I’d been running around and I noticed a truck at a local dealership had a “Pinktober” decal on it. I know I saw it when I passed it by like an hour or so before, and apparently instantly forgot about it. When I saw it that second time, I had a vague memory of seeing it earlier in morning. But it didn’t hit me/annoy me until that second time I passed by it.
After the momentary annoyance of seeing a truck decked out like this, with a joyful, festive look (yes, there were pink balloons tied on other cars), I kind of freaked out. It took me 2 ride-bys to register this atrocity. Or wait—I’ve been traveling Rt 1 all month, how long has it been there? It was the freakin’ 28th! Soooo, do I just not see this crap anymore now?
And hang on, I thought the word “Pinktober” was a term of derision used by those of us who dislike all the Pink crap to sum up all the hell that the month contains? So, what…now it has been taken and used in exactly the way it was meant to mock? Am I remembering wrong?
This wasn’t the first jarring event, to be honest. The other morning I was doing my work and noticed it was the 27th. Two whole days beyond the 25th, the anniversary day of diagnosis. I just zoomed by, doing all my stuff, and didn’t even think about it. It’s not like I’m unaware of the date of each day—my jobs depend on knowing the date, the day. I guess I got so focused on the tasks scheduled for my day, Friday, October 25, that I….just…forgot. Or more like, lacked the mental space for my brain to process.
I mean, it’s not like I “do” anything to mark the day, and I don’t dread it or get depressed or anything—I don’t observe dates/holidays like that. It doesn’t matter—in that way, I guess. The residue of having had cancer is an every-damn-day kind of thing. A few weeks ago, I experienced a wave of anger about being a former cancer patient, almost as intense as when I was fresh out of treatment. I think I was tired and was just overwhelmed that cancer has stolen my vitality. I should be able to do more without fatigue. My anger bubbled up in a way it has not done in a while, but it cooled back down to my usual simmer.
I guess this is all kind of good. I didn’t get stressed by the Pinktober crap because I don’t “see” it—even when it’s there. I’ve commented to some of you that it seems less in your face this year—but I wonder if my perception is up to snuff. I mean, that Pinktober truck—maybe it was there all month! I honestly don’t know! As for missing my awful date, I guess that’s OK too, I never want to relive that moment.
But on the other hand, I don’t like all my hustle and bustle. October is over and as a Halloween lover, I feel like I missed out—too busy and distracted even while chiding myself to ENJOY FALL. Well, I cannot blame just being busy—I blame the weather too. The other day I sat watching Laurie Strode in her 1978 sweater fashions and Mike Meyers in his jumpsuit, while I sweated in shorts. All I could think was, aren’t they hot? The lingering summer in my region just kills that “Halloween” vibe.
The hustle bustle and distraction can provide a healthy distance. But losing connection, not being plugged in—to the good things (Halloween) AND the bad (Pink crap)—is less healthy. I regret my distance from the cancer world at times. I’ve written 3 whole posts in recent weeks, counting this one, after leaving it unattended for months on end. I forgot that writing helps me, even if it’s anger and annoyance that forces me into a chair to do some writing. I usually feel better afterwards.
I cannot promise to keep up, to post more. I still get so tired and upset at times that mindless scrolling or movie watching can help me. But I will try.
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?
Stay tuned to sign up for our Thunderclap and more details.
On October 31, as I distracted myself with Halloween’s glory, I asked myself: “what do we become aware of this month?” Lots of Facebook posts ask that question, I asked it on Twitter I think. So much sound and fury in October, but does anyone learn anything? I think not.
I forced myself to remember the days before diagnosis. I know I never thought all the pink rah rah crap was great–that’s just a core trait of my personality. But what did I know about breast cancer, and the awareness push, before diagnoses?
This is a tough question to answer. I’m not sure I fully know the answer. I know I absorbed the “early diagnosis/screening” messages. I knew enough to ask for a mammogram earlier that the suggested age (40 at that time), but I still regarded breast cancer, any cancer, as an older person’s disease despite knowing actual patients my age. I asked for a mammogram because I knew I had a higher risk with family history-my aunt had just been diagnosed for heaven’s sake. I knew about ribbons, especially red ribbons (AIDS) and pink ribbons. Did I know October was “awareness” month? Maybe–but it did not “click” with me until the late 00’s.
The incident that made it click with me–well, I’d buried it. I was working in for a non-profit arts organization. Doing film exhibition with local community organizations. In the summer of 2008 or 2009 I began working with a women’s business group. My point collaboration person was suggesting topics for me to find films for our October event. I remember her telling me October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I remember being surprised by that–what a dumb month for such a thing! Let me explain. As a lifelong resident of a beach town/resort area, with my first post-college job being in retail, I had a list of hard and fast rules and truths. Painting October Pink was stupid in my mind. Lots of local “runs” took place in April/May/June anyway–wasn’t spring better for Pink? I’ve lived my life by the ebb and flow of tourist traffic. Panel season, or off-season, events were in a strict path. There was the Greyhound rescue dog weekend, Jazzfest weekend, Seawitch, etc. in October. Where I worked, the annual film festival was the second weekend of November. I had no time for anything else–October was full of deadlines in preparation for this main event–a time of no sleep, no fun, no nothing. I measured these things in amounts of car traffic (for my work travel) and the likelihood of whether I could schedule an event and get any butts in seats during those event weekends (likely not). BCAM had maybe a marathon in one beach town–but there was always a marathon each weekend (bikes the worst, as they interrupted traffic the most, adding to my work travel time). I had no time for breast cancer, awareness, or a month of it . But sure, if I could find cheap film to exhibit about it, I’d see what I could do (this was before the release of Pink Ribbons, Inc.).
I don’t remember what films I exhibited–none about cancer I’m relatively certain. I moved on, forgot about this, got cancer, and now I remember it.
But here is the other thing I’d submerged, and am just now dredging up–a sort of painful memory.
I skipped the main event in 2010, having just been diagnosed, and preparing for the Red Devil. In 2011, I returned, managing over 1,000 volunteers for the annual festival, among other things. I had completed chemo in January of that year, radiation in the summer. I was still doing Herceptin every 3 weeks and my hair was curly and short–just returning. I was exhausted and felt horrible. I ran into the women I’d coordinated with for that event of a few years prior. She laughed and asked why I’d cut my hair so short (I’ve always worn it long). “I had cancer,” I replied curtly. She laughed for half a second then sobered up when she saw I was NOT laughing. “Breast cancer?” she asked. “Yeah,” I grunted.
So here was this person, so into “The Cause” but what did she really know about breast cancer? Breast cancer was a thing to worry about–but a thing that happened to other people–not ones we knew, not ourselves. Breast cancer was a thing to promote because an audience “cared” about it. But not “real”.
I realize now how much this informed my view of BCAM–this ignorance. It’s something to care about, to SHOW care about, but it always happens to someone else.
This is likely part of my disconnect with such hollow shows of “solidarity” of “Support”. Those things are meaningless to me. The Pink events–they have little to do with What Really Happens.
I hold no ill will toward this woman–how could I? I was just as ignorant, just as “that won’t happen to me.” I don’t even remember her name, or the organization, and don’t feel motivated to research it. It doesn’t matter. It was just a memory that popped up Monday, unwanted, as I tried to get ready for tricks or treats.
My point is: October and BCAM, those are just “things to do”, the way we do other “holiday” things: buy candy for trick or treaters, buy a turkey and fret about ignorant relatives, succumb to shopping holiday madness, and make the obligatory weight loss New Year’s resolution.
And that is what I hate about October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month: it has become a rote obligatory motion we go through–not real. Except to those of us who had the dumb fortune to get breast cancer.
Most of us acknowledge “awareness” has been achieved, it is time for education. There are so many myths out there about breast cancer to be busted! Like how 1 in 8 is lifetime risk, not the risk a random 40 year old (non-BRCA) woman has. That’s just one of those fuzzy slogans that needs to be cleared up. What are some others? I’m not good with stats and numbers–but so many of you are–help me!
This anotheronewiththecancer blog of mine has been like a 4 years long gripe. I complain a lot, I know. And anyone would be right to ask me what I plan to do instead of just bitching. How can anyone expect people to know what it’s REALLY like to have breast cancer unless we tell people? How can people know that getting reconstruction is not a simple,”boob job” unless we explain how it’s different? How can people know how much we fear recurrence and that can happen even after that magical, mythical 5 year mark? How can people know that completing treatment doesn’t equal being “all done”, that in fact, my oncologist’s phone number will be in my contact list for a whole ten years? For that matter how can people understand that for metastatic patients treatment NEVER ends, until death? (Check out the Laurie Becklund video and my post about these issues in The Next Time Round.)
On October 1st, please join us in educating, in setting the record straight, in injecting some reality into the perky Pink slogans that will saturate all media and even our in real life experiences for 31 days. Use #BreastCancerRealityCheck and tell people all kinds of things that you wish they knew! We’d especially like this to get trending on Twitter–so, tweet, tweet, tweet!
I for one, and I suspect many of you who read my blog, am just so tired of all slogans. I’m compiling a list of things I want people to know. All under 140 characters, which if you’ve read my long-winded blog posts over the years, you know how tough it is for me!
We so often say it is time for education, the time for awareness is over. So, in the spirit of Fall, let’s take the public back to school.
OK, I’m sure we’ve all seen the return of that damn No Bra Day/Set the Ta-Tas Free Day graphic on our feeds. A week ago I re-shared my old How About a “What Cancer Really Does to Breasts Day”? post because I’m just so sick of it! This sparked a chit chat on Twitter with my friend Annie @barbieslosingit. The chatter grew and here’s an idea:
Use #BreastCancerRealityCheck on October 1, Saturday, and let’s get it trending. How often do we roll our eyes and talk about how people just “don’t get it”? Well, let’s make them get it! We CAN talk back to hit back at all these silly memes and games. So LET’S!
Addendum: WE HEARD YOU! No, we do NOT wish to hijack September, the month devoted to other cancers (such as ovarian). The pink ribbon bully already does that! So let’s use the first day of Pinktober to get the REAL truth about breast cancer out!!
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!
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.
Nancy Brinker is “seeing red” over the recent New York Times article detailing how some breast cancer patients are tired of the “pinkification” of disease (see her letter here, see what she is angry about here). Her letter was strange to me, and would be laughable except 1) as the head of Komen her voice will be heard (although she claims she is NOT responding as a Komen representative) and 2) so many people will agree with her, will not look at her defensive whining with a critical and analytical eye.
I find soooooo many problems with her letter—and I’m not even as staunchly anti-Komen as so many other bloggers!! But here are my gripes.
Well, Nancy, you say the Pink Ribbon now symbolizes breast cancer. You’re not wrong there.
You go on to say breast cancer is very personal for you. It is personal for me too, since, you know, I actually was diagnosed with it myself at age 38. It continues to be personal for me as I know I could have a recurrence at any time. It is personal for thousands of other patients currently living with metastatic breast cancer. What makes you think you have a monopoly on personal feelings about breast cancer? Your claim of it being personal just illustrates your tone deafness, your inability to realize the cancer demographic is made up of lots of individuals with VERY different perspectives. We are not homogenous, and no one’s personal relationship with breast cancer is more important than another’s, not even yours.
You say you made a promise to your sister to work to find a cure, to raise awareness for the need for testing, treatment, research, cures, and to raise money for research. Let’s unpack these promises, shall we?
Your first promise, to find a cure, has not been fulfilled. The second promise, to raise awareness, you’ve been successful—congratulations. But that awareness has not translated to meaningful results—see broken promise #1. Instead, you continue to work on “awareness” as if no one is aware, as if you only wish to do what you know, rather than face new challenges. This has made you, your organization, and other pink organizations, stagnant institutions. The stagnation is killing people. Rather than evolving, than checking off the “raised awareness” task from your list, you continue to only do what has been done for 20+ years. That’s why my avatar is the anarchy symbol over “A” (not YOUR, copyrighted) pink ribbon. We need a little anarchy—or at least an overhaul.
And oh my goodness, the third promise you state in your letter. You’ve raised billions, but has it gone to research? No. More money goes to education, screening (and screening is ALWAYS controversial), and of course to fundraising (it takes money to raise money) than to research (see here, page 7).
You list the (non)-achievements of the Pink Ribbon as allowing Komen to stage races with over a million racers, establishing partnerships in numerous countries, and engaging thousands of volunteers. I am NOT impressed by any of that. Big deal, people ran in races—there are plenty of marathons out there. The partnerships—good grief, look no further than the recent fracking/drill bit fiasco for the worth of those partnerships (but if anyone wants to look further, well, there’s the KFC chicken, the Dietz & Watson—because cured meats are so good for you, and all the shopping, shopping, shopping). And you provided opportunities for volunteers to do what they do: volunteer. Hey volunteers are gold. But their work needs to be meaningful. It seems all the work has achieved is perpetuating your stagnant institution.
You close with “Pink Ribbons matter”. I hope that was NOT a reference to the “#(whatever)livesmatter” campaigns. Komen has already proven time and again their inability to come up with original ideas. See your own admission about “borrowing” the red ribbon idea from the AIDS movement. How about the elephant stolen from METAvivor last year in that stupid Kohl’s campaign?
Originality is part of evolution.
Yes, lives matter, mine too. Most of the non-achievements did not benefit me. Early detection and screening? Nope—I tried that, but the mammogram (or rather the radiologist) did not find my cancer. Sure, the awareness raised by pink ribbons funded research that created drugs like Herceptin, which allows me to still be here writing this critique. However, unless I’m mistaken, the money raised for Herceptin research came from Avon—but never mind, let the ribbon’s ubiquity claim that prize. But all the races, pink ribbons, and volunteers did not prevent me from getting cancer in the first place. Ribbons won’t prevent my likelihood of recurrence and metastasis.
Right now, Pink Ribbons don’t matter. Even non-breast cancer patients are tired of them, have become immune, sometimes blind to them. (That was one of the points of the piece to which you object–how did you miss that?) Pink Ribbons are stagnant and Pinktober has become an institution, celebrated right along with Halloween. They symbolize breast cancer, but the threats to me and others remain. The death rate has not really changed. (Sure, there are more survivors, but the controversy surrounding the screening debates can tell anyone that it’s easy to create more survivors, if you create more patients that maybe never should’ve been called patients. But I digress). That symbol is no solution for my breast cancer, for my friends’ cancers.
Here is my challenge to you Brinker—realize how ridiculous Komen has become and do something about it. I think Komen is incapable of evolution. Prove me wrong.
I am prone to shouting “this is why I love the Internet” when I see dumb stuff that makes me laugh. The meme with Joaquin Phoenix’s head progressing toward the east coast to represent the hurricane threat. A video of a bird throwing cups all over the place. Cat videos. Cat videos. Cat videos.
Oh I know, ire in comments and on Twitter, idiots sharing misinformation (“I’ll be right with you, someone on the Internet is wrong”—I love that cartoon), outrage at the slightest infraction, yeah the internet can be an ugly place.
But on the other hand, the Internet kind of saved me when I was in my white-hot-anger-at-Pink phase that October after treatment. Via blogging, and eventually other forms of social media, I learned I was not alone in my loathing of Pink—the rah, rah, the sexualization. Granted, I’m not as active as most, don’t have a huge follower base or whatever, but what little interacting I’ve done has been a comfort.
True, I’m a Curmudgeon, not particularly social, not as involved in the “community”—just my natural shyness and solitary tendencies (it’s an only child thing) at work. But, I know the community is there, and I am in it a bit. And I know there are thousands of patients who share my views and feelings. Knowing about those thousands became very important today.
I was in a conversation with a woman I run into often in my line of work—not a client, but another who provides services for my client. She is a very forward person—if she thinks it, she says it, regardless of tact. I am generally polite with most everyone, and try to keep my conversations about innocuous topics (“how about this weather?”). I tend to steer away deep discussions with people I do not know very well.
Today she brought up some NPR broadcast about how some cancer patients don’t like certain words—survivor and war were the ones she seemed to have latched onto—and how new words have been invented by patients. I think I’ve heard the broadcast she was talking about, but maybe not. Didn’t matter; I know this topic well!
She point blank asked me what I thought of these words. I calmly said I agree; I dislike most of the language in cancer. Of course, it is hard for me to not get very “deep” when discussing this topic and I found myself saying how much I hate things like “save the ta-tas”.
She said something like, “well, I think that is just how YOU perceive that phrase, that is not how—“
And I cut her off right there. I did so with great conviction.
I pointed out that yes, the intent behind that phrase is a clever, attention-getting ploy to “raise awareness”, but I am FAR from the ONLY person who dislikes the phrase. Not, by a long shot, the ONLY one who realizes that getting breast cancer often results in the amputation or mutilation of breasts—and how a slogan like “save the ta-tas” seems like it yanks support from the ta-ta-less, that it should be save the lives. No, there are thousands of us I told her. Maybe millions, tired and fed up with all the pink, with the baggage of October, of all cancer issues. I stated it as fact. It is not hard to find this anywhere on the Internet, voices raised in criticism of all the pink nonsense.
She quickly changed her tune, and pointed out that it should be about “saving the lives”. From there we progressed to a quick, but lively discussion about cancer, AIDS, patient blame.
Our conversation ended well—and perhaps I opened her eyes. Maybe not.
But for me the point was having that conviction. I KNOW there are soooooo many of us out there, loathing that old cancer-is-pretty-and-sexy thing.
No, it is NOT just how I perceive it.
Standing there holding my smart phone, I could’ve pulled up MANY articles that would prove that nope, it ain’t just me and how I perceive it.
As I tend to be less motivated to write blog posts for a number of reasons, I try to remember that every single criticizing post about all this pink crap—even if mine are on page 100 of a Google search for this stuff—are out there. The sheer number proves that NO, it isn’t just how I, or you, or anyone new to this breast cancer mess who just hates it, perceives it. When the newly diagnosed and disgusted are told, “that’s just how you perceive it, that silly slogan is harmless”—she can whip out her device and point out to all the ones who perceive it exactly the same way, and the ones who can explain why the slogan is far from harmless.
This is why I love the Internet.
(OK, OK, this post wasn’t exactly cheer, sunshine, and rainbows, but it is about as syrupy and cheery as I get. Next up, back to my regularly scheduled curmudgeon-ing.)
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.
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
These two go together apparently, with a few restaurants, several recipes, and even a rap album all sharing the name.
So when will beer, and all alcohol, follow chicken in being banished from breast cancer celebrations, whoops, I mean fundraisers?*
Before I say more, let me announce my own hypocrisy. I am no teetotaler. I love my wine. But I am also NOT a non-profit, or a health/cancer advocate, or anyone even remotely qualified to give any advice, least of all medical advice. In fact, I would never suggest anyone make any of the choices I made during cancer either medically or mentally/emotionally, etc.—in fact opposite choices are likely the best bet for most folks. I definitely do not encourage others in drinking alcohol—I like making my own dumbass choices and everyone else can make theirs. I am just an anti-social Cancer Curmudgeon. I enjoy pointing out the Dumb Shit Done, in my stupid opinion, in the world of cancer, in service of Pink and otherwise. Continue reading “Chicken and Beer”