Friday, October 07, 2016

BREAST Cancer: Yesterday’s Risqué - Today’s Yawn

Artist AleXsandro Palombo  series called “Survivor” that imagines what well-known female cartoon personalities ...

A few decades ago I deleted an entire segment in the TicklesTabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy manuscript, because talking about breasts in a children’s book about breast cancer was just too risqué.

When it comes to addressing topics others deem risqué or offensive, it appears I’m no longer a step ahead of popular perception, but have fallen on my unbleached butt and can’t get up.

I've fallen and can't get up!

Now that I’m almost retired, I spent my summer arranging potential “Summer Adventures 2016” journal entries for my grown children, ensuring my landscaping survived the hottest East TN summer in years, doing DIY projects in the basement, and -every once in a while- checking in to see what type of stories and/or experts the media is looking for these days.

Some of what I learned sure was… educational.

For example, I learned that freelancers were looking for experts on butt bleaching. Even more enlightening, I learned that I need not have bothered running a google search on butt bleaching, I could have just asked my children what that was.

In my previous blog, I gave some of the backstory and backlash regarding the controversy surrounding my children’s book about nuclear power plants.  In the wake of Fukushima it is not difficult to understand why a children’s book about nuclear power plants might not be a welcome edition on everyone’s book shelf, but a children’s book about cancer?  

“Why would you ever want to do a book about nuclear power,” asked one of my colleagues, “after establishing a career based on a sweet, beloved, children’s book about cancer?”

His comment only goes to show: Yesterday’s controversial and risqué is today’s yawn.

In the late 1990’s, when I first pitched my sweet, beloved children’s book about cancer it was not considered so sweet. It is unimaginable today, but back in 1994 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was discussed in hushed tones amongst adults, over the heads of bewildered children.

Talking to children about nuclear power would have been far less controversial than a children’s book about cancer. Especially one that included the emotional mood swings (depression) pictured in Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy.  If cancer wasn’t depressing enough, one critic (another writer) told me the mommy in my story (a nicer version of myself) was just too mean!  

I did receive some positive critiques from several well-respected mainstream publishing houses. They loved the story, but there just wasn’t a market for it. After all, young mothers with children didn’t usually get breast cancer… I was just unlucky.  They left out the part about me being unlucky.

I didn’t know it at the time, but for any unknown aspiring author to receive any comments at all from an editor was huge. I thought they felt sorry for the cancer mommy, so I packed up my manuscript and focused on LIVING.  

Today it’s common knowledge that young women do get breast cancer, good moms aren’t always nice, and even moms without cancer get depressed. If you’re in the book business you know that editor’s affiliated with large publishing houses care about marketing potential and not the feelings of aspiring writers, whether they are dead or alive!  

Just about everything I experienced back then sounds unbelievable to young people today, and makes for humorous story-telling. If only living it had been as funny! This October it will be fifteen years since my children's book on cancer was published, and made its debut on the Rosie O Donnell talk show. 

We used to have a saying when I was a kid: Last laugh’s the dog’s laugh.  Woof, woof, is sort of how I feel when I reflect on my experience writing and publishing Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy!  

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! 
And a reminder to women of all ages to examine their breasts!