SELL!

I am re-posting what I wrote a year and a day ago. Why? Because the issues are boiling up again. (The relentless repetition in CancerLand Culture deserves a post of its own some day, I’m beginning to view relentless repetition as a weapon.) In my view, and I think others share this view, medical establishments are misleading the public with their ads focusing on patients fighting cancer, and winning. Rather than leading a change in the discourse, a change focusing on science and facts, some large “name”, as well as some small-town no-name, facilities have chosen to perpetuate the dominant, persistent, same story-different day narrative of cancer as this opportunity for personal growth, so patients can rise to the challenge and beat cancer–along with a little help from staggeringly expensive treatments provided by the facility in question, naturally.

Some would say it’s just as bad when a fundraising organization does this, since they are often a resource for medical facts for the newly diagnosed. I don’t completely agree, but I still think the images they sell with the narrative are repugnant. But it certainly is not new, it keeps popping up, as I say in this old post. Lots of folks were upset with the Stage 4 martial arts patient in the Komen ad last year; I just thought it was BUSINESS as usual.

I don’t know what the answer is-yes there needs to be funding for research and so far the selling of positive, upbeat, winner patients (and boobies–don’t forget ta-tas and immaturity as a selling tool) has worked. To me there is no use in denying this, in fact, it needs to be recognized and discussed. I am simultaneously repulsed and grateful (see Burden of Gratitude). Cancer patients are commodities. Some others in the community likely think: “So what? As long as the money pours in to do research so maybe I can survive, who cares?” And maybe they have a point. But it comes at a cost (again, see Burden of Gratitude).

No I don’t have a better idea–that is not my field of expertise, so it is not very fair to expect a solution from me. I’m just complaining as usual. Wondering what you all think of all this. All I know is, there is something very unsettling, very creepy about it all. And certainly a whiff of dishonestly, of deception.

Anyway, am I a Cancer Patient or Blender? What are you?

Advertisements

Technical Difficulties–not cancer

This post is cancer related only in that it is about the negative impact on my cancer related blog, twitter and email.

Apparently all 3 of those things have been “compromised”. I only joined Twitter in order to link it to this blog so my posts would be tweeted. However, I’ve received 3 messages since late Saturday night from Twitter that my password was reset. Evidence that posts/messages/my accounts have been tampered with is now appearing to me. If you’ve posted a comment and I’ve deleted (or it just did not appear, as I see stuff I’ve posted is disappearing without my actual involvement), I apologize–I am just doing some clean up.

Message to people who create these hacking or phishing adventures: Cute, good for you you’re so clever, to mess with my cancer-only blog, email, and Twitter account, which will not get you near my personal info (as in, there is no monetary benefit, and I’m poor, so getting to financial info would get you zilch too). Now go to hell.

Does Breast Cancer Owe It to Other Cancers?

A/N This is a potentially offensive post, please follow my train of thought to the end, I am trying NOT to be a jackass, and failing. This is just how I am seeing this issue at the moment. I beg you to change my mind in the comments.

Here is yet another criticism of that 2020 deadline, Can Setting a Deadline Put an End to Breast Cancer?  by Geoffrey Kabat. I’ve already blogged about this issue, when that editorial in “Nature” appeared few months ago.

Honestly, I have a few problems with the 2020 Deadline myself, even more now than when I originally wrote about it. My biggest problem is one of the main issues confronted by these editorials: that discovery cannot be forced; it will not answer to a deadline. I agree with this, and even the idea that setting a goal that has a real chance of NOT being met is a bit risky.

But what irks me is in both of these pieces, there is this suggestion, no, AN EXPECTATION that breast cancer activists, advocates, organizations should focus on other cancer problems, not just breast cancer. These activists/organizations have done such a good job of creating awareness (really?), the energy should be applied to other cancers, so the thinking, I assume, must go.

Is it really the best solution for National Breast Cancer Coalition, or any other organization DEDICATED to breast cancer, to handle other cancer problems? I mean, National BREAST CANCER Coalition, see? BREAST CANCER right there in the name. There probably are already some organizations taking on other cancers in baby steps now; goodness knows the damn ribbons for all other diseases exist (stop reducing diseases to ribbons!), and I suspect these groups have adopted some tactics of breast cancer awareness. If so, let us hope these groups learn from pink marketing’s mistakes before they go too far. The deadline has a focus of ending breast cancer, misguided or not, but that is because the whole point of the organization is…wait for it…BREAST CANCER. That is why it formed. Its objective, according to an old address by its president Frances Visco, is to end breast cancer and cease to exist because it would no longer be needed. Why would anyone think it should do other work—to self-perpetuate?

It’s just that the logic demanding breast cancer organizations (which were formed for WHAT disease, again? yes I’m being sarcastic) work on other cancers is flat out faulty. Go with my flow here for a second. This author points out lung cancer kills more women, and says a breast cancer organization should do something about it. This implies breast cancer is just a women’s problem, breast cancer organizations are just women’s organizations. Well, no, men get it too, and a breast cancer organization is about all breast cancer no matter what the sex of the body it’s in; and the breast cancer organization is not focusing on all health issues suffered by women (because it was formed to focus on what disease again? Say it all together now: BREAST CANCER). Yes the opposite is true; breast cancer can be under the umbrella of women’s health. So when he says “The exclusive focus on breast cancer skews one’s perspective by blotting out other opportunities,” does he really mean we should get rid of some breast cancer organizations, and pay less attention to breast cancer because other diseases kill more women, and are therefore more important? Because that is kind of what it sounds like, and that would be incredibly stupid.

Also, I am a little confused and bewildered at the author’s suggestions that breast cancer organizations work specifically on lung and cervical cancers. According to the information in his editorial, the causes of these two are known and preventions available. The reason the 2020 project is in place is to find the cause(s) and some preventions for breast cancer. That would mean, work on breast cancer is far behind the work on these other two cancers. So, is he suggesting breast cancer organizations work on these projects because, what, it’s easier? And what, just say to future breast cancer patients, sorry you’re SOL, it was easier to sell what we already had or knew, because we did not want to invest in even trying to make a discovery?

Perhaps the bug up everyone’s ass is jealousy because of all the attention breast cancer has amassed over the past few decades. I KNOW lung cancer AND heart disease kills more women. Not this article, but plenty of other articles about heart disease always seem to start off with a sentence about how heart disease kills more women than breast cancer, as if the authors are personally offended that breast cancer gets more attention than their cause (read this fabulous rant by a blogger on Tumblr). I know everyone has their own agenda, their own pet cause because it is something that impacts them, and each individual is entitled to their viewpoint and their cause. But picking on breast cancer is just getting tiresome.

Breast cancer organizations are most likely run/staffed/founded by those with personal knowledge of it, which is why they work on it (duh, it is what they know best), rather than, say, heart disease. I blog about breast cancer because I had it. When I get heart disease, I’ll blog about that too. It is the nature of the beast. Should diseases that kill more people get more attention? Maybe, but how does that make those diseases more important, more devastating, than a rare disease to someone who has had loved ones die from said rare disease? Who the hell goes around saying “my disease is more important than your disease because it kills more people”? Breast cancer patients, imagine saying to your ovarian cancer friends “breast cancer is more important because more women have it?” How much of an asshole would you have to be to say that? But it seems OK to imply these other diseases are more important than breast cancer for the same reason. Breast cancer may be viewed as a big ol’ pink bully in disease world, but it is starting to be the one bullied. Apparently payback is a bitch.

color pink

The blessing and the curse of pink marketing is that it made breast cancer seem like the most important and desirable cause in the world; getting a lot of money and research which resulted in treatments that saved lives, including my own, for which I am grateful. But the fact is, pink dollars didn’t stop breast cancer from happening to women, it didn’t even really slow it down, just stopped some of the dying. But not all of the dying. Breast cancer patients still get mets and die, no matter how much pink marketing pretends this doesn’t happen (remember, cancer patients don’t die, they lose their battle). In short, pink has not been a blinding success. So when advocates for other health causes complain about how much attention breast cancer gets, I suggest taking a long hard look at that, and understand there is a dirty underside to pink that needs exposure. And there are plenty of bloggers exposing it, it wouldn’t be hard to learn the truth.

Back to the question at hand, do breast cancer organizations owe it to other disease problems? I’m certainly not suggesting here that breast cancer groups should just turn up their noses and say “not my problem” about other cancers. There are more breast cancer survivors because incidence has not decreased like the death rate. I may feel a personal obligation to advocating, yelling, on behalf of those causes, but I don’t think an organization devoted to a certain focus should split that focus; that is unfair to the people the organization set out to serve. It is difficult to say which is the more compassionate choice here, if there is one. And yes I do realize that new organizations for unrepresented causes/diseases cannot just be created with the snap of fingers. I don’t have the answer; I’m only asking the question. It will take many minds to come up with the solution.

Dear Medical Researchers, Philanthropists, and All Media

What has set me off this fine Monday morning? I had the local news on for the morning infusions of doom and gloom and fluffy stories. One of the health headlines: a new study linking alcohol to cancer deaths. According to the segment, this study was done by the American Journal of Public Health, and it is the “first comprehensive study of alcohol connected cancer deaths in 30 years.” Note it says “connected” not caused. The report fails to explain how alcohol consumption makes cells turn into cancer. In fact it only says that number crunchers analyzed how many people died of cancer who also drank alcohol. That is all. According to the study, alcohol accounts for 3.5% of cancer deaths, with 45 to 60% being people who had more than 3 drinks per day, and 30% being those who had about 1.5 drinks per day.

I went to the American Journal of Public Health website and did not see this report in any of the headlines, it may have been in one of the monthly journals but my lame computer skills seem to prevent me from being able to read them. It is possible this news is a few months old and my rural local news station is just now “getting around to it”. At any rate, as I am unable to read the report, I only have the local news video as my source of info. One issue that I’d like to know more about is how the conclusions were reached. The news video indicated that number crunchers simply took info about every person who died of cancer in 2009, and decided if they drank alcohol each day, then that is why they had cancer and died. There was no indication that other factors were considered, such as if the person lived near a factory that puts carcinogens in the environment.  I really hope they did consider other factors, because my understanding from the segment I saw makes me think that these analysts simply looked at alcohol intake and said “oh, that’s it right there, the reason why they got cancer and died”, and just flushed all other potential causes down some mental toilet.

Two other tidbits that irk me beyond reason:

First comprehensive study in 30 years? Really? Then why is it every damn time I absorb information from TV, internet, or print media, I see some item linking alcohol to cancer. I swear the information is now burned into my brain.  And until I read the report or hear more information filtered by someone who can effectively translate science jargon into understandable English, I have my doubts about this comprehensiveness.

And the stats—please–3.5% in my cancer experience is a really small number. Everything for a breast cancer patient is geared to the majority, such as using mammography as the standard for finding cancer, when 20% get false negatives. In spite of my false negative history, my doctor still is anxious to take my away from having annual MRIs which I trust a bit more than mammograms, so I guess we in that 20% don’t matter. Or how about the fact that most breast cancer patients are post-menopausal and even though there are standards in place requiring doctors to talk about fertility with younger patients, it rarely happens (I cannot remember actual stats on this, not being the maternal kind, and I’m too angry to be patient enough to find the percent, I only know it was rare). In cancer, majority rules, so why are panties in a twist about 3.5%?!!

My message is REAL simple today:

Medical Scientists:

Stop studying alcohol and cancer. The links have been established, and since I see “limit alcohol intake” every time I read about how to lower risk of breast cancer, I think this issue is drained. All those doing research, please talk to each other, acknowledge this fact collectively and find another potential cancer cause to study preferably one that cannot be turned around to be the fault of the cancer patient.

People Giving Money to Fund Studies Linking Alcohol to Cancer:

I don’t know if y’all just a bunch of teetotalers or what, but this issue is done and proven, it does NOT need further study and proof. If you don’t like alcohol that is too bad, stop punishing those of us who do.

Image

To Both Of The Above: Your fixation with this issue is preventing real investigation on other causes. We need to move forward. A percent like 3.5% means that if all the alcohol in the world disappeared overnight, cancer would still happen. In fact, maybe I wish all alcohol would just disappear, it would force you to study something else.

All Members of the Media (and Advertisers):

Stop reporting this. If I had a dollar for every time I heard it I could pay my cancer-related medical bills. So that means I no longer listen (except today, because I went off), indeed I change the channel/navigate away from the page/throw away the newspaper every time I see this kind of information, meaning I am not seeing advertisements placed by your major funding sources, and am not visiting or using these businesses. I’m trying to hit you in your wallet; maybe that will make you pay attention.

Do I really think my little rant will make a difference? No, not if I am the only one who feels this way. I hope others can see my point of view too.

IT’S NOT A TRADE OFF

Before you read this:

This could be perceived as offensive to some cancer patients. On the other hand, if you have cancer, you may have had a similar experience, and had a similar reaction, so I write this to let you know you are not alone, nor are you some mean freak. Some of us just choose to deal with life by confronting realities, not reciting platitudes. To read it or not, is a risk you’ll have to take. Sorry.

When my aunt’s cancer came back shortly after she and I both finished our treatments, Mom was talking to her about the next steps her in treatment. During this conversation my aunt said, “Oh I’m just glad it was me, not (your daughter)”. A few weeks later I was in a conversation with some newly diagnosed women (not exclusively breast cancer patients), and one older woman said, “I’m glad it was me, rather than one of my children or grandchildren.”

Nice sentiments, but excuse me, WTF? Just because this fellow patient got cancer does not mean one of her offspring will not get it 20 years, or one year, or even one month from now. Although my aunt’s cancer was ER positive and mine was not, the fact hers returned does not bode well for me. Cancer is not a trade off. When one person gets it, it does not exempt their loved ones, ESPECIALLY their kin, from getting it. I’m not trying to be mean here, just pointing out an unpleasant reality.

(Yes, I realize how incredibly selfish I sound, worrying about how my aunt’s recurrence will predict my own future. This is why I am so glad for my support group, despite the fact I am not a “joiner”. We admit to each other our sadness when one of our members has a recurrence, and simultaneously acknowledge that we immediately think, “well, that could be me”.)

Sometimes I think the phrase “shit happens” was coined because of cancer—it suits so well, maybe it should be the cancer patient motto. Nothing else so accurately sums up the way cancer strikes at random, despite anyone’s best defensive efforts, or any stray desire to have it not happen to others. Those with cancer in their family need to be prepared that it will likely happen to them, but that does not mean those with no or little cancer incidence in their family get a free pass.

I am not necessarily against all platitudes; just the ones that don’t make any sense or have no basis in fact. Just because I am a realist does not mean I did not do everything in my power to eliminate my cancer, and it does not mean I expect any less of others while they “battle” their own cancer (yes I dislike the fight and battle metaphors, but I’ll go with the flow for now). If anyone wants me to cheer them on while they do it, I am 110% with you on that. I can and will restrain myself from pointing out the unpleasant facts in person if you wish—I’m not like The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper, incapable of stopping himself from always pointing out the check engine light to Penny. (Yes, I held my tongue when my aunt and the other cancer patient made those comments that were just mind-boggling to me—my mother’s Southern Woman manners installation at work there). That is what this blog is for—to say yes there is some extreme horribleness in cancer, and maybe the only way to beat it is to confront it, expose it for what it is, then move forward.

Just don’t ask me to spew out any banalities either, ain’t gonna happen.

Thanks for reading another one of my dumbass rants.

 

YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID: HYPOCRISY IN MARKETING EDITION

When I get into “disagreements” with people who think it is ok to sexualize breast cancer PSAs, a recurring theme is “sex sells, beautiful breasts are a way to get attention and at least people then become aware. Don’t want to scare people with ugly cancer now do we?” or comments of that nature. I usually agree that one attracts more flies with honey than vinegar and that anything that gets a conversation started is good. For numerous reasons, I disagree that “anything to get the conversation started” in this particular case. And I found it difficult to argue that pretty attractive things best sell the message, anyone born in the age of television should know that!

I changed my mind after seeing a PSA urging the public to refrain from mobile phone use while driving. I saw it a few times before it sank in (thanks, remnants of chemo brain). In this PSA, 3 drivers are either texting or talking on their phones, and all have terrible crashes. There is no gore or pictures of gruesome crash results, but the spot is chilling nonetheless. Nothing attractive to see here!

So why do people I converse with still insist that showing attractive boobies is the best way to communicate the horrors of cancer? The mobile phone while driving demonstration was decidedly unattractive. In fact, I seem to remember in the not so distant past a rather hideous lung cancer PSA featuring people with holes in their throats, oxygen machines, etc. It was decidedly NOT pretty. Of course I do not see that PSA anymore—so I guess it was removed????

I’m not insisting that breast cancer PSAs show ugly surgery scars (I certainly do not wish mine posted all over the place), but I am asking that the “pretty boobies” ads be eliminated. If something beautiful must be shown so we don’t frighten women or young people (which is stupid, once you get cancer, being frightened is a natural state), show women STILL ALIVE. How about that marketing geniuses?