Friday, February 20, 2009

The Jade Goody thing

So Jade Goody has just weeks to live – and it seems that we will be watching her every step of the way as she succumbs to cancer.
It’s ironic really that the woman who made a life for herself in a top rated reality TV show now faces ending her life in the biggest reality TV show of all time. The press, gossip columnists and TV producers of this country are falling over themselves to get the exclusives on the end stage of her battle, her big wedding, her looks of anguish and pain as she says goodbye to her children and, probably – ultimately – her funeral.
I can’t ever say I’ve been a fan of Jade Goody. Her battle with cancer has not really changed my opinion of her. I’m not one of those people who now finds myself falling over myself to call her a heroine or an inspiration. She is, basically, just yet another human being being battered into submission by cancer. I don’t feel any more sorrow for her than I do for anyone else who has found themselves in that same, horrendous position she is in.
But I have found myself wrapped up in the human tragedy of what is playing out in front of our eyes. And I’m almost ashamed of myself because it feels wrong to feel so caught up in the battle of a celeb to beat an illness that they now know they can no longer beat.
I’ve never met Jade, nor am I ever likely to, but I can’t help but feel that – perhaps simply because we are both women and both mothers – there is some kind of affinity between us. There is something in me that can only glimpse at the pain she must be feeling (emotionally and physically) and think that there but for the grace of God go I.
And while I find it deeply uncomfortable and gruesomely voyeuristic to watch her battle play out in the national press, I still can’t stop myself from reading, and watching and following this “story” intensely.
First of all I have to commend Jade for being so open about her cancer. It’s reported that since she was diagnosed with cervical cancer last year uptake for regular smear tests has increased more than 20%. Lord knows how many women’s lives will be saved because this woman has been open about her own circumstances.
It’s shocking that a 27 year old can have this illness at such an advanced stage. We’re led to believe it’s an illness which affects older women – so much so that regular screening for cervical cancer is now not offered until a woman is over 25. It used to be offered, as a matter of course, to any woman over 20. We have to wonder if this change is policy is going to cost yet more lives of young women who could be treated successfully should any problems be detected early enough? And we have to ask if it is acceptable that lives should be put at risk as part of what I can only see as a cost cutting exercise by the NHS.
Ultimately, however, the most shocking thing about the whole thing is that there are hundreds of thousands of women out there who aren’t attending regular screening through embarrassment or fear. Sure smears are not pleasant – I can’t think of a single woman who skips smiling to the nurse’s office for her three yearly date with a speculum – but a smear is much less embarrassing and uncomfortable than, I dare say, chemo or radiotherapy or telling your children you won’t be there to see them grow up.
Jade is one of those women whohas admitted she ignored the reminder letters from her doctors in the hope that she would be okay. This was despite an earlier test revealing abnormal cells. Many women out there, myself included, know how scary it is to have an inconclusive result come back from the lab and to be asked to have another test. Many of know how hard it is to wait for a second set of results and many women go through treatment to make sure those abnormal cells are treated as quickly as possible.
It’s beyond me how anyone could, even with the fear factor, ignore the need for further treatment or investigation but I’m also sure there is no one beating Jade up more about her past foolishness than herself.
I suppose we can only hope that her experiences will continue to inspire woman to take responsibility for their own health and realise that even though the chances of developing cervical cancer at such a young age are slim, they are still very real. We all need to get over our fear and embarrassment and get on that doctor’s table and undergo a short procedure in the hope it will save them a huge amount of pain and heartache in the future. (And perhaps I am just speaking with the false bravado of a woman facing labour and delivery head on and mentally preparing myself for leaving all shred of dignity at the door of the hospital).
It’s sad that it will take the death of a public figure – even if she is one who people either love or hate – to wake women up to the importance of regular screening but I suppose all anyone can do is cling on to any positive in a very negative and painful situation.
And we must remember that while Jade’s pain is played out in the press there are thousands of women experiencing just what she is just as courageously. They might not make the headlines but they, and their families, should all be in our thoughts too at this time and we, as women, have to hope and pray that a day comes soon when no more brave and courageous women are destroyed by this illness.

7 comments:

Penelope said...

Very well said Claire!
I have had to explain who she is to a number of American friends as it appears her story has made it across The Pond but they don't actually have a clue who she is!

Peter said...

Very well put, I think you have it exactly right. I am a parent too and the thought of my wife or I passing before our children especially when they are so young brings lump to my throat. Life is so often cruel , she is only 27, how very sad.

Deborah Riccio said...

Hear, hear! Well said - I also feel sad for her - for anyone having to battle this but it doesn't stop me from not liking her. can't be a hypocrite I'm afraid.

Margaret said...

Great piece Claire, I feel sorry for Jade in her circumstances, but I feel so sorry for her two wee boys who will grow up without their mammy. I have a son of 16 and that is always my prayer at night that I am with him till he is man big as many a mammy hopes. All the best with your impending big event.x

bfs ~ "Mimi" said...

I must Google her as I don't know who she is? I have lost friends and family to cancer, and it is a bad bad deal. For anyone.

Richard said...

I do feel sorry for her and it's nice that the publishers have stepped up.

I know from experience how afraid the mainstream is about publishing anything cancer related.

pete said...

This is my cousin with the same name who went through cervical cancer and lost the battle.

http://www.gm.tv/lifestyle/health/35864-cervical-screening-cancer-jade-goody.html

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