What Lady Gaga Can Teach Breast Cancer Survivors

Credit: Rick Diamond Getty Images

Today was a typical Sunday. Chores were over, time for Bruce and me to park our rear ends in front of the TV for some serious Sunday night channel surfing. We were flipping through our DVR list playing “Keep or Erase” and found the Lady Gaga HBO concert at Madison Square Garden. I was ready to vote “Erase” until he flipped it on. It took me all of 30 seconds to become hooked.

Some of the people I like best in this world are gaga for Gaga. They happen to be young and gay, but she crosses all gender and orientation lines. With a boyfriend who hails from Nebraska, Gaga sightings have been plentiful in Omaha. One of our better known oncologists tweeted the most recent one, when she filmed a video on a country road in sweltering 115 degree heat.

I confess to being curmudgeonly where Lady Gaga is concerned. The last time a friend tried explaining her appeal, I dismissed it with a classic walked-to-school-both-ways-uphill-in-the-snow remark. “Madonna was here first and did it better,” I said with the power of my completely uninformed conviction.

I started softening a bit when I saw how funny she was in a couple of “Saturday Night Live” sketches and noticed she can actually sing. But what got me hooked was seeing her talk to her “little monsters,” as she calls her fans, during that concert. Gay or straight, they’re monsters in the sense they feel like outcasts and misfits, the same way she did, the same way many of us who’ve been on the breast cancer journey do.

We’ve traded the confusing and sometimes cruel high school experience for the equally confusing and sometimes cruel healthcare experience. We feel like cogs in a machine, less ourselves somehow after being poked and prodded and cut, less lovable for having scars and pain. We feel too needy or not needy enough, too strident or not activist enough, or like we’re doing cancer “wrong.”

This is where Lady Gaga’s message comes in. Be yourself, she told her monsters. Someone believes in you. Her message to her fans, herself–in a touching scene she talks about how she still feels like a high-school loser–and to us, is simple. You’re perfect the way you are, and you matter. The special ends with her singing a stunning a cappella version of “Born This Way,” the song that’s become an anthem to misfits everywhere. She sings, “There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are . . . I’m on the right track, baby, I was born to be brave.” You were, Stefani, and we salute you. Paws up!


15 thoughts on “What Lady Gaga Can Teach Breast Cancer Survivors

  1. Great post! You’ve made me rethink Gaga. I was aware of her bond with misfits, but her persona’s put me off. I’ll give her another try. You’re right on target about the healthcare system making us feel like we’re out of step, not them. So glad to find your blog.


  2. Not sure I’m ready for Gaga, but I did enjoy this post–especially as one who sometimes thinks I did cancer “wrong” and wasn’t needy or strident enough! (Still, I’m not looking for a do-over.)

  3. Jackie,
    I didn’t know any of this about Lady Gaga. You’re perfect the way you are and you matter. That’s a pretty powerful message she’s delivering.

  4. Jackie,
    What fun. I shared the same attitude you did until I saw her on Letterman one night. I was totally captivated for the wonderful reasons you listed. Not only does she care about her “monstors” I found myself caring about HER, the makeup, the hair, the gestures.

    Authenticity: a beautiful thing,


  5. An absolutely beautiful post. As usual, your posts are extremely relevant and thought-provoking. My paws up to you and everyone else who has struggled at some point to “fit in.”I am one of those gaga for Gaga gays–the message discussed in this post is one of the reasons why.

    Keep on keeping on Jackie.

  6. What a great post Jackie! I really love the lesson you have drawn from Gaga’s attitude. Definitely one for my weekly round-up!

  7. Jackie, I love Gaga and I love P!nk, too. In fact, P!nk may be the only pink I truly love. They stand for the outcasts of this world, for being yourself, for speaking your mind and heart, yet not taking yourself too seriously. Love, love, love. I don’t know if you have listened to any of my song parodies, but I did one to Lady Gaga’s song “Telephone.” One of my fave parodies so far, if I do say so myself!! MUST work on a video. 🙂 Here’s the link:


  8. Wow – what a great start to Saturday. You have blown away a heap of cobwebs in front of my eyes with this wonderful fresh viewpoint. I have also been scathing about Lady Gaga, but funnily enough my hubby played one of her songs the other evening without telling me who was singing and challenged me not to like it! He was right, as are you – prejudice is blinding. Thanks for helping to open my eyes, and as I love to say “you learn something new every day”. This is my something new learned today:)

    🙂 xxx

    • Wow, thanks, Philippa! Here’s to both of us keeping our minds open 🙂 I had a similar experience, my husband had a Lady Gaga tune blasting away in the kitchen and I really liked it without knowing who it was! Ha! Cheers!

  9. Jackie,

    I’m with Kathi on Pink being the only pink I love. And I’ve always been gaga over Gaga. Born This Way is an amazing song, and thank you for pointing out its relevance to breast cancer.

    Love this posting!

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