Wednesday, January 15, 2014


© Emma Keller
Once there was a writer named Emma Keller who posted a very disruptive article last week on The Guardian  website about a highly regarded breast cancer blogger named Lisa Bonchek Adams. (I have written about Lisa many times on this blog.)

The article in question has since been retracted by The Guardian "pending investigation" — but you can find it here! (Oh, the wonders of the internet, where nothing ever really disappears…)

Continuing on...
Emma's article (again, you can find it here) has the breast cancer community (and social media at large) abuzz. Why? 

© Lisa Bonchek Adams
It's crazy, the why. These two women, Emma and Lisa, have more in common than meets the eye. Emma had early-stage breast cancer; Lisa also had early-stage breast cancer. But Lisa's metastasized six years later and she is now Stage IV, incurable. Yet Emma is lambasting Lisa for sharing TMI.

Say what? 

Of course there's more to it. As Emma herself has said on her own blog, "My goal all along has been to put this experience behind me as fast as possible before carrying on with life as normal." More commonalities. Who among us who has heard "You. Have. Cancer." hasn't tried to do that? 

We all have. We all try. Until we can't. Lisa tried too, until she couldn't. When Stage IV rapped on her door, she chose to write about it. With grace.

But grace is woefully missing from Emma's article. 

Luckily for Emma, recurrence has steered clear of her door. But we all know there are no guarantees when it comes to The Big C. It sneaks up on you, just like a Fort Lee road closure. We keep our doors locked, but cancer has a hide-a-key. It comes home to roost whenever it wants to.

Getting back to the issue at hand: Emma's story questions the value and ethics of "tweeting a terminal illness" the way Lisa is doing. Rather than rehash every detail, here's a link to Maryn McKenna's wonderful piece on It recaps the controversy beautifully. 

So many of my blogging friends have written posts about the brouhaha (find my pals listed under my "Renn's Favorite Big C Bloggers" sidebar) that I haven't read them all, but I have to give a shout-out to Marie over at Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer, because it was Maria's blog post yesterday that gave me my AH HA! moment today...

It's a blunder and a blessing that Emma's denial of her own fear of recurrence/death has played out in such a public forum — the entire world — and by her own hand, no less! How's that for irony?

But at some point, I hope Emma Keller's denial mechanism will crack and crumble. And if she is self-aware enough, she will learn to face her fear and work through it rather than subconsciously lash out at a wonderful woman with incurable cancer. It will take an awful lot of chutzpah on Emma's part to write about that. But I truly hope she does. Even if it's years down the road.

So I will take the high road here and hope at some point Emma Keller can reflect on her own "overwhelming experience" and see it for what it truly is: the spark that helped changed the way the world views metastatic cancer. Because without Emma's flub (and her husband Bill's failed attempt to save her in the New York Times, no less! Read that ditty here), fewer people in this world would know about Lisa Bonchek Adams, and the beauty of her life (which she is still living!), and the truth of her story. And that is the upshot here. Everybody's talking about it. And that sheds much-needed light on metastatic cancer.

Now back to Lisa. She is, tweet by tweet, blog post by blog post, helping to erode that layer of denial that stands between each one of us and our fear of cancer and death. 

None of us get out off this ferris wheel of life alive. So enough with the magical thinking. Enough with the inept logic that anyone going through cancer should just "get on with it." And that is the magic of Lisa. She forces those of us brave enough to read her work to face our own fears, to push aside our denial, to freely embrace her path and provide her empathy and offer her support as a human being. Lisa deserves that. We all deserve that.

So I'm going to forgive Emma Keller, and her husband, too. For they know not what they do. (Or did.) They unwittingly cracked open the cancer convo and allowed Lisa to shine for all to see. That is a beautiful thing. And for that I am thankful.

Now if only Emma and Bill could take the high road and apologize to Lisa...

If you are on Twitter, you can show your support by using the hash tag #IStandWithLisa.

UPDATE: Lisa Bonchek Adams passed away in March 2015. My post about her is here. 


  1. I think it is sad when other people judge others in how they deal with challenges, atrocities... who are we to judge another... Lisa is dealing with this in her own way, I pray the pain can be controlled by medication. I won't judge Emma or her husband as they look they like they are dealing with there own challenges but I am like you Renn... I hope one day Emma will write about this apologize if only for herself...

    1. I do hope she writes about it too, Launna! Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. What is sad is that there are some good questions in her article. But they are lost because the tone is so critical. Reading it I find it hard to pin down what exactly her point was. It's almost as if she wasn't sure what she wanted to write and didn't think through what she wanted to say. So she just threw it out there. It shows. The result is kind off the cuff and not terribly thoughtful.

    This was one to set aside and re-read before publishing. Too bad that the editor didn't catch it.

    (Oh and I just love this line, "None of us get out off this ferris wheel of life alive.")

    1. Victoria, you make a good point about Emma's point being muddled. It seems to have been lost in the sauce.It has the tone of an unfinished piece.

      Thank you for commenting. :-)

  3. Renn, great to see you blogging again - nothing like a controversy that stirs passionate feelings and gets us itching to write again. There has been so much comment on Kellergate, and among it all, yours has something new to say - a blessing and a blunder indeed.

    1. Marie, I started to reply to your post and as wrote my 3rd paragraph, I realized my comment to you should just become a new blog post. (That happens to me a lot! I start replying to someone's blog post and realize I have way too much to say, so rather than hijack their post, I blog about whatever it is here.) Thanks for the inspiration!

      When so much is written about a particular topic, sometimes it's hard to find the unique spin. This one was easy. (thanks to you).

  4. You are gracious here, Renn. And you are right, this has opened the conversation even further. I'm just sorry it had to be at Lisa's expense. But moving forward, I think it will be an opportunity for her story to impact even more. ~Catherine

    1. Catherine, as I said above, I really want to take the high road on this, because I don't think Emma has an axe to grind, I really think she is simply unaware of some of the things she is feeling and writing about. It should have been something that she wrote for her blog and stayed there.

      And I really, really think it has shed some much-needed attention on mets. The more we all talk about it, the better!

  5. dear Renn,

    one never knows what might come out of a state of affairs such as kellergate. I hope our dear Lisa knows how much she is loved and admired, and that she has been a paragon of grace and generosity in all aspects of her use of social media, helping countless people by sharing her story.

    I think you've done a marvelous job with this post and your careful analysis of what might be behind Emma and Bill Keller's blatant blunder. an apology from them just for the sake of quieting things down would mean very little. I think the best outcome would be just what is taking place right now - taking ST IV mets out of the shadows and into the light of understanding and increased activism.

    however, I do have compassion for the Kellers, and I hope that introspection and being educated on the issues surrounding their "reporting" and "op-eding" helps them both to be more compassionate. and it would be a good thing, especially for Ms. Keller to be able to have compassion for herself. compassion, just as love, is not a quality one can extend to others if it doesn't reside within one's self, for one's self.

    much love and light .

    Karen XOXOXO

    1. Karen,

      I hope Lisa can feel the ocean of good will coming from the BC community and I hope it WAY overshadows the negativity brought upon her by the Kellers.

      You're probably right, an apology wouldn't do much good, thought I would still encourage them to offer one to Lisa and her family. And as I said above, I SO agree with you that the upside of this whole loud mess is more awareness and activism for Stage IV mets.

      But Karen you really pin-pointed what I think is behind the lack of awareness on Emma's part: She is lacking compassion for her own self. So in that regard, I hope Emma can forgive herself for getting cancer in the first place (we have no control), and allow herself to feel her fear. 'cause we all fear the fear when the Big C strikes.

      Thank you for your terrific insight, Karen. I hope you are doing well with your treatments.

  6. YES, I hope all of this mess does create an opportunity. I've been restless for many months now that the status quo of (breast) cancer culture just won't change. The backlash that is going on has given me encouragement that finally, those in the non-cancer world will finally see that not all of us embrace the rah-rah, the Pink, the warrior path, or the dance my cancer away methods of doing cancer. Because in my real life world, when I say I reject Pink, everyone looks at me like I just grew another head, STILL, 3 years after I fell into Cancerland. --Cancer Curmudgeon (Sorry, this site will not let me comment using my Wordpress URL for some reason, so posting as anon)

    1. If all this "Kellergate" backlash can help dilute the pink Kool aid, it was not for naught. (Easy for me to say; Lisa Adams holdsthat final opinion.)

      Thanks for stopping by. I follow your blog and I read your post about the Kellers. Please, please, please keep on being curmudgeonly! ;-)

  7. Wow...more than a blunder IMO. Then again, I have to believe that Mr. Keller would likely have different opinions if it were his own mortality he was staring in the face.


  8. There has been a considerable amount of dialogue opened due to the posting of the articles. there have been a lot of comments made the majority negative but I am trying to be a little more conciliatory in my approach. Yes what she wrote was really inappropriate in so many ways. yet she herself has gone through Breast Cancer and I suspect under that cold facade is a very scared lady that is probably more terrified of "ending up" in a hospice or under a lot of medical care at some point when no answer because as we know you can go from a 0 to a stage 4 without barely sneezing in some cases. Then we have a stodgy husband stiff upper lip and all who may feel all the added treatment is frivilous not needed and "Take it like a man" attitude. I'd be scared of that!! He demonstrated in his article relating to his father's death. I am going to try and stay objective as much as I disagreed with her writing that underneath is some one who is very afraid and she was addicted to Lisa's twits because she wants or needs to know the final Alli....XX

    1. Precisely, Alli! That's why in the end, Emma's faux pas (which I also feel was based in fear) will work in the overall favor of "awareness" for Stage IV (and more self-awareness for Emma). xoxo

  9. Hi Renn, Gosh, I'm a slow one aren't I? I am finally making my way to this post. I wrote about the "double-Kellering" (not my term by the way) effect too. There are so many issues the Kellers could have talked about when opening up dialogue about tweeting during illness, but alas, they chose the low road. Or something like that. Great insights as always.

    1. Nancy, I completely understand, I am waaay behind in my reading (and even farther behind in my blogging!). Thanks for stopping by to weigh in, you always cover the best topics on your blog… anyone reading this who hasn't checked out Nancy's blog, please check her out. Always lots to learn over at!


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