Cancer is Nothing to Smile About

The ad sprawled across the city bus showed a woman smiling. The bold caption read “My sister has cancer, but I don’t.” Taken at face value, I suppose somewhere in this cruel world a sister like that really exists; one who would thank her lucky stars that if cancer just had to strike, better her sister than her. I doubt, however, that one would be so callous as to advertise her elation on a 35 to 45 foot bus for the entire city to see. People aren’t generally that open about their darkness.

Whatever product the smiling woman was selling, the content of that bold captioned text and her happy face are sure to be at odds with the details in the fine print. A miracle cure? I doubt it. Edward Bernays might have thought this was ingenious, but all it did for me yesterday was make me feel sadder.

You see, today is the second anniversary of the death of my older sister, Vanessa. She died of cancer. I was her caretaker. The experience was unlike any other I have had, and this is true even though I had another sister who died of cancer in 1989. That smiling face on the city bus ad bothered me. My sister had cancer. I don’t. I can’t find anything in that sentence that makes me want to smile.

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