Response to Margaret Edson (W;t) & Audre Lorde (The Cancer Journals)

Cancer.¬†Researched and studied but to fully understand it, you must first live it. Throughout the play W;t and “The Cancer Journals” we are given a realistic view point from two distinct cancer patients. Each story highlights on the emotional detachment of loneliness, the profits gained from this growing disease, and most importantly why your emotions are the key to overcoming. Cancer is a whirlwind of negativity, but at some point you need to find yourself and stay positive to conquer it.

In “The Cancer Journals”, Audre Lorde is faced with the dilemma of fitting in due to her new found sickness. For instance she explains “It hurts when even my sisters look at me in the street with cold and silent eyes. I am defined as other in every group I’m a part of” (Lorde, 11). This distance from once a close knit group makes Audre feel alone (detachment/loneliness), which brings down the strength and positivity which are needed to get through these hard times.

Vivian in the play W;t also deals with the the longing for company. Being a very diligent professor, Vivian has sparse time to connect with outsiders and treats her students as if they are below her. For example, one of her students has had a death in the family and is simply asking for an extension, Vivian’s response “Do what you will, but the paper is due when it is due” (Edson, 63). This attitude portrayed leaves her with an emptiness and lack of communication skills, which will be further filled in with the care of her loving nurse Susie.

Profit gain is a heavy topic when combined with cancer research and treatments. Throughout “The Cancer Journals” you read about the biggest concern, mastectomy surgery. This surgery is the removal of the breast, however, many women after treatments go through with implants to be “the same as before” (Lorde, 8). This additional surgery can cost a pretty penny along with the numerous treatments that are being given. One might ask…will they ever find a treatment or are they just trying to make a profit for the economy? or, why would they fund an experiment that already has bad results?

Vivian is also dealing with a profitably dilemma. It has come to the point where she is asked if she would like to be full code (if her heart stops, they will let her go). Susie, her caring nurse wants to make sure she makes the right choice, she explains that the doctors are “Really smart. But they always…want to know more things” (Edson, 68). ¬†Overall, its a profit to continue to do research on Vivian’s body, but it is also considerate to let her die in peace, considering the amount of treatments and the likely hood that she will not survive.

Most importantly, you are the key to breaking the curse. Audre explains, “I need to remind myself of the joy, the laughter so vital to my living and my heath. Otherwise, the other will always be waiting to eat me up into despair again” (Lorde,10). The positivity in emotions can block out the negative (cancer) and lead you on to recovery, or in her case to keep her in the clear. Engulfing yourself with despair, fear, and uncertainty will only fuel the fire and make your body vulnerable of sickness.

In W;t, staying positive in Vivian’s case is to change her way of thought. Throughout the book she has no emotion, no compassion, she is a blank sheet of paper. With the overwhelming lapse of loneliness she finally begins to see the emptiness in her life. Vivian finally begins to feel again, the brutal pain…she explains “I want to tell you how it feels. I want to explain it, to use my words. It’s as if…I can’t…there aren’t” (Edson, 70). The emotional, and physical side of Vivian has awoken, and she ultimately has found herself. Dying isn’t losing the battle of cancer, for Vivian dying was her conquering. “The instant she is naked, and beautiful, reaching for the light” (Edson, 85). She merely has deserved her place in Heaven, and successfully gained back her emotional side that set her free.

Overall, as seen in both of these patient, cancer was a whirlwind, but each of them successfully conquered it. Audre stayed positive through the acknowledge of others fighting the same battle, of not caving in for prosthesis to hid her battle scars, and lastly she kept the negative out because she knew it would only destroy her. Just like Audre, Vivian stayed positive by eliminating her loneliness by the overwhelming kindness of her nurse, she did not let her body become a profit but a body that rested from enormous amounts of treatments, and lastly she reconnected with her emotional and physical side which set her free and able to rest peacefully.


Work Cited

  • Edson, Margaret. W;t. New York: Faber and Faber, Inc., 1999. Print.
  • Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals. Argyle, NY: Spinsters, Ink, 1980. 1-15.Print.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *