What Is The Real Battle Here?

For all the battle language that I still loathe in cancer, I can’t help but employ it when it comes to this. How can we “fight” the presentation of breast cancer as sexy fun times (the latest being the Komen dogs, but I mean the Coppafeel crap and the ill-advised Young Survivor bracelet thing too)? Is it worth a “war”? I used to think it was worth starting up a “battle”; I’m a bit less sure these days. But here is a post, or a suggestion (?) I had two years ago. Mostly, it is me trying to explain why sexualized cancer hurts. But these days I despair of making anyone understand. But for what it is worth–another re-run:

How About a “What Cancer Really Does to Breasts Day”?

I wasn’t going to write about No Bra Day, because 1) so many other blogs I read have said most of what needs to be said, 2) why should I give it more exposure and attention, and 3) I wrote an overly long, overly wordy piece this summer already, back when there was this other No Bra Day (how many are there?!). The earlier piece, I Don’t Want to See It, is mostly crap I wish I had not written, only the final 5 or so paragraphs are worth reading, and some of the sentiment of those will be repeated here.

I changed my mind because as I started mentally ranting I realized that ignoring it won’t make it go away any more than giving it more attention will (more on this theory, keep reading). It deserves all the outrage that can be had.

Who the hell organizes these No Bra Days? There is no organizational name on that graphic (everyone has seen it I’m sure), so I guess it is just some idea someone passed around on Facebook (sorry, I still cannot have a FB page for personal, non-cancer related reasons, so I’m dim on Facebook things). How the hell does it benefit anyone? Don’t bullshit me and say it raises awareness, especially when the top line of the graphic reads “support breast cancer”. Sounds like the purpose of the day is to increase the incidence of breast cancer—the graphic doesn’t even bother to discuss support for patients in any way.  It’s just another excuse to sexualize a disease, and to be childish and talk about boobies. Again.

What I am saying is divisive and angry; I know and do not care. I am so fond of the quote “just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right,” (Ricky Gervais) and I know that just because this event and the participants offend me, I’m not right. Lots of folks, including breast cancer patients, think all this is just fine, so it is doubtful that this event will cease to exist. But I AM offended and right or wrong, I’m going to gripe about it.

Setting healthy ta-tas “free” doesn’t support this breast cancer patient, again, not that this event even bothers to pretend to support any patients, it is supporting breast cancer, remember? It just reminds me of what cancer did to my breasts, and to other breasts. The scars, the ugliness, the pain and surgery. Need I go on? While I can begrudgingly accept that people who donate or participate in Pink have good hearts even if I hate Pink, I have NO appreciation for anyone involved in No Bra Day. Do NOT expect any gratitude or applause for the participation from me. I’m glad that these women are still healthy, still have breasts unmarred by cancer, but I really do not want to be reminded of what I lost. To those who organized this No Bra Day, I consider you insensitive, thoughtless jerks.

I know this day, the participants, and whoever organized it will get praise from many corners—but a quick scan on Google and other blogs gives evidence of some criticism about this event. I wish there more outrage about it. While I have no hope these days of the Pink machine slowing down, I yearn for more concrete ways to express my extreme dissatisfaction. This No Bra Day is one of the most egregious examples of how a disease has become the plaything of an adolescent, boobies obsessed culture.  If I were rich, I’d buy a million very covering and very supportive bras and throw them—well, somewhere, since there is no physical headquarters for this idiotic nonsense. Maybe I’d just scatter them about a big city street, to stop traffic and get everyone to see how at least this one breast cancer patient really feels. Sure, that would just be me throwing a childish tantrum—but the organizers have proven that they are not emotionally or intellectually adult enough to understand the lengthy, smart essays criticizing the event.

Source: etsy

Why doesn’t someone come up with a “What Cancer Really Does to Breasts Day”, gathering and presenting all the pictures of so many bloggers (myself included, I would do this) in various stages of lumpectomy/mastectomy, reconstruction or no reconstruction? There are certainly plenty of said pictures on the internet. I get why established groups or projects cannot do this—with establishment comes the need to “play nice”.  Being a socially awkward, complaining Curmudgeon—in real life and in the blogosphere—means I seem unable to play nice.

I’m sure many would find a “What Cancer Really Does to Breasts Day” objectionable and offensive (see this is where I can use the Gervais quote to my advantage). But here’s the thing: not wearing bras, or even those “tasteful” Pink ads featuring topless, strategically covered, healthy-breasted models for that matter, do nothing to make anyone understand the reality of breast cancer—other than show off what to those who objectify boobies will be “missing” should cancer afflict any of these women. The current socially acceptable image of breast cancer is the bald-headed woman in a pink t-shirt at a run or walk, smiling and being strong. To me it’s like a sick before and after scenario: women before cancer can be sexy and flaunt naked breasts for cancer awareness, women after breast cancer surgery need to keep covered, need to become unsexy soldiers to admire for bravery, but not to be desired.

Seeing what breast cancer is capable of, and what women who’ve had scarring surgery are capable of, seems more logical and helpful to me. On a personal level, it certainly would’ve helped me when I was recovering from surgery and follow-up radiation, wondering what to do. Instead I saw bikini clad women in ta-ta breast cancer ads, and felt horrible, my emotional wound constantly re-opened.

I loathe the battle language in cancer, as I’ve mentioned often enough throughout my posts. What I hate most is that it is used mainly to blame “soldiers” who’ve “lost their battle with cancer” because they “didn’t fight hard enough.” I rarely see war talk applied in terms of a grand battle plan. Why isn’t it applied here? A good general goes into battle prepared, knowing as much about the enemy as possible—their weapons, strategies, the size and the location of the enemy, and what the enemy does to prisoners. Would it not make sense to show what the “enemy”, breast cancer, does to these “soldier” women? How can this proverbial “battle” be fought if everyone is refusing to acknowledge the “battle scars”? Oh right, we’re not supposed to be victims or prisoners, cancer happens to us, but there should be no lasting mental effects, and no one wants to see the scars (as the summertime fracas with Facebook and the surrounding conversations proved)—we either win or lose, and it’s all on us, even if the weapons (medicine) fail the soldiers, no matter how hard we fight. Yes I’m being sarcastic.

This mass delusion of only showing healthy breasts in regards to breast cancer has got to stop. Yes, it is good to think positive, to dream, and to champion the bright side of life—even if a Cancer Curmudgeon just won’t do that. But to completely ignore the reality, to not face the ugliness or pain cancer brings, I assure everyone, it doesn’t make the ugliness or pain cease to exist. Furthermore, wouldn’t seeing pictures of women ALIVE after scarring surgery be, I don’t know, positive? I remember being told on HuffPo this summer that these scars should not be shown. Hope she never has to go through it, hope she never has to see that ugliness in the mirror, hope she never needs to see my example of one who turned an ugly scar into a triumph.

I prefer to know what I’m up against and I’m tired of a socially acceptable conversation about cancer in which everyone covers their eyes and ears, singing “la la la”, like nothing bad ever happens.  Sometimes, ignoring the bad stuff only results in a sucker punch later.

Only three types of people tell the truth: kids, drunk people, and anyone who is pissed the fuck off.” –Richard Pryor

Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed. –Nietzsche

Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

15 thoughts on “What Is The Real Battle Here?”

  1. I’ve given up. This is a fight we will never win. The minute my nurse navigator handed me all the pretty pink paperwork and insisted my job was to pay attention in the class on how to draw on eyebrows so I wouldn’t look like an alien when all I cared about at that point (less than 24 hours after diagnosis) was whether I was going to be alive in 6 months, I knew I was forever doomed to be associated with the “fun” cancer. I’ve complained plenty, insisted we needed extra “cuteness” for testicular cancer, etc. I was actually called a spoil sport when I questioned how exactly typing your bra color on FB with explanation to titillate the men raised awareness for BC. Idiots.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You trip too! Thank goodness, I’ve always been clumsy, but noticed an increase in klutziness after all this time. I was speed walking the dog this AM and had the worst time of it! And I was in a hurry–no time to mess around! Sigh! Love you tons back!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen. I’ve lost track of how many posts I’ve written about it. These campaigns are about prurience, sexualizing and objectifying women as well as breast cancer, and just plain stupidity.


    1. The fact you’ve written so many, and I keep re-posting things, frustrates me. I guess it shows culture won’t change. But I don’t want to give tacit approval by just staying silent–even if posts like this are just banging my head against the brick wall.
      I was perusing some of your old posts the other day and realize I ran across one back in 2012, before I started blogging and was at my high (or low?) point of post-treatment blues, coupled with feeling alone in a sea of everyone embracing pink. Yours was one of the posts that started me understanding that there was this whole group of like-minded patients out there. So you are one of the reasons I started blogging–I just did not put 2+2 together! So Thanks! Can’t remember the name of the post–I just remember it was the one with a torso of a bikini-clad woman on some ad for an event (like save 2nd base) and you had “fixed” the picture–given the headless woman (because who cares about her head, right?) a prosthetic breast peeking out of the bikini, a compression sleeve–stuff like that. Do you remember?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m really glad, by the way, that you found some validation from my blog when you needed it. I just wish we didn’t have to keep raising this subject over and over again. Oy. xoxo, Kathi

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Just a couple of days ago, I got another one of those silly game things. To add insult to injury, it was from a guy. I private messaged him that I was metastatic and that we have enough awareness and I found it offensive. What women like me need is a cure. Never an apology or message back, but he is still pushing the game to others.
    Breast cancer has become an excuse to have fun and reminders that many of us become permanently scarred and worse, some of us die, rains on their parade of fun and games.


    1. Which is exactly why I used that quote at the end. Like I’ve commented here on and other posts, I know that griping on my blog or engaging people on social media won’t change anything. But to NOT do those things implies that I’m OK with it–and I hate that!!


  4. It would be super difficult to change this culture because so many are involved — doctors, organizations/ hospitals, patients, non-cancer people. There is nothing sexy or pretty about breast cancer or its treatments or the after-math. I also don’t feel like celebrating anything (doesn’t mean I am ungrateful though). None of these campaigns tell the truth and all they do is exclude those patients who are affected by this disease and those who have died (the “losers”). I am sick of the misrepresentations and the expectations too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and I think sometimes I am a fool to bang my head against the wall going on and on about it. Cultural change is long and difficult. especially when it can be argued that those complaining have benefited from that culture. I’m aware I’ve changed a few minds of people I know. I guess that’s….something….


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