We Still Need A Reality Check

We still need a #breastcancerrealitycheck. Let’s do it again. October 7, the first Saturday of the month. Let’s flood all social media #breastcancerrealitycheck. It worked last year, we got noticed (Huffpost UK and The Daily Mail). Let’s make even more people listen. We need to make people AWARE of the reality of this disease. We look forward to the day this is no longer relevant, but until then, we’ll do this annually.

Here are some reasons why we still #breastcancerrealitycheck need :

  • Because the myths of “early detection and/or mammograms save lives” still persists.
  • Because “awareness” of breast cancer is not enough, is NOT “saving lives”.
  • Because we lost too many friends in the past 12 months, since 1,430 people die of metastatic breast cancer each day around the WORLD
  • Because breast cancer is still not pink/fluffy/a party/an opportunity for anyone to use cause marketing to sell their brand.
  • Because breast cancer is over-sexualized and we are tired of seeing perfect, healthy breasts shoved in our faces to “call attention” during Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Because Pinktober threatens to suck all the joy out of Autumn: PSLs, jack-o-lanterns, tricks-or-treats, and drench the lovely colors of falling leaves in pepto-pink

What about you? Do you think Pinktober is real enough now—or still selling a fantasy?

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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

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”

A Cancer Free Mother’s Day

A/N: This post will address my discomfort with what I perceive as the way Mother’s Day is now linked with breast cancer. I’ve read a few blog posts about mothers recently, and I think I’m in the minority with my discomfort at this association (again, maybe this is just what I see). I can only speak from where I stand: a woman with breast cancer who is not a mother, whose own mother does not yet have breast cancer, and who was my primary care-giver during cancer. I realize several bloggers I read had mothers who died of breast cancer, and as I do not, so I can only empathize. I hope this post communicates empathy, and is not tone deaf.

That said, I will try to be delicate, but I still think this post will offend some readers. Please proceed with caution, or maybe don’t read.

Later March through mid-May now mirrors October for me, in my Mid-Atlantic American resort area. I cannot get down a street or open a local paper without seeing a poster-sized advertisement for some race, walk, softball game, or other activity to benefit local breast cancer organizations.

In many ways, Pink invading this time of year makes more sense than October. Pink is often associated with springtime. The days are usually warm—great for races or outdoor games. Plus, so many harvest/back-to-school/holiday season events happen at the end of the year, I suspect moving breast cancer races to springtime means less competition from those other events (this may only be true in my region, I don’t know).  As I wrote about wanting to reclaim October last fall, I wondered why October is designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month; I thought a spring month would be more appropriate. I think I used good ol’ Google, and never got a full answer. Or maybe I’m just being wishful—I hate Pink painted all over my beloved golds and oranges—so a BCAM move to a spring would be a relief in my view. *My apologies to those reading who are not in the Northern Hemisphere, for my American seasonal POV here.

Some of the shenanigans associated with the local fundraisers this year are the topic of maybe another post, but I’m grappling with another painful area right now. What is bothering me is the linking of Mother’s Day to breast cancer.

I noticed it last year, in March, when I got a post-card from a local breast cancer organization regarding a project of sending photos and/or stories about Mom. Of course, there was also the suggestion of a donation in mom’s name for the holiday. I got the same card again this spring, too. As far as I could tell, the moms to be honored need not be breast cancer patients, I think—but to be honest, I did not look too deep into it; I found it too disturbing. My quick scan of the website led me to a donations page, and another suggestion of donations in anyone’s honor for any holiday—including Father’s Day. I admit I was impressed by that—finally an acknowledgement that men can get breast cancer, however indirect that acknowledgement. Donating in honor of someone for a gift can be positive, if done wisely and so long the honoree’s charitable giving preferences are respected. But only a donation in honor of Mother’s Day warrants extra special attention, I see.

So it isn’t the money that is necessarily bothering me (too much) in this situation. Perhaps this post is me trying to put my finger on just what is bothering me about the fact I keep seeing the words: mom/mother and breast cancer together on one page so much lately.

There is a subtle whiff of marketing of course. I understand non-profits need to seize every opportunity to make money. It’s just, why the automatic leap that seems to go like this: mothers = women = women’s issues/health = breast cancer, so suddenly the holiday becomes all about breast cancer? Perhaps my view is too narrow here; I did not investigate organizations for ovarian or any other cancers, to see if there were campaigns to fundraise to honor one’s mother.

But it wasn’t just local breast cancer support organizations that seemed to link mothers to breast cancer for holiday festivities—local and national media linked the two as well. I opened the Sunday paper, and the magazine insert featured Christina Applegate and her mother, both famous breast cancer survivors. Why not feature them in October? Why not feature, I don’t know, a successful mother and daughter-owned business—as in, something women achieved rather than had to deal with? Or a mother and daughter both with any other cancer? I mean, any gynecological cancer would’ve been appropriate for Mother’s Day, right? Or are those diseases not common enough to suit everyone’s needs? Well, that argument doesn’t work—I’ve pointed out enough on this blog about how awareness advocates for diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease use breast cancer to point out how these diseases harm more women than breast cancer (Want Attention? Just Say Breast Cancer). So why no cover story of a mother and daughter team taking measures to prevent hereditary heart disease? As more intelligent women than I have long pointed out—why is breast cancer a stand-in for all women’s health?

I turned on the local news that night, and a woman who overcame a number of odds—widowhood, breast cancer—to return to school for her degree was featured. The cynic in me wondered if they started by looking for this news story by researching local “older” college graduates who were moms, or did they start at breast cancer support organizations to find her.

Is having breast cancer a prerequisite to be considered a mother worthy of honor? Is breast cancer the one and only threat to health and well-being of mothers all over? Is overcoming breast cancer the only achievement women can be publicly lauded for? Because that seems to be the message the media gave out that day, in my view.

Again, I cannot stress enough that I do not want to be insensitive here. Much is written about hereditary breast cancer—because breast cancer has that family link, even for this Cancer Curmudgeon, so it is natural for this mother-daughter + breast cancer topic to be written about. And most of the bloggers I read acknowledged the deaths caused by all hereditary cancers.

So maybe what is making me uncomfortable is this.

My mother’s mother had breast cancer at the very end of her life, over a decade ago. It went untreated because she was in the process of dying of heart disease. Then in 2010, my mother watched her youngest sister, that she cared for as if she were her own child, get breast cancer around age 50. A few months later her own, only child (yours truly), got breast cancer. My mother has had enough of breast cancer. I know there is no such thing as a trade off in the world of cancer (wrote about this a long time ago)—just because everyone around her has had breast cancer does not make her exempt. And that is what frustrates me so much. I was constantly barraged with subtle or direct messages over the past few weeks that seemed hell bent on making me understand something I am only too aware of: mothers get breast cancer. Breast cancer is a clear and constant threat to us, and we cannot ever get away from it.

My mother should be honored because she had to, and still has to, put up with my whiny, angry, annoying breast cancer patient self. Hell, my mother should be honored for putting up with the annoying person I was before breast cancer. So I honored her by shutting up about breast cancer all day on Sunday.

I’ve been tied up in knots about writing this post. I know that many women have had mothers and/or grandmothers die because of breast cancer and I do not mean to imply that their pain should be ignored—of course Mother’s Day is difficult. But it is also difficult for anyone whose mother is no longer alive for any reason; something a friend’s story reminded me of sadly last Sunday. I could not help but wonder if there were adult children out there, again resentful of breast cancer being shoved down throats on that day just as it is in October. I mean, it only stands to reason that this would happen, given the backlash to breast cancer that is happening in other cancer organization campaigns (Pancreatic Cancer Action PSA, anyone?).  Are other children perceiving a message that their own mother’s lives were somehow less significant because they had/have other cancers or challenges? And I very much resented the fact that a day meant to honor and celebrate, for me, was under a cloud of cancer, the same cloud I see nearly every damn day.

So I took one day off from cancer. And I want an end to ALL cancers. I’ll take that any day, it doesn’t need to be saved for a holiday.

 

I’m Taking Back October

I know what you’re thinking—it’s only August!

BUT—I was in a store a few days ago getting summer-decorated ice cube trays (don’t ask) and seeing the usual Back-to-School promos and as I checked out, there was an impulse-buy display of single-wrapped candies, in Halloween wrappers. If Halloween candy can be sold already, I can talk about October.

Side note—you’d think with all the new fall merchandise, my sad little summer items would’ve had a lower price, but no.

I’m used to this rushing to the next big selling opportunity, er, holiday; I used to work retail, in clothing, for many years. Try getting a pair of shorts or a tee in my beach resort area in late August; can’t be done. But you can get a wool sweater! Which is dumb; I live at the beach in the mid-Atlantic where it is rarely cold enough for thick, cozy, wooly clothing. Working 8 hours surrounded by thick sweaters and down parkas, and then leaving for the day in wicked heat…ugh! I do not miss it.

Halloween Candy 2013

All that said, I admit I bought the fun candy, and yeah, I ate it. Halloween is over 10 weeks away—and I don’t care.

The truth is, Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love the dress up, the haunted houses, the watching of old timey (not so) scary movies, the candy—that last one alone is my favorite; if a holiday in which kids knock on doors and ask for hand-outs of sweets did not exist, it would have to be invented. My birthday is just a couple of days before it. Fall has always been MY TIME. October has always been MY TIME. I just celebrate all of it for a whole week on a sugar high. So I don’t really have a problem buying (and eating) Halloween candy in the beginning of August. Are all the merchants “pushing it” too early? Yep. Good—prolong the season, I say. I’m restraining myself from putting “Night of the Living Dead” in the DVD player and searching online for decorations and Halloween themed recipes as I write this.

If you read my About page, you can guess that all my love for fall evaporated in 2010, as I was diagnosed a few days before my birthday. One of the many oh-so-awful things about cancer is that treatment takes sooooo long, so the hurdles, like day of surgery, first day of radiation, or first day of a type of chemo round, are bound to coincide with some otherwise pleasant milestone day, be it birthday, anniversary, etc. I guess in some ways it is good that my absolute worst day in cancer, the day of my surgery, happened in late April. I’m not a fan of springtime; I’m allergic to all kinds of pollen and usually Benadryl-ed out of my mind. So, the memory of surgery is not tied up with an otherwise pleasant memory. I like the other seasons much more. Fall is my favorite, October is my favorite, and it just sucks I had to go through the testing and diagnosis in October. Just no other way to describe it other than that: SUCKS!

And of course on top of it all—say it altogether now—National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. When I first started haunting the internet on this issue last October, looking for the like-minded in my dislike of the pink ribbon circus, I remember distinctly reading one article, or blog, in which a woman talked about how much she used to love October and fall, and how that was ruined for her by the oversaturation of pink awareness. I wish I could remember where I saw that piece—it was the first one that made me start to feel better, because I knew then I really was not alone; not only was someone else sick of the pink ribbon, someone else didn’t like the way the intensified pink madness appropriated such a wonderful time of year, pouring perky pink over my beloved golds, yellows, oranges, and browns.

I am naïve, probably, in thinking I can “take back” October, as I claim here to be my intention. The onslaught of PINK will be too much, and something is bound to make me nuts, make me open my big mouth. I consider stocking up a number of dry goods so I don’t have to buy products emblazoned with that effen ribbon that are going to pop up on shelves any day now. Good thing I have a big Hurricane Preparedness/Evacuation Kit ready, stocked with the types of items that will soon be pink-er-ized. I can just use those if I start to run out (and there is no Sandy-type of threat). I gird my loins for the barrage of Pink events, for the endless, insultingly named ta-ta/second base/boobies-saving (not life) fundraisers.

Yeah, I know, it’s too early to borrow trouble. But, I repeat, the Halloween candy has arrived in the stores. Prepare.

source festishmode

I will do my best to ignore what sends me over the moon, to calmly correct untruths or half-truths I see/hear (1 in 8, early detection = prevention, need I go on?), and most of all, enjoy MY month, MY holiday, MY way. I will carve pumpkins. I will decorate anywhere I can. I will buy and eat and give away candy. I will make Halloween themed beverages. I will jump into piles of leaves like Linus, but avoid his error with the lollipop.  I will cheer the Ravens when the games are on. I will enjoy the cozy sweaters some days and run in the ocean in my cut-offs on others (if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes…), probably chasing some water dog.

I cannot forget I had cancer, I can control so very little in my life, but I can do this.

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