friend.

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