Catchy Phrase

I wasn’t fond of catch phrases or slogans before cancer, but after I was done with treatment (in my white-hot angry phase), I came to HATE them. Oh no, is that a cancer lesson? (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)

I’ve eased up a little bit in my loathing of catch phrases. That has little to do with cancer/health advocacy and more to do with my foray into political activism. I now spend time trying to create catchy phrases—if not outright slogans—to make into short tweets or Instagramslogan quotes. What can I say, there is no room for nuance in the American mind.

Back in September I posted (on FB) an Ovarian Cancer graphic, something with a “not all cancers are pink” slogan on it. Someone pointed out in comments that breast cancer isn’t pink either. I chuckled to myself—I once probably said the same thing, angrily, back in the day. And it is totally right. I guess I was so busy/distracted/unfocused that in my haste to make sure I honored September as Ovarian cancer’s “month”, I paid little attention—just shared the first thing that popped up in my feed.

I’ve spent so much time since ending treatment railing about how much I hate the factory-like churn of finding a cause, labeling it, assigning a color and a ribbon. I still hate it, but I have tried to submerge the hatred in an effort to be a better advocate. Once upon a time I even tried to get my Maryland hometown to join the Paint the Town Teal Ovarian Cancer awareness events (where I work in Delaware, they do a great job). I offered to help coordinate—but never wanted to take on sole leadership because, well, I had breast cancer, not ovarian. And I hate ribbons. But after November 2016 I had to focus elsewhere. I get it that anyone currently going through either cancer, that is likely their whole world. But I have to think bigger (protecting/demanding health care access/lower costs/preexisting conditions) right now—unless a recurrence shrinks my whole world again.

I spend A LOT of time these days thinking about words and phrases that will stick in the minds of the public. Crazy, considering I once wrote a whole post (SOME WORD PROBLEMS) about hating common phrases in breast cancer culture. I still hate all those phrases, and often want to fight anyone saying something as asinine as “mammograms save lives”. It just seems these phrases have lost meaning—do people even know what they are saying when they say “support awareness”—what does that even mean?! You BE aware, or cultivate/grow awareness in others—but SUPPORT it? Why the hell support awareness? Soooooo stupid it burns my brain to contemplate it!

Look, the truth is, ALL the slogans and catchy phrases suck. I can tear all of them down. I guess the main goal is trying to avoid outright harm.

OK, so with that lofty aim, what IS harm, in the world of breast cancer slogans? Because of my personal history (mammo showed my big ass 6cm tumor and radiologist dismissed it); I would say “mammograms save lives” is harmful—but obviously my view is skewed. (Check here and there is probably more, but I’ve been bitching about this too long now, so just read random blog posts–I likely complained. )

What about “save the ta-tas” and ALL the related “sexy” things, like “just here for the boobs” and the Coppafeel organization? Also, please know I HATE all slang for breasts. So I can REALLY go off on the harm this shit causes.

What about 1 in 8 and the caveats that are in that stat?

What about all the be positive/she-ro mess? Oh FFS (Take the Mythical Image of the Strong Breast Cancer Survivor and Bury HER Once & For All).

What about all the “brews and boobs” celebrations (see Chicken and Beer)? I mean, encouraging drinking is not great, right? Don’t get me started on the live healthy/blame game stuff (see Did You? OMG I’ve covered nearly everything, why can’t we progress in cancer activism, arrrgggghhhh)

OK, there are probably more but honestly I can’t even right now. Personally I can make arguments as to why all the above are harmful. I guess I need perspective. Thoughts?

I shall end my ramble here.

(As I write this, I am in an online squabble with someone I don’t know about a political graphic I attempted to make—so take this post with a grain of salt. I’m a little touchy about things at the moment.)


Too Far

Brace yourself: I’m here to admit there is something I dislike about Halloween. I know, right? Whooaaa…

I started noticing a few years ago. My hobby is obsessively searching for Halloween themed recipes—not just dessert type things either, but actual main dishes. I kept running across some stuff that, in my humble opinion, was NOT really about Halloween so much as it was about being disgusting. The pinnacle is the dessert/cake/pie thing that looks like a litter box with turds in it. How is this scary?

I guess I’m just funny (not ha ha), or hopelessly conventional here. My Halloween is about witches, pumpkins, ghosts, vampires, etc. Heck, I’m even OK with zombies and some of the 80’s slasher icons—although that is kind of pushing it in my book.

Today I ran across a Halloween decoration idea featuring a headless body posed by a garage door, with blood spattered to indicate the door decapitated him. Scary? Yes, but not really in a Halloween-y way. This “decoration”—and I use that term loosely—isn’t about the old timey Halloween stuff. It’s just…show-off-y.

Ah, and that is the crux of it.

I’ve read lots of books about Halloween, its origins and progress to current rituals. I understand part of the of the appeal is the sort of cutting loose, the opportunity to “get crazy”. I know it was often embraced by those not fully embraced in society, yada yada. I’m glad that it’s not just for kids—honestly! I dressed up as a witch long into my adulthood. And I get that maybe something like the garage-door-decapitation represents a new fear, whereas witches and vampires were representations of real fears of times long past.

But there is just an element of taking things too far, of a one-upmanship, of just being performative. I don’t think this can be blamed solely on the need to create Instagram moments, thought that doesn’t help.

Hold up, this is a blog about breast cancer (culture), right?

Yes. And my larger point is my frustration with the performative, exhibitionist, one-upmanship aspects of breast cancer “celebrations”.

You see, it isn’t really just Halloween that has been negatively impacted by this…this…relentless need to turn everything into a big noisy, tasteless piece of performance non-art. I’m sure I’ve compared the endless pink parades to bachelorette parties before on this blog (no idea which post). As I drove by a local race last weekend I saw men and women drenched in Pink t-shirts and tutus. The obligatory women with bras worn OVER their t-shirts were scattered throughout the crowds. All I could think was: What drives them to do that? What does it even mean? What message are they trying to broadcast by putting a pink bra on their body, over the clothes? What am I supposed to understand or learn? That they have breasts? That breasts get cancer in them sometimes? How does that help? Don’t you dare say “awareness”!

I was in a hurry, on my way to a last minute meeting, so I didn’t have time to stop, pull over, demand answers. Or slap them. Whichever.

Even bachelorette parties themselves are a newer social phenomenon, compared to bachelor parties, which are kind of new as well—when thinking in terms of the evolution of marriage in the past thousands of years of human civilization. I’m not an anthropologist, so it’s not like I’m equipped to analyze these things. I cannot help but ponder, however. What the hell is driving us to turn everything into an over-the-top celebration to the point of ridiculousness?

Honestly I’m uncomfortable with this blog post I’m writing here. I have always whole-heartedly embraced full-on celebration of holidays. Heck yeah, make the day after the SuperBowl a holiday—why not! I love the way holidays and seasons are the rhythm and flow of the year. Autumn? Gimme the PSL. Winter? I pull out my fuzzy boots and scarves. Spring? Well, that’s not my fave, so gimme allergy meds. Summer? Where’s my beach blankie?

cat pinkAnd I feel silly revealing how, ARGH, conservative, I’m being here. Am I possibly a fuddy duddy? I’d like to think I’m just such a fan of the Universal monsters that I’m saddened to see Halloween move away from those classics to…ugh, imitation cat poo. But maybe I’m just stuck in the past in my old fart yells at cloud way. I will continue to grapple with this.

But I don’t think I will grapple with, or apologize for, my views on the party atmosphere surrounding these Pink parties. I don’t care if people need to feel “hope” or celebrate survivors. The October races have become annual traditions and I’ll admit they have evolved. (I’m always complaining breast cancer culture has not progressed and evolved.) But the evolution has been this obnoxious competition of outdoing one another in levels of being outrageous. But to what end? Everyone is so busy showing off that the reason for the season seems to have gotten lost. No one seems to remember it isn’t about “saving ta tas”, it’s about the 116 who die each day.

Am I ending this post on a “downer”? You bet. It was always my nature to piss on the Pink Parades. While the revelers might whine that my negative attitude kills their fun vibe—well, I wish they’d consider why all these races began, and how far we have NOT come. In crassness, tackiness, obnoxiousness, BCAM has just gone too far. In terms of the reduction of death and sickness, sadly we cannot say the same.



Hey Pink Noise—Please Stay In the Background

It’s not that I really thought I could totally avoid Pinktober and its smorgasbord of hellish delights. It’s just that—EVERYthing is happening SO MUCH right now. I kinda thought the bits that broke through would not interfere with my busy life. It would be like background noise—when someone is playing music you dislike so you mentally push it back there. But no.

I mean, as an American liberal #resistance person, I’m going crazy right now. I’ve spent the past 2 or 3 years completely overwhelmed, but it is noticeably worse lately. Remember after 9/11 when the news networks constantly had that threat thermometer thingie on every day, and it was usually “high”? I’ve been at orangeish-red for a long while now. But these days, it’s fire engine red.

Not everything is bad of course. No one has ever accused me of being an optimist, but there are GOOD things happening, things I like. I can’t wait for the “Zombieland” sequel, the “Mr. Robot” final season, the “Breaking Bad” movie. Of course, there is always Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominations in October, which have often been a source of solace for me in these post-treatment years, when the Pink menace was just too much (even in my white-hot angry era 2012-2015). And of course, most readers here know I’d like to crown myself the Queen of Halloween. I’m getting ready to watch “Hocus Pocus” in a little while as I write this first draft!

So, with all these things I’ve just listed, it would seem that I would not, could not possibly, notice Pink Shit. Oh, but I have.

ribbonIt sort of erupted the other day in Walmart (where else?) upon seeing all this pink craft ribbon right there next to the Halloween craft ribbon! Like it was just part and parcel of October, that pink crap somehow belongs in the costume aisle. NO NO NO! Then there were the pink feather flags at the outlet malls. The ads in the paper. The electronic billboards and store marquees. The ad on local news, in which a local car dealership always, ALWAYS, gives prospective customers a pink frog for “breast cancer awareness”, they cheerfully intone (the frog is their mascot, don’t ask why). And then today, driving through a small resort township that is known for being the party section adjacent to Rehoboth Beach, DE, a large inflatable pink ribbon was being erected. “Ugh, the Race,” I thought. Yeah, it’s actually next weekend, guess they just want it up early. Guess who won’t drive through that area again? Picking up party decorations minutes later,  I saw the store featured plenty of pink ribbon themed shit. As I left, I noticed two honeycomb 2-D discs in the window—pale peach with pink centers—to indicate “titties”. Because only white woman booby cancer counts, amirite?  (first time readers of me—I’m pretty sarcastic, not sorry.)

Fortunately, I was too busy fighting a gust a wind and a plethora of helium balloons to take time to puke.

I guess it was that last thing there that lit a fire under my butt to sit and write this. Even in my haphazard avoidance, I still got the full spectrum of this month: the symbols and lip service to “courage”, to “awareness”, and then finally, the part where some places just skip over all that and use the month to celebrate the sexual angle. I look at my ugly, cancer impacted body—the aging, the weight gain, the brittleness—and that angle hits me harder every year. I ran across a photo of my pre-tattooed scar on Facebook, a pic that got removed from Tumblr (Have you ever been on Tumblr? Have you seen the porn? I mean, really? My nipple-less breast got removed? It did get re-instated after I appealed, but good grief).

It continues to shock me how very little UNDERSTANDING of this disease there is amid all this so-called “awareness”.

It’s not this simple plan everyone seems to think: have a race to promote early detection as an ultimate savior, some lovely young thing (because who gives a damn about the “olds”, the average age woman to get BC—is that still 62? I’m too lazy to research it) who “catches it early”, and all is well, no consequences.

Oh no, honey, there ARE consequences. And they are not appealing in mass culture. It doesn’t matter if the surgeon and all the other docs on the “team” ooh and ahh about the neatness of the scar, how well it healed (true story). They think it’s dandy. Race promoters do not.

Sigh, once again, I ramble on. There is not much left to say other than—I’ve said all of this before (see old posts here). I know this is still fresh for so many. For me, it’s stale but I’m still pissed off—maybe a little less so at certain aspects. I’m less likely to start screaming at other BC patients who do the “good vibes only” route. I don’t like being criticized for how I “did cancer”, therefore, I should lay off how others do it. I just don’t want people to get it twisted and think the rage of this ummm, segment of the community, and the mets segment of the community, is the dominant narrative. If that were so, I wouldn’t have to see the effen sights I put up with today. All the stuff I saw today is why many of us are still saying what we are saying. It isn’t just anger—it’s facts and truth. If these realities were more widespread and accepted—I wouldn’t see my friends on social media so upset. I wouldn’t be writing this.

And that’s the core of it for me really. All this anger I had, still have, all the words I’ve written, that so many of my friends wrote, not much has changed.

Am I wrong?

#StillPissed #JustQuieter #ButStillTryingMyBest

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