a little less conversation

Bill And Emma Keller Wish You Would Just Shut Up About Your Cancer Already, Lisa Adams

the keller family mottoHere at Wonkette, we are pretty solid on serious illness/end-of-life choices, which is to say you get to deal with those thing any damn way you please. For some people, like Lisa Adams, that has meant blogging and tweeting about her Stage IV breast cancer that spread to her bones, hips, joints, spine, lungs, and liver. Seriously, in that situation, we are on Team Mos Def Do What The Fuck You Want. But Bill Keller, former New York Times editor, and his wife, Emma Keller, are so squicked out by this lady talking about her impending death and the things she does to stave off hopelessness that they both had to write columns about it.

First up, we have Ms. Keller, who took to the pages of the Guardian to call Adams’s tweets “deathbed selfies” and whine about how the whole thing is just oversharing:

[A] few weeks ago I noticed she was tweeting a lot more and from a situation she described as agonizing. The clinical drug trial she was on wasn’t working. Her disease seemed to be rampaging through her body. She could hardly breathe, her lungs were filled with copious amounts of fluid causing her to be bedridden over Christmas. As her condition declined, her tweets amped up both in frequency and intensity. I couldn’t stop reading – I even set up a dedicated @adamslisa column in Tweetdeck – but I felt embarrassed at my voyeurism. Should there be boundaries in this kind of experience? Is there such a thing as TMI? Are her tweets a grim equivalent of deathbed selfies, one step further than funeral selfies? Why am I so obsessed?

You know what? We might tweet about that too, if it helped us work through what the fuck was going on, or because maybe we just wanted to cry out into the wilderness ether of the Internet and hope someone would hear us. But Lady Keller thinks it is the same thing as stupid kids who take pictures of themselves at relatives’ funerals, because they are too callow to understand death. Guess what, Keller? Lisa Adams is not too callow to understand death. She is staring death in the fucking face and being brave, which is more than we can say for wives of former NYT editors who are allowed to write a hateful little spite of a column for no reason we can understand.

Apparently the Keller family didn’t feel like they’d piled on enough, because four days after Ms. Keller’s column, husband Bill Keller had to do a separate op-ed in the New York Times to complain about Lisa Adams because being a fucking monster in human form runs in the Keller family.

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Some backstory first. Keller’s father-in-law died of cancer, but he went quietly instead of raising a ruckus, which according to Bill Keller is how you should die.

In October 2012 I wrote about my father-in-law’s death from cancer in a British hospital. There, more routinely than in the United States, patients are offered the option of being unplugged from everything except pain killers and allowed to slip peacefully from life. His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America.

That is a perfectly legit decision, and one we totally support! However, unlike Bill Keller, we do not think it is the only way to deal with your horrible disease.

[W]hether her campaign has been a public service is a more complicated question.

“I am public about this disease in order to shed light on the daily lives of women living with this diagnosis rather than hiding behind the pink party line that is the only one that gets the spotlight,” she told me in an email. (The ubiquitous pink-ribbon breast cancer campaigners have been faulted for overselling the wonders of early detection and giving short shrift to research.)

Her digital presence is no doubt a comfort to many of her followers. On the other hand, as cancer experts I consulted pointed out, Adams is the standard-bearer for an approach to cancer that honors the warrior, that may raise false hopes, and that, implicitly, seems to peg patients like my father-in-law as failures.

Where do we even start? First, we’re not really sure if there’s some sort of public service metric that Bill Keller has developed to determine efficacy here. If even zero people who are not Lisa Adams feel comforted or respected or in any way affected by these tweets, that is plenty of people. Lisa Adams gets to say what Lisa Adams fucking wants without some quantum of people who feel appropriately publicly served. Next, the whole false hopes honor the warrior thing. Adams has actually written extensively about how much she dislikes the whole war metaphor as regards cancer, which is all up in her blog that the Kellers can’t stop reading but apparently don’t understand.

Keller is also pissy about the cost of all this, because Bill Keller would just die in the street with dignity if he got cancer, we guess?

Her relationship with the hospital provides her with intensive, premium medical care, including not just constant maintenance and aggressive treatment but such Sloan-Kettering amenities as the Caring Canines program, in which patients get a playful cuddle with visiting dogs. (Neither Adams nor Sloan-Kettering would tell me what all this costs or whether it is covered by insurance.)

How dare a hospital not reveal information about a patient’s medical insurance or costs of treatment! This is Bill Keller asking! Do you know who he is? Don’t you know that you should toss privacy laws out the window because Bill Keller wants to bitch about how much a person is spending on dealing with her cancer?

With this column, the Kellers have the dubious achievement of sinking to the level of Fishbowl DC, who declared that NPR’s Scott Simon was just blathering on too much about his mom dying and could he shut up already?

Losing someone close to you is hard enough as it is. Do you really want to share the moment-by-moment with a million people like you’re just filing some story? [...]

The problem really isn’t what Simon is doing or any one incident of oversharing, it’s that we’ve progressed (regressed?) to a point where we don’t think twice about what we’re sharing. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Oh seriously fuck you 1000 ways from Sunday, you people. Adams’s struggle is her own to live and live-tweet the fuck out of if she wants, and Scott Simon’s tweets about his mom were so beautiful that everyone on earth bawled their face off at the last tweets:

If you have other feelings about how people should live or die, you can keep them to yourself, Keller family and mouth-breathers at Fishbowl DC. No one asked you, and no one ever will.

[The Guardian/NYT/The Nation]

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