Experts aren't sure what to call this new open attitude about illness. But they credit television, the Internet, celebrities, and the need to raise money and awareness for diseases.
"Morning television and Oprah, settings where empathy existed, that really said, 'it's OK for me to have an illness,'" says Rich Hanley, director of graduate programs at Quinnipiac University's school of communications. "Pop culture has embraced personal narratives."
And whether it's Lance Armstrong fighting cancer or Brooke Shields and postpartum depression, celebrities show people that it's OK to tell the world what they are going through, says Rhoda Weiss, a national health care consultant in Santa Monica, Calif.
"The hipness is also indicative of a new freedom of expression that came out of the Internet," she says. "Being able to talk about your disease has a freeing-like affect on the victim both on the Net and in front of others."
Combine all of that with the sophisticated marketing of diseases - ribbons, awareness months, walks, and colors - and the illness becomes a pop-culture statement, says Hanley.
Owning the illness
People who broadcast their illnesses are not looking for pity and are not in denial about the seriousness of their disease, says breast oncologist Dr. Alejandra Perez, who sees patients wearing everything from sloganed T-shirts to pink wigs to no wigs at all.
"For our patients, it is very, very important to show the world that even though they have cancer, they are fighters," says Perez, co-director for the Memorial Regional Hospital Breast Cancer Center in Hollywood,Fla. "They are not victims.".
"You are giving affirmation to the fact that it does suck, and it's OK to suck but nonetheless you can look good and feel good," says Silverman, 38, mother of two. "It's my goal for people not to look at me and cry. Look at me and see that I am doing all the things you need to do to have a life."
Feeling good can look good
"Medical fashion accessories" can actually look good, too.
Stylish bracelets, necklaces and watches from http://www.creativemedicalid.com/ changed Renee Rhoades' attitude about having to wear a medical ID bracelet. She was worried about being branded as a sick person.
"I feel like a diva when I wear them," says Rhoades, who lives in Richmond and has diabetes. "I went from feeling self-conscious about being tagged with something for the rest of my life to 'So, what bracelet do I get to wear today? "
Photos by Michael Scott/Creative Medical ID
Creative Medical ID shows a an Italian Charm Links bracelet that alerts people of the wearer's medical condition.