Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Determined ignorance - Bryan's cancer story

I was struck by the discussion afterwards with my post on Bryan's cancer story. This in regards to the withered and dying Bryan who now is on the packets of many smokes here in Australia. I had no idea it was going to get so many views when I wrote it, hence the original post was just a short little thing pointing out the actual facts. The story of Bryan dying of AIDS (among other things) was false and that in reality he died of lung cancer. At the time I thought it was a no-brainer, and only went as far as to include a linked quote and a short video showing what happened, then went on with my life.

To my surprise it started getting all these views, and then people started commenting on it, all anonymous which is fine. The first post was pretty mystifying to me, claiming to be a registered nurse of 30 years and without any evidence at all apart from their own opinion, declared that it was "AIDS related illness", implied Bryan was a "70's porn star", and that he should have told his loved ones it was AIDS (being a registered nurse of 30 years I'd expect them to know that doctors tell loved ones of what's going on. Indeed many families have found that their loved one has AIDS simply because they end up deathly sick in hospital). They also said "Please don't blame the whole thing on smoking".

Then there was another person (anonymous again) who "personally believed he died of AIDS", of which I challenged him on this, asking for proof (which there is none). Their reply was like what? You "need proof that it was AIDS?" (well yes I do). They then went on to assert that there was no proof that it was cancer (WTF?) and that "the government has lied to us, made up stories, etc. in order from us to comply out of fear to their regulations." (Oh man you could write a book about this shit). They went on declaring "There is nothing backing up the story that it was from a smoking related illness whatsoever." (WTF?) They finish their comment with a dare to me "Prove me wrong, prove you're right. Go on, do it. Or do you not have proof either?". 

I understand that people can become a bit unhinged when faced with their own mortality, (as everyone does who acquires HIV) but the level of complete denial in this case was astonishing. Admittedly I'd not done any digging on the subject, just posted a couple of things that were already everywhere on the net anyway, and had left it at that. I had no idea the level of determined ignorance that was out there amongst Australia's smoking population however, and after such a display I determined myself to do a bit of digging to the source of where this all started in a newspaper in Florida. Which I found with little effort by simply copy and pasting from an Age article about it. The results came up straight away, at the top of the Google list. I was amazed at how little effort it took to find out the facts from 1999. See the two updates at the end of my post which I added yesterday. And there it was, Bryan died of "oat cell lung cancer that had spread to his liver". 

I doubt however any of that will change the anonymous persons mind about any of it. Likely they will continue to ignore the facts staring at them in the face and claim that there's no proof that he died of cancer, and that they believe he died of AIDS. It's almost religious in nature; to deny basic facts put in front of you that go against what you believe. Sadly, this may well be going on across Australia right now among many smokers who want to deny the basic facts of smoking. Even more sadly, AIDS has been blamed.

I've thought about this a lot since yesterday. Why do I find it so offensive to have Bryan declared an AIDS death all over Australia? I suspect many HIV+ people would come to a similar conclusion as me when asking themselves this question. 

Haven't HIV+ people seen enough images from the past of deathly people dying of AIDS? A big thing when testing HIV+ today is coming to the present reality that HIV isn't a death sentence anymore. With medication our life expectancy is the same as someone with Diabetes. Yes there's many other issues involved that you have to live with, but these days we survive. Yet we have this very distributed picture of Bryan who died of an aggressive lung cancer being declared AIDS by even a fuckin registered nurse FFS! Apart from it being a lie, it reinforces the old stereotype that if you get HIV you die like this. It's just not true anymore.

And why the lie? Because the smokers involved are too fuckin gutless to admit that they're killing themselves with smoking. They would rather crap on about AIDS from the late 1990's (which has little to do with AIDS in Australia in 2013) and use that as a scapegoat, instead of being honest with themselves about what they're doing (or indeed have done) to their own bodies. Rather increase the ignorance and the very real stigma that exists even today with HIV+ people. 

To all those people, thanks for nothing. You're making the life of all HIV+ people in Australia that little bit harder by your fuckin lies. Fuckin grow up and get real. 

Don't make me the scapegoat for you poor health decisions. 


  1. Hi Peter. I came up against this a few weeks back when I was in a supermarket at the service desk where they sell the cigs.

    The young woman behind the counter was handing a pack to a customer and, noting the Bryan graphic, commenced holding forth...

    "Oh, are they still using that?! That guy died of AIDS, his family are suing them. Cancer doesn't look like that! That's what AIDS looks like! His family are suing them. I saw it on Today Tonight. Cancer doesn't look like that!"

    That was actually the first I ever heard about this business. I don't watch TT but after searching their website I can't find any reference to this stuff. Pretty much confirmed my impression that the counter attendant is an imbecile.

    The interesting part about that encounter was that I'd stopped on my way home from visiting my father-in-law on his death bed. He died from his lung cancer the very next day.

    I wanted to shake that woman by the shoulders and tell her, "Yes, I can assure you cancer often does look very much like that graphic, you fucking idiot!"

    But I just got away as fast as I could because I couldn't do that conversation. I feared I was going to lose it!

    Anyway, good on you for taking your little stand here. With best wishes...

  2. My sister died looking like that but four weeks earlier was still living a life out and about doing things.