The story (the link to the full story below) opens describing how Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut shares her personal battle with ovarian cancer and how Indiana Senator Evan Bayh talked about his mom's death from breast cancer.
Then, only a few sentences later, the "news" article -- and I use the term "news" lightly -- says:
"When it comes to the debate over health care reform, the personal medical narrative has become something like a key card: You can’t get in without one. Advocates on both sides of the health care debate are stockpiling real-life stories from average citizens. But in the world wrought by talk-show confessionals and reality TV — and in a political environment where an admission of economic pain and suffering may score some points — members can be counted on to invoke their own medical sagas as well."
Now let me make sure I'm understanding this correctly: people's personal narratives are equated to talk-show confessionals and reality TV? So, like, when I was throwing up from chemo, that was equivalent to me being on yet another Jerry Springer "Who's Your Daddy" saga?
Since when has fighting cancer, or any condition for that matter, become a "saga"?
The personal narrative of one's own experience with illness or discussing a loved one is one of the most refreshing concepts to emerge. Everyone is telling his or her story lately -- thanks to vehicles like the blogosphere -- because the truth is this: many politicians don't care much about healthcare topics....until it hits home for them personally.
In fact, many people are walking around clueless all over the place, denial-zombies -- until illness strikes their loved ones or themselves...or celebrities. But even then, as I discussed in a previous blog, denial is this fog that creeps over even those whose family and friends have an illness.
Here's why the personal narrative is so important: because people afflicted with an illness or condition are NOT heard by society. That's why the personal narrative has become so popular. People want to hear the stories of those who are suffering -- because it keeps us human and humane, and for those of us who have struggled/are struggling with a condition, it reminds us that we are not alone in our suffering.
Where's the "saga" in that?
Oh, and later in the article, it gets real good when NY Congressman Peter King says that "...everyone has a story sadder than yours...we are in the age of Twitter, where we are supposed to let the world know what you're doing every day,...but I have a certain zone of privacy not just to protect yourself but to not be imposing on other people."
Yeah, Mr. King, you are imposing your pro-denial views on me, and I resent it.
But to give this online publication credit, it avoids becoming strictly a propaganda piece by quoting Molly Daniels, Vice President Advocacy Field, for the American Cancer Society Action Network: "What I've heard time and time again and what we've heard throughout the organization -- people want to share their stories, so it doesn't happen to other people."
We need the personal narrative because we live in a culture where people are so consumed with brushing ugliness under the carpet, that they don't want to hear the voices emanatiing from underneath it.
I think I'll Twitter now, Mr. King.
Beth L. Gainer is a professional writer and has published an essay on her breast cancer experience in the anthology Voices of Breast Cancer by LaChance Publishing. She teaches writing and literature at Robert Morris College in the Chicago area. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. She also blogs on the adventures of her cats, Hemi and Cosette, at http://www.catterchatter.blogspot.com/.