Two days after tweeting that her “time [had] come,” BBC presenter Rachael Bland has died of breast cancer. The 40-year-old’s family announced that she “died peacefully” on Wednesday morning with loved ones by her side.
Our beautiful, courageous Rachael died peacefully this morning surrounded by her close family. We are crushed but she would want me to thank everyone who took an interest in her story or sent messages of support. You’ll never know how much they meant to her. Steve and Freddie xxx pic.twitter.com/soq7YHvF9u
— Rachael Bland (@Rachael_Hodges) September 5, 2018
Bland, who is survived by husband Steve and 3-year-old son Freddie, told fans Monday that she had just days to live. The BBC Radio 5 Live personality was diagnosed with primary triple negative breast cancer in November 2016. As co-host of the cancer podcast You, Me and the Big C, she spoke frankly about her health, including being told by doctors this April that her diagnosis was terminal.
In the words of the legendary Frank S – I’m afraid the time has come my friends. And suddenly. I’m told I’ve only got days. It’s very surreal. Thank you so much for all the support I’ve received. Debs and lozz will continue with the #youmebigc podcast. Au revoir my friends. 💋💋 pic.twitter.com/DhMurbqMJz
— Rachael Bland (@Rachael_Hodges) September 3, 2018
Though her fans have praised Bland for her strength and bravery and cited her as an inspiration, an essay she wrote for HuffPost U.K. revealed that not everyone was so kind.
“I received such an outpouring of love and grief from family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike it was quite overwhelming,” Bland wrote in the essay, published the day before her death.
“I was sent so many beautiful messages, along with many telling me to go to foreign climes to try miracle cancer treatment — FYI these all get deleted immediately. There were even some berating me for not trying hard enough to save myself.”
Bland defended her treatment, writing that she was “100% behind modern medicine and have enrolled on a clinical trial.”
Bland is not the first cancer patient to face judgment after a diagnosis.
“When I was first diagnosed in 2007, everyone had an opinion or point of view they felt the need to share with me regarding why I had gotten sick so young,” a blogger for Cure Diva wrote in 2014. “My health (or apparent lack thereof) became a subject of debate. Then came the finger pointing. My weight, my lifestyle, my stressful job, my choice of deodorant, my bras, and my diet were all considered culprits depending on who was opining. I listened patiently, if not numbly. I don’t know how much I really absorbed — I was kind of in a state of disbelief for several weeks. But some of the POVs scared me; some were downright insensitive.”
Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World, has also written of being shamed by other breast cancer patients for expressing frustration with her disease.
“In this seamless world, dissent is a kind of treason,” she wrote of the pressure on patients. “As an experiment, I posted a statement on a message board, under the subject line ‘Angry,’ briefly listing my complaints about the debilitating effects of chemotherapy, recalcitrant insurance companies, environmental carcinogens and, most daringly, ‘sappy pink ribbons.’
“I received a few words of encouragement in my fight with the insurance company, which had taken the position that my biopsy was a kind of optional indulgence, but mostly a chorus of rebukes. ‘Suzy’ wrote to tell me, ‘I really dislike saying you have a bad attitude towards all of this, but you do, and it’s not going to help you in the least.’ ‘Mary’ was a bit more tolerant, writing, ‘Barb, at this time in your life, it’s so important to put all your energies toward a peaceful, if not happy, existence. Cancer is a rotten thing to have happen and there are no answers for any of us as to why. But to live your life, whether you have one more year or 51, in anger and bitterness is such a waste…'”
The sentiments may be well intentioned, but as Bland’s essay shows, they can come across as accusatory and negative.
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