Lisa Adams is a stay-at-home mom who maintains a personal blog about her years-long struggle with breast cancer. But last week, two writers — Bill and Emma Keller — wrote opinion pieces in the Guardian and New York Times criticizing Adams for being too public about her pain.
The Kellers are a husband and wife, both writers, who have had their own struggles with cancer. Emma had a double mastectomy to deal with breast cancer a couple of years ago, and Bill's father-in-law died of cancer at the age of 79. Because Bill's father-in-law was in England, he was offered palliative care and nothing more — and Bill Keller feels that was the dignified way to die. Both Kellers criticized Adams for using social media to talk about her illness, suggesting that what she's doing isn't the appropriate way to cope with cancer.
Needless to say, the internet was not pleased. Adams is a popular voice online, and has helped thousands of people cope with their own cancer experiences. And the Kellers chose to blast her for reasons that remain somewhat mysterious.
Science journalist Maryn McKenna writes about the insanity over at her Wired blog Superbug. She explains the backstory, but also makes the crucial point that the Kellers' reactions are all out of proportion to the "problems" they seek to illuminate, namely the misuse of social media and the way the American medical system wastes resources on keeping patients alive. These are both real problems, but Adams — an independent blogger who writes about personal experiences — is hardly the proper target for high-profile pieces in two of the largest newspapers in the English-speaking world.
The Guardian chose to take down Emma's article, after many complaints; the New York Times' public editor issued some fairly sharp words about Bill's op-ed (Bill Keller is the former editor-in-chief of the New York Times).
What do you think? Should people refrain from sharing their experiences with cancer or other diseases on social media?