Once upon a time, I had breast cancer. My patient experience in the cancer hospital was mostly awful. I’ve written about it extensively - too extensively some might say - in Bird's Eye View.
What was particularly chilling about my experience was that I have worked in health care my entire life. I am a white, middle-class, cisgender, straight woman who had a regular diagnosis of a common kind of breast cancer. I’m an example of a fairly ‘average’ breast cancer patient, but with extra privilege.
Despite all my advantages, I still could not get the parking attendant to smile at me. Receptionists scolded me. Mammogram techs had me stand naked from the waist up in cold examining rooms. I almost passed out a number of times due to the unmedicated pain of procedures.
But nobody made any assumptions about me. Or stereotyped me. Or treated me disrespectfully because of who I loved. Or assumed my husband was my brother. People who are LGBTQ2+ can and do have even worse experiences in the cancer hospital than I did.
Major Disparities Exist
There are major disparities in access to cancer screening, treatment, and support for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or Two-Spirit. And that is absolutely not okay.
What do ALL people need when they have cancer? Space to share stories about the real patient experience, connections with others who are going through the same thing and a basic human need to be treated with respect and dignity by health care professionals.
There’s a huge gap in support for queer folx who have cancer. Think of what the experience must be like for a transgender woman who is being treated for prostate cancer. Assumptions, stereotypes and disrespect can be compounded and make a terrible situation even worse.
Enter Queering Cancer
The unique Queering Cancer website has launched today! It includes a patient story collection, a peer support forum, and a fully searchable database of cancer resources specific to LGBTQ2+ individuals.
I am often leery of ‘let’s just build an app’ mode of research, but this website is different. The Queering Cancer site was developed with patients and is centred on stories. Mary Morgan is a dear friend of mine and Queering Cancer's patient partner. Her story is featured on the site. One of the drums that I beat incessantly is the need to provide safe spaces to share patient stories. Queering Cancer does just that.
Full disclosure: I co-own Bird Communications, the company who partnered with three passionate researchers to turn the Queering Cancer concept into reality. Meghan McInnis, Evan Taylor and Amanda Bolderston banded together with an idea – to fill the considerable gap in support for queer people with cancer. Queering Cancer is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Institute of Gender and Health (IGH).
For Health Professionals Too
A bonus for health professionals – the Queering Cancer website contains stories and resources for you to support you to give kind and tender care to every single person who walks through the doors of the cancer hospital. Every wonder what patients think? Queering Cancer offers insight into how queer patients and caregivers experience your cancer treatment and care.
Please share the Queering Cancer link widely, and follow them on Instagram and Twitter. You never know who it might help. Knowing you aren’t alone when you are going through the horrible experience that is cancer treatment is truly priceless.