Just Got Fooled Again

Well hoo-ray for The Who, always singing how they won’t get fooled again—but I did. After all this time I’ve spent in CancerLand, and all this time I’ve spent being a Curmudgeon and skeptic (that would be my whole life), one would think this ol’ Cancer Curmudgeon would not get suckered into a Breast Cancer Awareness marketing trap. But I did! I guess my defenses are not October-ready yet. (Although this heat and beach traffic has made me more than ready for Labor Day, actually. But I digress.)

Weight Watchers is partnering with American Cancer Society for a Pinktober event/stunt/thing, and it is everything that is wrong with the notion of corporate giving. I stumbled upon it via a Facebook post, and no, it was not an ad or even a sponsored post. I was hooked in by the opening question, did I experience weight gain after breast cancer. Well, YES! I’ve spoken about that before. The post went on to talk about Weight Watchers and American Cancer Society partnering on something called Project L.I.F.T. So I clicked to the article.

Now, I have to pause here to explain my state of mind as I clicked. First, I had an expectation, likely an unreasonable one. I know that expectations are the source of disappointment and suffering, yet I still have them, crazy me. Second, I confess (again, see linked post) that I know very little about any weight loss programs out there, especially the ones where one has to sign up and pay a fee, including Weight Watchers—so I was totally blind about what exactly their service is and how much it costs. As mentioned before, I was very thin growing up and could eat whatever I wanted. It has been in my cancer-induced, post-menopausal life that I’ve had to really think about what I consume. These days I really understand the jokes and memes about just looking at a piece of cheesecake and gaining weight from that act. In short, so much of this is all new to me.

So I read the article and clicked onto the website(s) to see if I could get maybe a free month’s worth of whatever services WW offers. Nope. This annoyed me. Now, some of you might be saying, the weekly fees of WW are not that much, surely if I were serious about my health I’d choose to spend my slim spare income (very slim) on WW, than say, a Netflix plan. True, but I’d counter with—how I spend my money is no one’s business, and also, if the WW fees are indeed so reasonable, would it kill them to offer a free month to breast cancer patients to get them to try it? My guess is that one month is not enough to see meaningful results, one has to stick with the program for much longer, like 6 months or a year. A year of those “small” weekly fees adds up, BTW.

At any rate, my expectation was probably out of whack.

As I continued to peruse both the article and the website, I began to realize that the “free resources” WW offers to inspire and guide breast cancer patients are really just more of the same old rah-rahing thing.

From what I could tell from the Yahoo press release, the “offers” were repetitive. The article mentioned at least twice the content for breast cancer “survivors” to help us understand why we gained and how losing will help us prevent more cancer. OK, so why does that piss me off? Because the losing=prevention of recurrence is too close to the blame game and is out there enough. I don’t need “special content” to tell me about it. Also, I’m not sure the “why” of the weight gain really matters—at least to me. I suspect some of the reasons will not apply to me, since I was E/P negative. And even if I’m wrong, so what? A mental health professional once told me she was not interested in that clichéd psychotherapy thing of going back to one’s childhood to unlock the why behind people’s current mental health issues. Why bother? She used a tennis analogy. So what if a rising tennis star has some bad serve habit instilled by her old coach for whatever reason? The point is to eradicate the bad habit—no matter how it got instilled—in order to improve her game to win. Same with mental health. I know why I have some bad mental habits, but since I cannot change the past, they do not matter. To move forward, I need to learn how to change some ruts my mind goes into. Same with my weight. I actually suspect I know why I gained some weight post-cancer treatment: I was so glad food tasted GOOD again. During that first round of the Red Devil, all I ate was mushy peas from an imitation English pub in my American beach resort area (I know, it is weird, but they were kind of the only thing I didn’t hate). Needless to say, my weight plummeted while in chemo. Now that I can have rare steaks, sushi, and whatever again—and I don’t hate the taste—I tend to just eat! It is certainly tied to my fear of recurrence. And yes, a bit tied to my thoughts of—well, I didn’t have to watch my weight before, but I did tend to make healthier choices—but forcing myself to eat yogurt and whatnot did not “save” me, so what the hell?! Bring on the chocolate cheesecake!

OK, I’ll stop, I’ve written that post before.

Another aspect that bothered me about the WW partnership was all the “celebrating” of survivors. Again, this was repeated twice, to make it seem like more stuff is being offered. Selected women will be featured in their October magazine. OK, so how does that help me lose weight? I know, I know, I should be happy that all breast cancer survivors are being honored because some “good” patient representative is in a magazine. But I’m not. Other patients do not represent me. And after all this time, this blog gives a smorgasbord of examples of how I am so NOT a “good” example patient. I’ll never be a representative, and I rub my hands together gleefully at my badness.

Finally, we have the shopping and showing aspect, which has always bothered me in ALL cancer/disease-of-the-month/issue-of-the-moment walks/runs/whatever awareness-raising event.  The press release talks about the exclusive products for sale. So instead of something free—which is what I wanted, free assistance in losing weight—no, I have an opportunity to SPEND. Uh, no.

And it isn’t just an exclusive product to have—no, the product is to wear, especially during the on the ground presence WW will have at the walks taking place in October. Go back and read my post from last year, Supporting The Show? This is not just about doing something good, this is about WW being SEEN doing something good, and getting their minions, whoops, I mean customers, to be seen as proof of goodness. Breast cancer patients need to lose weight—yes, I concede that point—so they become the precious commodity/resource (to corporations) of all: COSTUMERS. I actually counted the links in the Yahoo press release posted breastcancer.org, because I guess I’m just that petty. One for WW itself, one for WW’s Project L.I.F.T. itself (which is what this whole party is about, right?), two for Making Strides Walk (the WW page), and four for the WW shop. Guess I know what is most important here.

Now, it may seem like I’m picking on WW in this post. Maybe I am, but I see this as a microcosm of all the corporate philanthropic efforts toward breast cancer. Always the one/two punch: one-breast cancer patients and their loved ones (and potential future patients) are customers eager to shop in hopes to somehow buy karma so they don’t get breast cancer, and two-everyone, the corporations and the customers get to show off how much they care about this issue. Because doing something good doesn’t count unless everyone and their brother knows about it (yes, sarcasm).

Perhaps this post is a result of me being mad at myself mostly. I’ve seen this stuff a million times in my life—background noise before I got cancer, and infuriating examples I examined as I entered the cancer social media world. I’m angry because my worries about my weight made me a bit vulnerable to one of these campaigns that I’ve seen and scrolled by with an eye roll oh so many times. I got suckered. I got fooled, when I really do know better.

Won’t get fooled again.

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.

9 thoughts on “Just Got Fooled Again”

  1. Hi CC,
    Excellent post. I was not aware of this partnership. Ugh… I’m with you. I googled the LIFT project and was unimpressed too. Feels like another gimmicky marketing strategy to make it seem like WW is doing something wonderful. As you mentioned, why not offer a month or two of free membership to bc survivors? That’d be nice. I was actually contemplating re-joining WW recently. Cuz yes, I am struggling with my weight, among other things, since my dx. Now I just feel worse about this struggle. And the messaging is heavy on prevention, early detection. Again. And no talk of metastatic disease. Again. And too many smiling faces on the banner. Again. And too much emphasis on the fun photo booths to capture all the “great memories of our efforts”. Pl-eeze…And too much talk about honoring bc survivors. I never understand that. I mean, I can understand honoring those who do not survive, but as for me, why should I be honored? Feels patronizing. I’ll pass on all of it.


    1. That honoring angle, yeah, that is becoming more of an issue for me. I’ve been playing with 2 posts that deal with this notion that I’ve “done” something just because I’m still here. I did not choose to get cancer and merely showed up to get treatments which have luckily been successful. However, I do struggle at times–like yeah, I’ve had to deal with an illness that most my age do not, give me a cookie (I’m joking, but you get my point). Sigh, stuff to write on some other day, when I have time.
      Thanks for understanding my view on all of this. I went back today and looked at your post about BCAM needing to grow up–thinking about a future post expanding on that. In some ways, this WW thing is an example of that. I thought there would be tangible help, but it is more t-shirts and parades. Like, why can we not get beyond that form of “support”? We are just so stuck! Grrrr.


  2. I think it’s natural to want to trust these organizations who “claim” to be helping the cause but then disappoints us. There’s def. a pattern with businesses that are capable of contributing to progress but don’t, because, well, their main focus is to make money. It’s so upsetting to me how these organizations use people who are in their most vulnerable state to make a profit. As long as there is an audience for these types of initiatives, businesses will always get away with it. And some patients don’t mind receiving this type of attention. In a way, it’s a distraction. I too do not support any of it.

    Thank you for another excellent post! xx


    1. Thanks Rebecca–excellent points. As long as there is a market–people who buy this stuff–businesses will do what they do and I can hardly blame them. Yes, we can all “do” cancer our own way–but at some point we must hold people accountable. Fodder for a future post. And you are right about the distraction. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for girding your loins to tackle this. Wow, it never changes, does it? That squashing sound you hear is all of us getting exploited once again by the marketing platforms corporations lay on our unwitting and unwilling backs so they can make money while trying to make themselves look good. I don’t know if I can even bring myself to write about this subject again, I’ve written about so many times now. What I think I may need to write about is how I have developed, over the past 8 years, an acute case of outrage fatigue.
    xoxo, Kathi


    1. You know, because you and many others have written about the corporate giving/shopping aspect of breast cancer, I never felt the need to tackle it. In fact, I think I just considered it a given everyone understood I hate that mess. I never bother really exploring the latest pink partnership–it’s all the same anyway–until this time. And I just got caught off guard and my expectations were out of whack.
      Not sure I agree with the unwitting and unwilling backs tho’. Part of my gripe is the reason stuff like this keeps popping up is because people buy it. From a business point of view, they’re just giving what people want. I mean they keep making pink blenders or whatever because people buy them and think they are “helping”. Everyone has a choice, and they can educate themselves, and think for themselves and maybe see through this kind of thing. All of us are free to “do” cancer as they wish, and so many buy into this kind of thing–and likely thing I’m wrong headed about this. Sigh. All I can hope for is that maybe one person was on the fence about this and read this and said, “oh yeah, I’m not really getting anything here”. Shrug. Oh well.
      Yes, outrage fatigue, I’m there. It’s so not like me to play that game of “who can post the most ridiculous pink item/partnership”. I’ve been beyond that–not much could shock me anymore. Oooo I shouldn’t say that–something crazy will show up soon drenched in pink, I’ve jinxed myself hahahahahaha! xoxoWendi


      1. You know, you hit on something I find incredibly depressing. The unwitting and unwilling refers to those of us who actually have had breast cancer, but sadly, there are a number of members of our ‘club’ who still do not see anything wrong with this cause-marketing exploitation and willingly buy into it — literally. *sigh* There are many more of us who get that this shit does most of us very little good. But there are obviously far too many who still drink the Pink Koolaid.


      2. I got really bummed watching a thing on an FB page–BC patients totally in for the No Bra Day thing. But a few people woke up, so that was a saving grace.
        I don’t really think this is a GenX thing, but I know I read it in something related to GenX, we know when we’re being sold to, and developed a mistrust of marketing that the previous generation maybe did not have (tho you seem to have that mistrust). I truly don’t remember ever NOT trusting TV ads and such. I laugh at them but I know what they’re doing. Too much Subliminal Man on SNL maybe? So when people either are totally swallowing what they see, or are getting outraged about it, I’m like, that’s how it is, how it’s always been! Why can’t you see behind it?! I have this conversation with my Mom (a Beatles maniac Boomer) all the time. “Of course, Mom, they’re SELLING it to you..” Sheesh.


  4. Well, as a lifelong skeptic, I usually question advertising in general. Sometimes, I am a little slow on the uptake, but I figure it out eventually. I’m on the young end of the Boomers, but it seems to me that a lot of the hippie thing was about rejecting materialism and the bullshit marketing that went with it. “Question Authority,” and all that. But, humans will persist in acting like sheep…

    Liked by 1 person

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