Just Got Fooled Again

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!

OK, I’ll stop, I’ve written that post before.

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.

Won’t get fooled again.