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.


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”

Chicken and Beer

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”

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

Or: Shoving Pink Down Your Throat

Yes that title is sarcastic.

The topic I have not seen addressed much in breast cancer and Pink discussions is resentment patients with other types of cancer have towards all things Pink. It is possible it is being discussed and I’m not seeing it, however, given I can barely bring myself to read about this topic much lately. I find I’m unable to read even essays criticizing Pink; I cannot read another list of the outrageous products/corporations aligned with Pink, each pointing out a new lowest of the low in the most absurd use of Pink as marketing tool, most preposterous item turned pink. I can see it for myself on the rare occasions I venture into a store, or if I’m accidentally near a TV, or use the internet—which means seeing the ridiculousness is unavoidable.

I confess that in the past year or two I’ve been so swept up in my own resentment toward Pink that while I was vaguely aware that some patients with other kinds of cancer were also sick of Pink, it is only since maybe September I’ve begun to grasp the depth of the resentment, and yes, I think I even saw near-hatred the other night. It pops up on a variety of social media, and many are just expressions of frustration, questions as to why this or that colored ribbon/cancer doesn’t get as much attention, or exasperated reminders to not forget, well, name any cancer associated with whatever month, I’m afraid to try to list for fear of omission. One painful post from a patient with a gynecological cancer proclaimed October to be the time of year in which every day is devoted to telling the world only one kind of cancer matters. The phrase I see quite a bit from patients with other kinds of cancer is “shoved down our throats” in reference to Pink and pink ribbons.

This is what Pink has come to; some perceive it as edging out absolutely every other disease and cause in an obnoxious way, and one’s perception is his or her reality. It is not exactly clear who these patients hold responsible for all this shoving down of the throat. The pieces I’ve seen and read do not seem to differentiate between products with ribbons on them (the kind that claim to send a few pennies to a charity or the ones that just have a pink ribbon with no such claim), pink parade-like races, or people wearing anything from tiny pink ribbon pins to head to toe pink-logoed ensembles. Perhaps it appears all the same to the very frustrated. Well, one delightfully profane post did flat out accuse some folks of slacktivism in matters of pink clothing and accessory choices.

I highly doubt it was the intention to detract attention from other cancers or issues, but it happened, now what’s to be done about it? Why should these patients with other kinds of cancer—being overwhelmed with their own diagnosis, and underwhelmed with support systems or websites catering to information about other kinds of cancer—make the differentiations mentioned above? Is it fair to expect those who bewilderedly ask, “why does Pink get all the attention?” to seek out the answers that have been written about mostly in breast cancer related articles, such as the lucrativeness of Pink and the juvenile enjoyment society gets from talking about boobies? Is it right for a breast cancer patient to complain about Pink and all the so-called wrong kinds of attention it attracts, when all these other cancers get little to no attention, and want the attention and more importantly, the funding for research that goes with a stupid colored ribbon?

While I may be a jackass, my aim here is NOT be so insufferable as to presume to speak for those with other kinds of cancers. Even if I were to now get another type of cancer, I’ve already had breast cancer, so to society, I am inextricably linked to that damn pink ribbon, no matter how much I scream and stomp on it to reject it. And anyway, I am incapable of speaking for anyone else at all; I’m barely able to speak for myself half the time. But I’m still not always able to shut my mouth.


Since diagnosis I’ve been aware that the cancer center at which I was treated bathed the building in pink light each night in October. It annoyed me before, but this year, reading about all of the throat shoving, I think differently. I do not know why the lights are turned pink this month, there are no signs outside the building proclaiming fundraising goals or awareness slogans. It is a small town cancer center—no research or breakthroughs to benefit all breast cancer patients the world over are going to happen there. I’ve inquired about the reason in my comments to the center I made recently. I do not understand the need for breast cancer awareness…at a cancer center, for crying out loud. A building that exists as a place to treat cancer patients is the epitome of all cancer awareness. Thus, a pink light becomes overkill, a pink light becomes the favoring of patients with breast cancer—their lives? their money?—over all other cancer patients, a pink light becomes the shoving of a cause down many gagging throats.

Perhaps I am the only one of thousands of patients treated at that cancer center that has interpreted the pink light this way. Perhaps others do see it that way and just don’t care, or don’t think it worthwhile to say anything and I’m sure I come off as another “selfish” breast cancer patient biting the hand that feeds. But, unless that light is doing something other than just doing the same old “breast cancer awareness” where awareness is needed least, I cannot help but think it is a bit insensitive to patients with other kinds of cancer. I have a hard time believing I’m the only one thinking this, and maybe my complaint combined with others can get attention and make a change. But I’m a Cancer Curmudgeon, a misanthrope, a socially awkward grouch always saying the wrong thing, so I doubt it. I do not like putting much effort into something that doesn’t produce visible results, which is why I’m so frustrated this year that given all the activity by those criticizing Pink, like that Orenstein article, there has been little to no reduction in Pink silliness (at least in my area). I do not feel good about myself for speaking up; I don’t even know right now what drove me to do it. But I don’t really regret it either, even if it was not my place to say anything.

I wish everyone pushing Pink would become less obtuse about the scorn, frustration, and ill-will it now provokes. Awareness is a two way street, maybe it is time to re-assess this old pink ribbon to see if it really is still working. Some folks are oversaturated with it, and others are still clueless about too many aspects of breast cancer. I’ve written about that before (Failure of Awareness), and maybe will again. I see comments saying something like those complaining about Pink cannot deny how effective it is. Effective at what? The stats as to whether breast cancer incidence and related deaths have been reduced, or increased (some say stats are falsely inflated by classification of DCIS), or remained the same have been covered by others, and I’m not qualified to go into that. But the fact remains people still get breast cancer, I still got it, people still die, and while the treatments, especially Herceptin, developed as a result of Pink dollars and awareness (YES, I GET IT, and I AM grateful) keep me alive, for how long? The same problem is still here, just more people know about it and it is acceptable to talk about it. And they know about it and talk about it to the exclusion of every other cancer.

And what will be the fall-out from the undercurrent of Pink resentment from the patients with other cancers? As much as TV medical talking heads like to point out that heart disease and lung cancer impact more people, breast cancer still occurs in a hell of a lot of people, meaning there are too many potential customers willing to buy treatment and Pink crap for Pink to lose any power. And c’mon, how will our culture ever ignore boobies? So the backlash may not get anywhere, but that does not mean this resentment should be ignored.

Symbols Are Not Solutions Rant 2

Preface: First Ribbon Problems

Rant 1: Make No Mistake About Where I Stand

I’m In Love With That Song

“I’m in love with that song.” –from “Alex Chilton”, The Replacements, lyrics by Paul Westerberg

I have been feeling utterly defeated by all the Pink this October, despite my earlier claim to Take October Back.  But a very welcome distraction arrived for me last week in the form of the 16 nominees for induction into 2014’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I pause here to acknowledge the absolute lameness of a former punk-alterna-girl being so invested in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Rock in general is about rebellion, and the Hall of Fame is an institution, the sort of which rock should rebel against. And even if rock became “respectable” somewhere along the way, then things like early and classic rock belong in there, but the punks that came along later to rebel against the established stuff, and then the post-punks after that, I mean, wouldn’t they rebel against that former rebellion-turned-new institution/establishment? See the Sex Pistols’ infamous rejection of their induction in 2006.  Even worse, I have to pause and acknowledge that in the past few years I’ve seen a few of the bands that provided the soundtrack of my teen years creep in, which just really means, I’m getting old.

Yeah, yeah, this is a cancer blog, and that will come into play much later in this post. This blog is an indulgence for me; my view on cancer, my personal experience with it, and how I (don’t) function in an American social culture that surrounds cancer, which I find mostly distasteful. So I’m indulgently rambling about music, because it was the one respite I had once I found myself a bit lost upon exiting the treatment treadmill (“you’re all better now, see you in 6 months!”, ha ha). Proof of my allegiance to my method of beating cancer blues is everywhere; in the post Punk Rock (Breast) Cancer, my tattoo (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hall of Fame inductees in 2012), hell even my gravatar (The Ramones, Hall of Fame inductees in 2002).

I skip over the crap like “rap doesn’t belong” (yes it does, and I’d argue that until I’m blue in the face, and even if I lost the argument, I’d still argue it), “Yes/KISS should’ve been in there loooooong ago”, or “the world is doomed because more people like Nirvana than Link Wray”. Yada, yada, yada. I love watching the arguments unfold on various websites, and agree and disagree with so much of it. “We all come from the damn blues,” said Chuck D. (Public Enemy) in his acceptance speech last year. That should be made into a sign and posted above the door to the museum in Cleveland, or maybe noted in every article about this comparatively (to cancer, for me) silly topic, to remind everyone with an opinion how the whole mess called rock and roll got started.

My humble opinion is any person or band that is inducted, or heck even nominated, including the 16 this year, deserves to be there. I do have my favorites however, and this year I’m voting every day for Nirvana, The Replacements, N.W.A., LL Cool J, and the fifth option is a wild card for me every time. I could write forever extolling the qualities of my choices, but it is the first two I’ve listed that matter most to me now.

As a lonely punk-goth girl (weirdo) growing up in the 80s (remember in the 80s, there was no interwebs, so radio and magazines were the only exposure to music available) I hated what was on the radio; I lived in a rural area where there were no alternative stations—D.C.’s WHFS was an hour out of range. I loved the left of the dial stuff like The Cure (nominated once), The Pixies (never nominated, an outrage) and R.E.M. (inducted in 2007 and yeah, gonna be a snob and reveal I was fan well before they got played on regular radio, and got all famous). I used to stay up for those one or two hour programs of “college rock” on the radio or “120 Minutes” on MTV just so I could hear stuff to my liking. It was on one of these programs I first heard Nirvana’s  “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

People always like to talk about where they were when they heard the bad news of some horrible event, and lots of cancer patients remember all too well, and have written about, where, how, and when they first heard of their diagnosis. My own memory of that, still so sharp, I’d like to erase. But I always want to remember the feelings and thoughts when I heard first heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I was beginning my junior year of college, tired from working my ass off all summer to pay for the privilege of extended education, but still unsure about my future (well, that turned out unexpected, what with all the cancer). I heard that song and knew it would change everything.

Reams have been written about the influence of Nirvana in rock music. To me it was much simpler: the weirdos won. Finally, I could hear music I liked on the radio—which was great because my car’s tape player was forever breaking. With the nomination and almost assured induction of Nirvana, the weirdos win again. And I cannot let this year or this post pass without expressing shock and joy at the nomination of The Replacements. Of all the precursor bands to the so-called alternative music revolution that happened after Nirvana got famous, those bands that faded back into obscurity after it was so quickly over, I thought that only Sonic Youth would get any eventual recognition, and I still find their lack of nomination scandalous. So I view this nomination of The Replacements as nothing short of triumph, even though I am sure lots of people heard their name last week and said, “who the hell is that?”

But here is the funny thing. I know it matters a great deal to me, but not much to most people.  All summer, I’ve worn my Nirvana t-shirt with the smiley face logo (see banner) on the front and the less offensive claim on the back that the band is “flower sniffin’, kitty pettin’, baby kissin’, corporate rock whores” (the other version is worse, look it up).  People I interact with saw my t-shirt front and asked about Buddhism!  Here’s this band that is still a great favorite of mine, that had this tremendous influence on my young 20 year old self, and on the music industry, and no one seems to know who they are/were anymore. Because I immerse myself in entertainment media, I’ve been barraged with details of the 22nd anniversary of the release of their album “Nevermind”, the 20th anniversary re-release of “In Utero”. I get a skewed view of the world, I think they mattered greatly.  And yet, I constantly interact with people who do not even remember them.

It mirrors how I experience cancer at times. As a breast cancer patient with a tiny blog, who tends to seek out info that reaffirms a notion that Pink is WRONG, I sometimes get the sense that Pink, ribbons, and cancer are bigger issues than they are to most people. I have to remind myself that most people are not as tuned in to the issues, the lies of Pink and that is why they ignorantly continue to buy into it. I have to calm myself down—most people do not deal with breast cancer every day and do not know or understand that some breast cancer patients hate Pink. I wanna scream, “why don’t they get it, there are a million articles about how pinkwashing is damaging.” Well, because not many seek out that info.

Sure, lots of people are “touched” by cancer via friends and relatives, but it is only a small (hopefully growing) segment of breast cancer patients that have done the homework behind what is really happening behind the Pink-party-charity explosion. Just like most people are aware of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but maybe, to paraphrase Nirvana’s “In Bloom”, likes the pretty songs, likes to sing along, but don’t know what it means.

To avoid being strangled by pink ribbons and all the surrounding bullshit, I’ve reveled in the news of the nominations. For the past several days I don’t think I’ve played a song on my phone that was not a Replacements song—yikes, better mix it up with songs by the other nominees! I’ll listen to “In Utero” for the millionth time, I’ll vote (maybe pointlessly) for my favorites on the Rock Hall website for the next several weeks; it is a great diversion. And when Nirvana’s living members accept their induction next April, I’ll try to remember that every once in a while, the outsider voice becomes the mainstream, and I’ll hope that the small segment pointing out all that is wrong with Pink can capture the attention of the world, without smashing any guitars.

“To truly love some silly piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts” from  “Almost Famous”, film by Cameron Crowe, 2000

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
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

Ones and Zeros

You can almost see the Matrix, can't you? Source
You can almost see the Matrix, can’t you?

I know that the battle cry of Komen and pink crap sellers, “1 in 8,” is a bit of a myth as it is relevant to lifetime risk, not just women of any (younger) age. I know this is misunderstood by many of those lucky enough to not reside in Cancerville. I see the point made by those who criticize Komen and pink crap pushers when pointing out the statistic is twisted to sell pink crap and fear; and from that fear mammograms and unnecessary procedures are sold as well. I get it, I do. It always irritates me that percentages, averages, majorities, stats, and just plain old concrete numbers are presented in a manipulative way in order to obfuscate facts to get people to spend money. Since this happens every day for every cause and/or product for which there is a stat, I am destined to live my life in a state of constant, mild irritation. No matter, I am always mildly irritated about something, I am a curmudgeon after all. Fuzzing over the facts to make money happens in every industry, why should the breast cancer industry be any different.

Make no mistake I am certainly in the criticizing-of-pink camp. And in theory, I agree with this criticism of the way 1 in 8 is presented. It is wrong to misrepresent the whole truth, even to get good will and funding for research. But deep in my gut, and my heart, I am irresolute.

Often in critiques of the misuse of the stat I see the analogy of a group of 8 women in a room, looking around at each other, wondering which one of them will get or has cancer, and for the 1 in 8 stat to be realistic, that room needs to be in a senior center, since it represents a lifetime of risk. A group of women in a college dorm room have less, some say nothing, to fear.

But here’s the thing: being just a few days shy of 39 when I was diagnosed, I am 1 in 233. No matter how many times you gather 233 women who are between 30 and 39, I never get to be one of the 232. I will always be “The One”. Insert random, lame Neo/The One/Keanu Reeves/”The Matrix” joke here.

source: mozillablog
source: mozillablog

The odds may be ever in the younger woman’s favor, which may seem like good news, but I can’t say it’s much fun being one of “The Ones”. Maybe I wish I really did live in the science fiction world of “The Matrix”. Hey Morpheus, which pill, the red one or the blue one, makes my reality cancer free?

Maybe this is my only child self-centeredness, my self-involved cancer patient orientation, or heck, just simple natural human instinct to be self-absorbed, but I do look at this through the lens of my own experience. And from where I’m standing, I got cancer when the odds said I shouldn’t, so I’m not sure I could be very convincing in telling any roomful of 39 year olds (233 of them) not to buy into the deception of 1 in 8, because I am one horror story in 233.

Of course, that is not to say I’m in the “a mammogram saved my life” group, quite the opposite in fact (read my About page), for me mammography is next to useless. I won’t be giving any cancer advice in a peer program anytime soon, since I do not toe the pink line. As stated above, I am squarely in anti-pinkwashing group. Maybe the worst/best/most interesting piece of this is that the 1 in 8 slogan may be pinkwashing’s undoing. Willful deception by not being transparent and completely honest will just cause an unpleasant backlash if people ever pay enough attention to become wise to the true nature of the statistics. That is just ONE simple reason non-profits need to be above reproach. Furthermore, if pink marketing is still pointing to such a devastating statistic as an argument that more fundraising is needed, at what point will people begin to question, “hey we’ve given all this money and the stats have not decreased, and there is no progress?” When will it become a lost cause? When that happens, will the fundraising income dry up?

I once read a comment or tidbit that researchers and number crunchers cannot think about the people the statistics represent. Again, in theory I understand that, but as a person who IS a statistic, I don’t. I’ve mentioned this before (here), just because a disease impacts more people, does not make it more important to those impacted by the rarer disease, a lower statistic. While doing research and potentially making a breakthrough in diseases (and types or strains of diseases) that affect the many rather than the few may get more money and glory, but so little changes for the few who represent all the ones out of the bigger numbers.

But ultimately, maybe I just don’t care if any cancer patient—of any age—is 1 in 8 or 1 in 1,000,000. How about changing all the 1s to 0s? Isn’t that the goal, what we all want?

Breast Cancer Riot

random find

“Takes a teen age riot to get me out of bed right now”

-From “Teenage Riot” by Sonic Youth, song released in 1988

A/N I started this post a couple of weeks ago and life kept interfering. But I kept randomly adding stuff to and it became a long beast. What got me to finish was a bit of strange synchronicity. I based the title on that song that imagines king slacker J Masics of Dinosaur Jr. as an alterna-president. Last Saturday night I was delighted when Masics and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth made an unannounced appearance on SNL, in the very tasteful goodbye performance of a departing cast member. It reminded me, hey I need to finish that thing I started.

Reflecting on a few posts regarding the fall-out from that infamous 64%, I started thinking about the challenges of getting the public (as in, those who are lucky enough to not have cancer) to understand some truths about breast cancer, which have been made pretty and untrue by the pink machine, and the media’s inability to get facts right. Dissatisfaction with pink is starting to spread, but the truth is not out there, no matter what Agent Mulder thinks. It is often acknowledged that most people do not want to hear the unpleasant and/or abstract truths. In some comments on other blogs I seem to remember (not sure where, sorry!), someone suggested anarchy (cue the Sex Pistols song getting stuck in my head) as a method for making people pay attention, or hell, even just stopping traffic at an intersection. But anarchy, rioting, and heaven forbid, stopping traffic, would just be viewed as an unpleasant interruption in the public’s daily lives, thus making the masses even more unwilling to hear an unpleasant truth.

Still, I think it is worth it to at least stage a mini or pseudo riot. Maybe a mini riot is what it takes to make the facts more clear. There is so much misinformation out there, it is overwhelming. But driving me craziest lately is the misinformation/misdirection that early detection is somehow equal to prevention. (Yes I’ve already ranted about it before, not just a breast cancer issue). Mammography, a detection tool, is sold as the best defense in that “war” on breast cancer. And people believe it. To paraphrase the late Barbara Brenner in “Pink Ribbons, Inc.”: selling mammography was done too well, so that some women got cancer and confusedly said “but I got my mammogram,” upon hearing their diagnosis, like that mammogram should have protected them against cancer.

There is much animosity toward Komen, and I certainly agree with it, but they aren’t the only culprits. Take the Keep A Breast Foundation….please! They are the ones behind the “I ♥ boobies” bracelets, and according to their website, their whole mission is about education and awareness. This is the great fallacy of most of these organizations. Educate and make me aware of what exactly? That breast cancer exists, that many people will get it? What all these cutesy slogans and stupid products sell is that early detection is the only way to protect oneself. But they fail, egregiously, in telling the public that if that sacred and revered tool—mammogram—actually detects cancer, it is quite likely that breasts will be removed either completely or partially. So much for keeping any breasts. If you’re going to call your organization keep a breast, the singular goal should be research into how to prevent the ways in which tumors get in there and cause, duh, the loss of breasts.

And then there is the Save the Ta-tas stickers and foundation. Yeah, yeah I know, “save the ta-tas” is just a slogan to bring awareness to breast cancer, proceeds go to research that saved your life so stop your whining, you ungrateful breast cancer patient, blah blah blah. But that is NOT what the slogan says. The sticker says only that ta-tas are to be saved, not lives. Always read exactly what something says. When it came to naming their organization, they chose poorly.

A quick (not in depth) look at the Save the Ta-tas Foundation website shows a few admirable points—they donate from gross not profit, and understand they are a marketing or brand organization, not scientists. So on that score, the money goes through a series of hoops and winds up going to the Concern Foundation which disseminates the money to various researchers. Or at least, I went through a series of mouse clicks to try to follow the money (these things are always better at asking the reader for money than telling them what happens to it once pried out of donor hands). The best I can tell (this is lots of clicking; the url says savethetatas, but the actual page isn’t specific about breasts, or perhaps that was a few more clicks away), the grant recipients work on all kinds of cancer, and not strictly in preventative measures, but all kinds of treatments. That is a good thing—all stages and preventative measures should be researched on all kinds of cancers (silly me, I want all cancer cured and prevented…I want the world and I want it now). But how does it save any ta-tas, specifically? I keep reading about the increase in preventative mastectomy, so looks like even less tat-tas are getting saved than ever, even with the alleged progress in science. Save the Ta-tas, you FAILED. It isn’t the truth that bothers me, it was the being lied to in the first place.

I recently complained about a couple of editorials implying that the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s 2020 Deadline should focus on non-breast cancer disease, and whadya know, if I’m reading the Save the Ta-tas Foundation site right, here is one way breast cancer and the pink ribbon is helping other cancer issues: money from ta-ta t-shirt sales goes to this Concern Foundation, and I cannot see that the money is specifically earmarked for breast research; so I assume it is funneled into all the cancer projects. So pink is helping other cancers by the sexualization of breast cancer. While organizations devoted to raising awareness about various other cancers may be trying to imitate the success of pink, they lack the thing that makes selling breast cancer awareness so successful: paraphrasing Brenner in “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” again, with breast cancer, society gets to talk about boobies. I hope folks who defend Brinker, saying CEOs work so hard, remember that she has what all corporations need in the first place, desirable product.

Before anyone begins to howl at me for picking on Save the Ta-tas and Keep a Breast, and for not doing my homework: yeah, kind of the point. Those “save the ta-tas” stickers and boobies bracelets are everywhere. Don’t get so well-known and expect all love, no haters. I’ve always hated them and it was torture to visit their sites; I’d studiously avoided them prior to this. I picked on those two because of the offensiveness of the products, and the visibility. But they are hardly the only ones I could pick on. There are tons of examples of pink deception. My favorite local example? A car wash that advertised one October that in honor of breast cancer awareness month, all ladies got $2 off the price of a car wash; no mention that the $2 would go to any particular organization to help anyone with actual breast cancer; also kind of a nice “fuck you” to men with breast cancer, huh? I don’t have to point out the numerous problems with this do I? And as for not doing lots of hard research on the organizations I picked on, again, that’s the point. I only did what any cancer industry consumer can do, and probably more than most consumers bother to do. No, most folks just buy the pink plastic crap, utilize the service that purports to support breast cancer charity, and blindly think they are helping.

So, getting back to the proposal of this post–why isn’t there more active rioting against the pink. Or at the very least, a cohesive movement that gives a disgruntled soul like myself an alternate to pink. I have a secret fantasy every time I see one of those “save the ta-tas” stickers on a car. I wanna grab a sticky note and write “how about saving my life? –signed, a breast cancer patient who lost part of her breast”, and I could then stick it to the car. I think this comes from spending too much time on funny websites featuring notes people leave on cars admonishing the cars’ owners for offenses like bad parking, blocking other cars in, etc. I don’t think it is illegal exactly, but one could probably get into some sort of trouble for touching other people’s cars, if caught. Or maybe in light of the 64% increase in salary, I can go around to those Walk/Race for the Cure posters, and write on my sticky notes, “salary” and stick it over the word “cure”, that would be ok, right?


I wanna rebel against pink culture, in a way other than ranting in (ahem) my overly wordy posts that are too exasperating to read. I want something as attention-getting as those ta-ta stickers. I want to get the truth out there. And it needs to be short phrases (not a talent I possess), able to change minds in a split second, because no one bothers to read/listen long enough to get the whole story, or if they do, they are unlikely to pay enough attention to get the facts.

In “The Birdcage”, Senator Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman), said to his wife, “Louise, people in this country aren’t interested in details. They don’t even trust details. The only thing they trust is headlines.” That says it all, doesn’t it? Seventeen years later and the line is still very true. People misconstrue words or fail to listen completely all the time. Flashback to the 80s with me won’t you? Remember when Regan wanted to use “Born In the USA” on the campaign trail until he got clued in that with the song The Boss was not exactly giving a proper salute to the red, white, and blue?  R. E. M.’s first ever Top 40 hit had the lyric “This one goes out to the one I love,” and girls were so busy cooing over that line they failed to hear the next one in which Michael Stipe called his lover “a simple prop to occupy my time”. Yikes, Michael (don’t hate on me, I love that band, seeing them live was one of the best days of my life).

Is it any wonder one of the biggest songs of the 90s, “Baby Got Back”, was much more straightforward? “I like big butts and I cannot lie”. Thank you Sir Mix-A-Lot, for giving us the clearest, most honest song of all time! (For the record I’m not being my usual sarcastic self here—I actually think it is a clever song, despite the objectifying.)

So, short of getting Sir Mix-A-Lot’s help in designing a slogan, song, or campaign, what can be done?

Pretty sure my sticky note idea is not the solution. As stated earlier in this over-long post, I think the time is ripe to motivate the growing numbers of those disenchanted by pink.

“I wanna keep my breasts, Mammogram is a lie/You other sisters can’t deny…”

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