Want Attention? Just Say Breast Cancer

2/7/14 edit & author’s note: When I write, I assume readers are residents of cancer land and are aware of the latest, um, “dramas”, that are going on in cancer land. But that is unfair, and I’ve been made aware that I should include links to what I am ranting on about. I’m reluctant to do that most of the time because I don’t always want to give something that annoys me more access for more clicks–especially in this situation, because what I’m writing about here is the dubious methods employed for getting attention! But my desire to be clear about what has driven me to write about any topic wins out, so here is a link to the Salon article that made me aware of the Pancreatic Cancer Action PSA, and the PSA itself can be watched there as well. Happy viewing!

color pink

What is the best way to push your agenda? Just say breast cancer.

You can push your questionable prevention advice with this fear-mongering because everyone will listen. (I ranted about that a lot last summer, if you enjoy rants: 1, 2, & 3, all about how one report used fear of breast cancer in a title to talk about something else, and yes, I acknowledged even then that I was contributing to the attention.)

You can insist that your disease is more important because it kills more people than breast cancer—I’m looking at you, most heart disease-and-women campaigns. February is almost as annoying as October, since everyone honks about breast cancer to highlight how heart disease kills more women than breast cancer. As if everyone was not already tired of the phrase breast cancer. Because the only way to advocate one cause is to smack another down, apparently.

You can imply all your cancers are worse because of lack of funding and awareness because the Big Pink Ribbon Bully stole all the attention. As I’ve said before, breast cancer is a bully that is now being bullied—payback is a bitch. Everyone is tired of all the attention breast cancer gets, yet no one will shut up about it, myself included.

I’d like to say the best way to handle the pancreatic cancer PSA is to ignore it, because the backlash and buzz is drawing attention—no doubt that is exactly what is desired. It just proves my point: want attention? Just say breast cancer.

But ignoring it is wrong. Of course pancreatic cancer needs attention. And frankly, I have heard or seen people with other cancers comment that they wish they had breast cancer, instead. I don’t presume to know why, but I can guess. So the statement in the ad was no big surprise.

But I’ve also read one blogger’s thankfulness to have a gynecological cancer rather than breast cancer (sorry cannot remember who or where, cannot locate), because of all the silliness and sexualization around breast cancer, knowing she’d loathe the pink ribbon even more if she had breast cancer. She’s glad that at least her cancer is taken seriously. So there’s that too.

This is why I hate all the colored ribbons—it just creates a divided cancer gang land. Gotta be true to your colors. No thanks. People are sick and jealous of the attention breast cancer and Pink hogs (see What Do You Mean There Are OTHER Kinds of Cancer Besides Breast Cancer?!). Understand why Pink is doing more harm than good yet? Understand why Pink-coated-everything has got to stop? Understand why that ribbon does not represent this breast cancer patient?

When I was treated for breast cancer, I was not ushered into a separate room with pink champagne, cupcakes, feather  boas, and a party atmosphere. I slogged it out with patients with all kinds of other cancers. Just because so many people think they know all about breast cancer (NO) because they’ve seen a few Pink ads, breast cancer patients still have to get the same (slightly better than past years) slash, poison, and burn treatments many other cancer patients get. What non-breast cancer patients are NOT aware of is the fact that there is a good chance it will come back and kill me—I’ve heard that twice in the past several weeks from two different doctors who are involved in my cancer care. That is Pink’s dirty little secret: breast cancer still makes a person sick, the treatment is still horrible, and it still kills.

Dead is dead, regardless if it is from pancreatic, breast, prostate, or ANY cancer. Can the conversation, the message, the fall-out, from the PSA be an understanding of this simple notion?

No, because I’m sure there will be a segment of people thinking breast cancer patients, with our alleged advantages, should just stop whining, stop stealing pancreatic cancer’s thunder, stop insisting we have it just as bad, because in their eyes, we don’t have it as bad, no matter what we say. Because I know folks with mets breast cancer, or other cancers, have thought me lucky. I’ve thought it myself. I wrestle with it all the time. So should I shut up about this PSA? Is this what breast cancer patients should keep in mind before talking about this PSA?

At any rate, the PSA worked, because it invoked breast cancer. Attention, guaranteed.

Thank you Pancreatic Cancer Action, for reminding this breast cancer patient to not shut up about the horribleness of all and any cancer, equally. Thank you for reminding everyone just how much work there is to do, for highlighting just how badly Pink has failed in conveying the gravity of getting a breast cancer diagnosis, and for showing how un-classy it is to smack another down to lift your own self up.