Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Arguing Breast Cancer: The Feminist Views of Two Women's Health Activists

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

Arguing Breast Cancer: The Feminist Views of Two Women's Health Activists

Article excerpt

The fact that we are here and that I speak now these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.

-Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals

Feminism's brilliance is found in this recognition that the body is not simply personal, that there is a politics to sex, that personal and political life are intermeshed.

-Zillah Eisenstein, Manmade Breast Cancers

In early 2001, Anne Kasper, a longtime women's health activist and founding member of the U.S. Women's Health Movement, and two partners began a support service for women with breast cancer. Calling it Finding My Way, the three sought to put their many years of work with women who had faced breast cancer to the service of women in the metropolitan Washington, DC, area, and elsewhere, who would struggle with a breast cancer diagnosis. Anne sent an E-mail to her friends and colleagues in women's health, asking them to let interested others know about this new service. One woman who received the E-mail was Sharon Batt, a breast cancer activist in Canada and author of Patient No More, a landmark book on the politics of breast cancer. Sharon took strong exception to the idea of Finding My Way and wrote Anne to that effect. An exchange of letters followed. Despite some early charges and countercharges, Sharon and Anne continued their exchange over the course of several months. What follows is their open-ended dialogue, an attempt to understand their differing feminist views on a range of political, ethical, economic, and social issues that surround breast cancer.

May 9, 2001, via E-mail

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, I have recently started a support practice for women with breast cancer. My partners and I are currently working with clients and are pleased that they have found our service to be of help to them. Will you help us let other people know about Finding My Way by forwarding this message to people in your E-mail address book? (We are available to work with clients in DC in person and out-side the DC metro area by phone and E-mail.) Thanks in advance for your support.

Anne Kasper

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Finding My Way: Support for Women with Breast Cancer

When diagnosed with breast cancer, women often feel overwhelmed by the choices they must make, at a time when they feel most vulnerable. More and more, women find that they need someone to turn to-someone with an intimate and expert knowledge of the cancer experience who can guide them through cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. That someone is a breast cancer coach. Finding My Way is a new and unique service for women with breast cancer. We are breast cancer coaches. We offer women the support they need to manage the complexities of life with breast cancer. We help each woman solve the myriad of problems she faces from the time of diagnosis through recovery. We maintain a current database of resources and services specific to women with breast cancer. And, we provide the personal, one-on-one support that every woman with breast cancer would like to have but, until now, was unable to find. (While we work with each woman to support her as she takes difficult steps, we are not a substitute for, nor do we interfere with, the advice of her doctors and health care providers.)

Personal Breast Cancer Coaches

Anne S. Kasper, Ph.D., has been a women's health expert for more than 25 years and has worked with women with breast cancer for more than 12 years. She is an editor and author of a new book, Breast Cancer: Society Shapes an Epidemic. Anne has a special interest in encouraging women to be advocates for their health. Jane M. Lincoln, M.S.W., has been an oncology social worker for over 12 years working in a variety of settings with breast cancer survivors. She worked at the George Washington University Cancer Center from 1989 to 2000. …

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