Double yesses for double exes

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Double yesses for double exes

KK Edge, Co-Editor in Chief

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As many people know, October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That month is dedicated to the celebration of the survivors and the encouragement of the currently fighting – its weekends are booked with different races and walks that people can participate in, all in hopes for a cure. Until then, though, the patients hold fast, fighting with courage and bravery until they are no longer disease-ridden.

Because of the effect of cancer on so many people’s lives in our current world, a lot of people can grow numb to the fact that it is indeed a terminal illness. However, when you look at the millions fighting cancer for their lives each day, nine out of ten times, you wouldn’t think, “Oh that person is sick.” Many times, the cancer patients are the most hopeful.

The story is no different with Jill-Brzeziniski-Conley, a 35-year-old double-mastectomy patient that was asked by Sue Bryce, a portrait photographer, to travel from her home in Louisville, Kentucky, to Paris for a special photoshoot. Jill discovered the cancer in the year of 2009, finding out she was in stage 3, that she was terminal, and that she would never be cured. That never stopped her from having a good life, and it certainly never stopped her from accepting this offer to be celebrated.

How sad is it, though, that she had to travel halfway across the planet to be celebrated for the beauty that she is? So many times in today’s society, we are too busy celebrating those who are cured, and we spend way less time on those who are incurable. I am not saying that cancer survivors should not get recognition by any means, what I am saying is that if we only ever celebrate those who are “back to normal,” we run the risk of destroying the already fragile self-confidence and livelihood of those who don’t get the option of going “back to normal.”

There is nothing wrong, or different, about Mrs. Conley. She lives a normal, good life with her husband, who she claims is the “man of her dreams.” Why, then, do we treat her as if she is some sort of hyperactive lab experiment that us “healthy” people need to stay away from?  She may have two false breasts, but that doesn’t make her an abnormality. We praise superstars who have done more to their bodies by choice, yet stay away from the ones who had no control over it. I doubt Mrs. Conley was particularly excited about the surgery.

Since when did a terminal disease become as defining as an ethnicity or belief system? Cancer does not define Mrs. Conley, it does not define the women who had their lives claimed by breast cancer – or any cancer – and it doesn’t define the people who overcame their illness. They are just as much a human – a healthy, real, alive human – as you and I, and it’s time we started treating them that way.

Mrs. Conley was quoted saying to the Huffington Post, “I felt like Cinderella, not a breast cancer patient.” She should have access to feeling that way all the time, not when she is asked to leave her country for a photoshoot. It is not the job of the patient to assert themselves beautiful, it is our job as fellow humans to wrap her up and tell her that cancer does not define her. And yet too often we spend more time telling her how to cure herself, instead of realizing that she is altogether wonderful just as she is.