Kim Merch and Rose Flaure Salomon are both survivors of breast cancer. In many some ways, Rose and Kim’s stories reflect one another’s: they are both 5 (going on 6) years cancer-free and both women have an immense love and gratitude for their children and families. Just like any set of stories (and in the spirit of this series), they also have their differences. Kim was born in the U.S. but grew to live and travel all over the world, while Rose, a Haitian immigrant, spent her adulthood in Florida pursuing a career in nursing.
The nuances of Kim and Rose’s lives shed light to who they are as women and survivors. But the nuances of their experiences as survivors, shed light to the multiple dimensions of breast cancer. From the impact of mastectomies on one’s body-image to implications of race and economics in the healthcare system, so many components of the breast cancer experience often go overlooked.
Kim and Rose’s voices amplify the stories of so many. The dichotomy of their journeys complicates the way we see breast cancer, and helps us find a greater appreciation for those narratives.
Kim and Rose each describe their breast cancer diagnoses as a whirlwind experience, but they experienced those whirlwinds quite contrastingly. Kim froze in shock, while Rose screamed in denial. Both women described those moments in the hospital as moving so fast they could barely think. From this point, cultural and geographic implications of their location shaped how their stories diverge.
Rose was living in Broward County, Florida during her diagnosis. Work was unforgiving and she felt neglected before, during, and after her treatment. Her job created a stressful environment that essentially gave her the breast cancer. “QUOTE ABOUT HOW DOCTORS COULDNT FIND ANY OTHER REASON FOR HER CANCER” When she came forward with her diagnosis, her hospital job (the source of her health insurance) threatened to fire her. After coming back from a grueling and traumatizing treatment, her co-workers acted like she didn’t exist while her management failed to provide her with another opportunity for employment. Ultimately, she was told there were no open positions for her to take on and thereby terminated her employment. This left Kim without any health insurance to cover the remainder of her treatment and recovery process. “QUOTE ABOUT HOW SCARED SHE WAS WITHOUT INSURANCE”
Kim had been living in India for three years when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In a society, culture, and community that championed communal support, Kim felt supported throughout her treatment. From the moment she sat in the waiting room where “QUOTE ABOUT WOMAN WHO WAS KIND”, to when her nurses, called “sisters 13:36” in India, made her feel supported throughout her entire procedure. She didn’t have to worry about work or who would watch her children, let alone finances. “QUOTE ABOUT THERE BEING PLENTY OF INTERNATIONAL CARE FOR HER KIDS 18:36”All of this in consideration, Kim recognizes that receiving her diagnosis and treatment in India versus the U.S. placed her in an “ideal situation” “QUOTE ABOUT US DOCTORS VS INDIA DOCTORS 13, 19:27, 20:47” IN fact, Kim even hada friend in FLorida who was struggling through breast cancer wand wass told after her diagnosis to “go home and stay healthy 28:12”. Described the support she received from friends, family, and strangers alike as shaping an “overall positive” breast cancer experience. Had fairly convenient and smooth access to care given Indian healthcare system’s prioritization of upper-class people.
Kim, being an upper-class international resident recognized her privilege.
Rose, in retrospect, saw lapses in her care. “There are things they don’t tell you [when you’re a foreigner].”
*More general discussion of U.S. healthcare system’s neglect of black and immigrant women.
Rose felt pressured by a male doctor to subscribe to Western beauty conventions by undergoing reconstructive surgery. KIMS EXPERIENCE?
Consequently, Rose hasn’t found piece with her body and her breasts. BODY IMAGE BEFORE?
Kim, having been raised in Japan, saw all types of bodies as normalized. After her lumpectomy was able to use exercise to love and appreciate her body again.