Having someone steal my cancer history and co-opt it...is unbelievably violating.
I find it difficult to believe that a cancer survivor would be this callous and heartless. Have we sunk so low as a society that we have to steal diseases from each other?
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then what is plagiarism? I recently learned that my Ravishly post from April 15, 2015 had been plagiarized.
It was an intensely personal piece about my 2013 fight with breast cancer called “Why Do I Get To Be Cancer Girl?” (which was also picked up, with permission, by The Glow). In it, I talk frankly about the stark emotions surrounding a cancer diagnosis — and the odd sort of "why me?" that comes when others are spared such shattering prognoses. I quote good friends and my husband, name support groups, and refer to blogs I find inspiring.
With a few sly edits, TC, a woman from Mackay, Australia, transformed my breast cancer odyssey into her stomach cancer odyssey. In a weird way, my friends — including one who’s since died after a five-year ovarian cancer battle — have become her friends.
TC went used the same stats I cited, kept references to people I love, added a smidge of her own reflections (badly written and sprinkled with “fkn’s”) and personalized it with her own supposed health details, while omitting mine.
Having someone steal my cancer history and co-opt it for their first-person Facebook account is unbelievably violating. Somehow, it feels almost as invasive as my mastectomy. This individual has robbed a piece of my life and of my essence, so to speak. What did she gain from this? Why did she feel the need to borrow a cancer reflection from me — and a dozen or so other cancer survivors? (Yep, she’s supposedly done it several times before.)
People stealing the work of others is nothing new. As reported in The New York Times, it was discovered in 2011 that a winner of the Orwell prize, journalist Johann Hari, had plagiarized fellow journalists; he inserted quotes into his interviews from his sources’ books and from their interviews with other reporters. But this is different. This isn’t just words — this is cancer. My cancer.
Doesn’t TC have her own cancer nightmare to write about? Or is she just faking stomach cancer in a bizarre twist on Munchausen syndrome or factitious disorder? As my friend Roberto wrote to me in consolation, “I almost feel sorry for this person. Almost.”
I find it difficult to believe that a cancer survivor would be this callous and heartless. You’d think there was honor among those touched by illness. Have we sunk so low as a society that we have to steal diseases from each other?
To TC, I say, keep your hands off my cancer memories. I thought it was the responsibility of survivors to support each other. That was the crux of my piece — the realization that maybe some of us get cancer — and beat it — so we can teach others, give them hope, and help them heal. It’s a lesson TC will never learn. Somewhere, beneath my anger and my sense of violation, I pity her. (Thanks, Roberto, for helping me see this.)
My only consolation is that maybe this means Ravishly has truly arrived. After little more than 18 months on the journalistic horizon, we have now been plagiarized. I guess it’s a sign we’re doing something right.
Update: Several hours after I discovered TC had plagiarized my work, it was taken down from her Facebook page.