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The Funny Look

September 13, 2013
The lie won't go away

The lie won’t go away


It’s what I want to say sometimes, when people give me a funny look after they find out that I got breast cancer in my 30s.

“Does it run in your family?”

“Nope, just me.”

Funny look.

Perhaps the funny look is because I am a reminder that we’re all vulnerable to cancer, except that people when bring it up, it goes like this:

I guess cancer can strike anyone, huh. (Boo!)

I want you to know that I signed up for a mammogram. (Yay!)

Thinking of you reminds me to do my breast self-exam every month. (Yay!)

I want you to know that gave blood last week, because I still can. (I love you for doing that!)

My grandmother had breast cancer. (I’m sorry to hear that, but did she get it in her 30s when her kids were in diapers? Nope, not the same.)

I had breast cancer too, early stage, but I know how you feel. (I’m glad you’re okay, and no, you don’t.)

Even when I’m a jerk, I don’t get the funny look.

When someone gives me the funny look, I’ve noticed that they avoid me thereafter.

It could be that they’re uncomfortable around cancer. I don’t think that’s it.

I think people give me the funny look because they have been told that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer and they jump to the conclusion that because I had breast cancer, I must have had an abortion at some point. I think the funny look means:


For the record, I have not had an abortion.

I’m not a scientist and I do not work in epidemiology nor public health. I have not personally run the statistical analyses of breast cancer rates and abortion rates, so I can’t personally speak to whether there is a link between breast cancer and abortion. Instead, I look to the people who study these things. The National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have examined whether there is a link and concluded that there is not.

According to science, there is no link between abortion and breast cancer.

According to people who believe that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer, there is a link between abortion and cancer.

You can’t fight faith with facts, and for a great many people, the purported link between the two is a tenet of faith. They believe it, and their belief causes them to give me the funny look.

I’m not sure what to do about the funny lookers.

I wish they would just ask straight out. They might not believe me when I said, “No, I did not have an abortion,” but it would be a start.

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  1. Maude permalink

    I’ve rarely heard anything so stupid in my life. I would feel relative tolerance hearing this from a fundamentalist country that feels obliged to believe it detains the truth and nothing but the truth on religious matters. They just haven’t come around to the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries yet, I can forgive. I can respect tenets of faith.
    I cannot forgive this sort BS from the United States. Ok, I do know about hard-core believers of the 7 day creation cycle, Sarah Palin (she’d be fine in Iran), the buring of Corans to *commemorate* 9/11…but this is different – no words, just casting an eye – from one you-and-me to another you-and-me.
    You could say on my behalf, “Do you know about the Fall of the Roman Empire? The latest research seems to indicate that this was due to the link between abortion and breast cancer.”

    You could close with, “as a matter of fact, they ran out of barbecue sauce for the missing rib.”

  2. Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better!
    Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate!

    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this write-up to him.
    Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks! It’s hard to know what to say to a *look.* Humor is definitely the best way to deal with it.

  4. Joy permalink

    I had never heard that ridiculous notion before and frankly, I’m stunned. Unbelievable! And people’s reactions? HOLY COW! I’m sorry you have to deal with this level of stupidity. HUGS! Joy

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