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.

Why I Am Not a Politician Or In Charge Of Anything

Let me share an anecdote about my problem solving skills, or lack thereof.

As I’ve stated often, I live in a beach resort area. That means in the summer the population swells, and the rural roads get congested with tourists, making traffic similar to the big cities they’re trying to escape. An errand that would normally take 20 minutes can take hours. In the winter, the roads are mostly unoccupied. Those of us who are “locals”, whether born and raised like myself—“from heres”, and those who’ve relocated/retired—“come heres”, bitch about traffic A LOT. We are a spoiled folk. We like and appreciate tourist dollars, but we so highly value the “quiet, country life” too.

One weekend mid-August I was driving down that beach highway (locals know to stay in their homes on weekends, but I was in an unavoidable situation), and got stuck at an intersection. Of course, a major case of gridlock was in progress. People constantly choose to go forward without giving any thought to the idea that they might not get beyond the intersection when the light turns red.

I had a grim thought that perhaps the best way to stop people from making this choice was to have spikes pop out of the road and puncture their tires as soon as the light turns red. Then maybe people would be less inclined to cross an intersection when their car would clearly still be in the way if the light should go red! Of course I dismissed the idea realizing that if these tires got damaged the cars would be even more stuck, and I’d never get where I wanted to go. A week later I was reading a letter to the editor of a local “newspaper” (scare quotes intentional), suggesting a solution of signage threatening heavy fines at this intersection. Puh-leez! If drivers are ignoring the red light, they’ll just ignore the signs! I sneered as I read the letter aloud to my mom, and then told her my idea of the spikes popping up, in spite of the logistical problems of deflating tires, which I was already mentally trying to resolve.

My mother gasped, rightfully so. I mean, why on earth would I think it OK to punish drivers’ choices with destruction of their personal property? THAT should’ve been the first hurdle to my proposed solution—not those silly logistics.

In my weak defense, I was bitching about all of this to some other locals weary of summer traffic not long after that, and they laughed. The even chimed in with their own fantasy solutions—like wishing for a paint gun or other contraption stuck on their car front to fire away at drivers, or bulldoze them over. I swear, we are not malicious, just tired!

The point in revealing my absurd driver fantasies is to illustrate how my mind goes to the extreme. And you guessed it, when it comes to the relentless display of pink ribbons and such, especially in October, my mind goes to destruction—and that is NOT good!

Those first few Octobers after diagnosis, as I’ve said here before, were just white hot anger about Pink–this was before I found other like-minded bloggers. I wanted to either rip off or spray paint over every single Pink ribbon or save the tat-tas sticker I saw on cars in parking lots. NOT a great idea. I rolled my eyes every time I saw someone wearing some Pink-y clothing item, especially the ones with rah-rah, I-kicked-cancer’s-ass-style slogans. One October, I cut a bunch of BCA’s Think Before You Pink business card-sized fact sheets and surreptitiously taped them to pink ribbon stickered items in the grocery store, in hopes it would make buyers stop and think. Passive-aggressive much, Cancer Curmudgeon?

These days I still grit my teeth when seeing this one jeep parked at a store I frequent (I assume its owner works there), all decked out with pink windshield wipers, a couple of ribbon stickers, and some slogan on the spare tire cover. I grip my steering wheel tight when I see stickers on cars while I zip around town (see 365). And luckily I don’t go out to too many places (too tired after work), but on a rare occasion, I end up out in public with people. As I noted on Facebook the other day I ran into so many Pink-attired women (see Uniform), I had to exert some self-control to keep from confronting and yelling and generally causing a scene.

These are the times I remind myself that there is no one right way to do cancer, and just because the way I’ve chosen is not often respected (again, see Uniform, and a good deal of other posts on this blog) does not mean I get to disrespect those who embrace Pink.

I was never a patient person and after cancer my patience all but disappeared. I think patience is overrated anyway, I mean hey, isn’t “life is short” one of those silly “lessons” cancer is supposed to teach? If so, why should I patiently wait for anything? Why should I be patient with the continued narrative of early detection, be positive, and all that crap that I found damaging–especially if that crap continues to harm current and future breast cancer patients?

But I’m a rash person, prone to flipping out and wanting to rip up stickers, deface property. There are better ways; I’m just not the person to think of them I guess.

I’ll behave, I swear.

Blinding Light

The lively conversations surrounding celebrities and their publicized breast cancer experiences have been fascinating—yes, I’m obviously talking about the Robach and Lunden double feature of recent months. I am working on a post about it, if I can get some time to finish, that will be amazing.

But one aspect that greatly disturbs me I have actually dealt with before. I keep reading comments praising the women, for “shining a light on breast cancer”, that “any” attention on breast cancer is good and needed.

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Yes, yes, I know I benefited from drugs that were probably only developed because of this attention.  I know I, and many women, have benefited (don’t think the men with breast cancer have gained much from all that Pink, but that is another story). But I think a backlash is coming. All the lights shining on breast cancer, from celebrities and corporations and everything, is starting to blind and irritate everyone else.

I think it is time to acknowledge that not only has Pink bullied every other cause, but that folks with other cancers are getting mighty tired of all the attention. I wrote this post last year, BEFORE that Pancreatic Cancer commercial in the UK put a spotlight on breast cancer in a different, quite unflattering way.

Yes, so many have benefited from Pink. At some point I suspect the winds will change, and we will ALL suffer from a backlash—those who embrace Pink and those who loathe it like your Cancer Curmudgeon. The kerfuffle around that pancreatic cancer PSA is probably just the beginning.

What Do You Mean There Are OTHER Kinds of Cancer Besides Breast Cancer?!

Posted on October 31, 2013 by Cancer Curmudgeon

Or: Shoving Pink Down Your Throat

Yes that title is sarcastic. Continue reading “Blinding Light”

Failure of Awareness

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So I found this on my Tumblr dash. Hopefully I followed the thread correctly (I’m still not a blogging expert) and went to the source who posted the graphic AND this caption: “Saw this somewhere else and felt the need to post it cause no one else ever really tells you this stuff”. There were many more comments, but I had to cut them out to get this (not very clear) screenshot.

Unless it is fake, or contains misinformation, the blog is run by a 14 year old black girl (I am not using the PC African American because I’ve no idea if she is American). I have sent her(?) a message via Tumblr but do not expect a reply; and am cautious in believing the blog is real, as I was one of those fools that messaged back and forth with the Goldbergs on Tumblr, only to learn that the blog was run by a woman who only pretended to have terminal cancer, just for attention.

The post has been liked and/or reblogged over 75,000 times, so lots of people (hopefully most are real people with real blogs), all ages, nationalities, genders, agree. All these people think no one tells them this stuff, so they are trying to get it out there. Where the fuck did all of the awareness dollars go, if so many people think this information is not out there enough?

Is it because of pink over saturation that people no longer notice facts unless they are presented in some non-pink, non-October way? Is it the fact that pink marketing has targeted a very select group—(usually) white women of a certain age who buy products—and left all other demographics out cold? Is the fact that the message of pink marketing only includes very select facts about breast cancer, selling their target audience/customers a message on which The New York Times Magazine article (not even linking it here, I know everyone has read it) commented “…well-meaning awareness has ultimately made women less conscious of the facts…”? Is it some insidious combination of all of the above?

I mostly agreed with The New York Times Magazine article; it was basically a condensed version of tons of other pieces I’ve read since getting breast cancer my own damn self. The main part I did not agree with had to do with fear, and I may or may not post about that later. But I will tackle a little bit of it here, because apparently it is a factor.

According to the article young girls are getting “I (heart) boobies” bracelets, taught SBE, and Dr. Susan Love says, right in this article, “…but educating kids earlier — that bothers me. Here you are, especially in high school or junior high, just getting to know to your body. To do this search-and-destroy mission where your job is to find cancer that’s lurking even though the chance is minuscule to none. . . . It doesn’t serve anyone. And I don’t think it empowers girls. It scares them.”

Yeah, they are scared, they see lots of pink and boobies crap talking about cancer, and they probably have someone in their life with cancer. But getting no real information, they get on the internet for info that maybe does not give the whole story, presented in a kicky graphic (have no idea who created the graphic or if it was produced using pink dollars). Is this preferable?

Yes I agree that awareness has reached an over-saturation level in some demographics, because I am in that target customer group, so I’m sick of awareness too, but I’m not sure everyone got the real or whole story. In fact, maybe no one ever gets the real story until they do get breast cancer, or someone close to them gets it.

Can awareness campaigns please start putting the real facts out there, and do away with boobies and pink ribbons? I think people can handle it now, we don’t need to see half naked women to understand cancer anymore. Grow up media and marketing.