Fabulous Girl's Boudoir

Monday, June 09, 2008

Our mothers, ourselves

The fantastic WendyB is in marieclaire magazine, discussing the day she found out her business partner had died of complications from breast cancer - Wendy hadn't known she was ill.
For me, her death raised difficult questions: At the end of the day, what do any of us owe each other—in terms of honesty, intimacy, and disclosure—as friends, colleagues, neighbors? How could I have had an intimate working relationship with Caron and not have known something like this about her? It made me question my judgment, my powers of observation.

Still, I wondered: Why didn't she do right by me? I know that in the grand scheme of things, our little business project paled in comparison to the fact that she was facing death. But even so, if she felt her illness was too private to share, she could've simply provided the information that would keep our business going. It seemed odd to me that her work and her life were always so intertwined, yet so separate at the end. I couldn't wrap my mind around it.

I agree with WB that it is not OK to withhold business information from your partners, especially under circumstances like the ones she describes. Beyond that ...

When my mother, a double survivor, discovered that a woman she considered a close friend had kept the disease from her, she was angry. Why hadn't Carol told her, especially as she'd been through it herself? My mother was hurt that she considered a close enough friend to be in the loop, and that her help and support - and my parents are both extraordinary friends, particularly during difficult times - had not been asked for.

At the time, I told my mother that it wasn't about /her/, that people have a right to their privacy, and she should see what she could do now that she knew what was up. Not everyone is able to draw their friends and family around them and be vulnerable, to be strong enough to admit when they are out of control of a situation. One of the reasons I think my mother is so open about the health issues she has experienced over the years is that she had more than her share of losses in the first three decades of her life. There is no question for her whether or not she will survive, it is the only option. I think her experience somehow enables her to plan for the days leading up to and after a knee or hip replacement, because she is convinced she will not only survive, she will be fine.

Labels: ,


  • Interestingly, my mother had breast cancer too. She wasn't one of those people who told the world, but she told everyone she felt "needed" to know. Overall, I would have thought it was odd -- but okay -- if Caron hadn't told me about her cancer but at the same time hadn't hidden business information from me. That's what was the most troublesome. She knew she was dying, yet she deliberately withheld the information that, in her mind, would keep the business going. I think she would be disappointed that I continued without her. I guess the issue of telling or not telling about an illness has a lot to do with the intent behind your decision.

    By Blogger WendyB, at 8:31 PM  

  • The privacy issue aside, though (which should certainly be a guarantee), I do also think that generations of being told that some or all of their medical problems are "just" "women's issues" might contribute to a reluctance to share health concerns with friends or family. My own grandmother didn't tell anyone about her (minor) second heart attack --and she died of the third. After taking care of her husband and sons and their myriad medical issues for decades, I think she internalized a lot of subtle cultural cues that she should be silent. Maybe a bit of that (along with privacy concerns) is behind the reason other women don't come forward to friends/family as well?

    I'll have to read the full MC article when I have more time!

    By Blogger Rainster, at 9:25 PM  

  • WendyB, I completely agree that Caron should have keep you in the business loop, no matter what. That is what it means to be /partners/. It's always so disappointing to me when enterprising women make it harder on their sisters. The good news is that you persevered regardless. Looking forward to tonight!

    Rainster, I hear that. One of my great aunts kept her breast cancer to herself until it was beyond too late to be treated, because, she said, she didn't want to worry anyone. And then she was gone, and her children were devastated.

    By Blogger fabulous girl, at 5:46 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home