Friday, September 12, 2014

Bra Day, another metastasis

I was stunned to get this in my inbox today.

Dear Ann,

Boobs are so much more than just “the girls” or “melons.” They’re fabulous. They make us feel sexy, whether we’re in our best outfit, lounging around in our favorite flannel PJs, or just bare butt naked. This fall, we want to spread this sensation of beauty and breast empowerment to breast cancer patients and survivors, as well as women nationwide.

Many women who undergo mastectomies aren’t adequately informed about breast reconstruction options and reimbursement.  In order to help raise awareness of these available options, we’re celebrating National BRA Day 2014 (October 15), in affiliation with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, with a grassroots social media campaign using the hashtag #WHATSUNDERHERE.
Each participant receives a t-shirt with the #WHATSUNDERHERE hashtag on the front. In addition to the t-shirt, each kit comes with a set of cards with fun and thought-provoking sayings, such as: “Is Cancer Free,” “Looks Great Naked,” “Will Not Take Cancer Lying Down,” among others.

AirXpanders – a local Bay Area company developing a new, patient-assisted, needle free tissue expander for breast cancer patients following mastectomies – invites you to join us for this exciting campaign. Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) Day is an annual event in celebration of women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer, and to promote education, awareness and access regarding post-mastectomy breast reconstruction.

If you’re interested in participating, we’ll send you a #WHATSUNDERHERE t-shirt and social media kit so you can help get the discussion going on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest throughout October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

We want as many people as possible to put on the shirt, choose a phrase (or make one up!) that describes their situation and then post a picture of it to their favorite social media platforms.

AirXpanders will post its own tweets and posts as well as retweet and share content from the individuals posting photos.  We hope the campaign will be a fun way to spread awareness of reconstruction as an option that mastectomy patients should discuss with their doctors.

Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll get the kit out to you in the next two weeks!

Best regards,

Liz Lieber

Elizabeth Lieber
L A Z A R   P A R T N E R S   L T D
420 Lexington Avenue, Suite 442
New York, NY 10170
646-871-8486 (direct)
212-867-1762 (main) ext. 486
212-867-0856 (fax)

As you can see, this is yet another campaign to sell product (AirExpanders) to cancer patients under the guise of helping us.  This company wants us to ask our doctors for this type of expander so they can sell more of it.  Make no mistake, it is not designed to help us, it is designed to help them.

Almost worse is the insensitive language they use.  Once again, it is all about breasts and sex and nudity and "melons."  There is no mention of disease, suffering and death in there, which is what cancer is really all about.  Once again, it is the trivialization of breast cancer.

So I wrote back.  The letter is below.  But this time I am giving you all an action item:

1. If you see any of these hashtags, I want you to use the hashtag back #mycancerisnot4sale.  I want you to use that hashtag every time you see any of these facebook games or anything in October.  If you like, point people to my blog or another blog to educate them about what is really going on.

2. I left the name of the person who wrote and presumably composed this horrible letter at the bottom so feel free to contact her with your thoughts.  (Trust me, this is not a private letter, many bloggers received it).  

3.  I want you to contact the American Society for Plastic Surgeons and let them know how you feel about "Bra Day.  Let them know you are sick of the disease of cancer being reduced to the part of the body in which it appears.

The Executive Vice President is Michael Costelloe, (847) 228-3336. Email is
Heather Gates is the Director of Communications, (847) 981-5408, Maureen Jouhout is the Senior Manager of Marketing and Communication (847) 709-7501
The Board of Directors President is Robert X. Murphy, Jr., MD (His email address is not listed but in keeping with the way they do things it may be

4.  And, we must contact AirXpanders, the company who is trying to viral market this expander product in such an incredibly crass way.  They are reachable via twitter.

Scott Dodson, President & CEO
Barry Cheskin, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board
Twitter:  @Airxpanders

AirXpanders Inc.
1047 Elwell Court
Palo Alto, CA 94303

650.390.9000 Main
650.390.9007 Fax

Here is the letter I wrote to the PR firm:  

Dear Liz,
Over the years, as I have struggled with my terminal disease (breast cancer that has spread to my liver) I have heard some crass and insensitive pitches.  But yours is right up there with the worst of them.

Not only will I not be taking part in selling product under the guise of educating women about their reconstruction options, I will be actively fighting against this.  As a woman who has nearly 2 million hits on her blog, who has 4 thousand facebook likes and 1600 twitter followers, I will be starting a campaign against this insensitive "bra day" and all other pink awareness campaigns like it.  We will be tweeting out #mycancerisnot4sale each time we see this ugliness, and will be pointing out the hypocrisy and insensitivity to everybody we know.
Breast cancer is not about breasts, or sex, or, God help you, "melons."  It is a horrible disease that takes the lives of good men and women, like your mother, like your sister - like me.
In the past three years, I have done 7 different chemo drugs.  I have done 3 targeted drugs.  I have had half my liver removed to try to remove the cancerous part.  I have had part of my liver ablated.  When those things didn't work, when cancer grew back,  I had gamma knife radiation.  I got sepsis and was seconds from dying and it took months to recover.  And recover for me does not mean health.  I have lost my job, my son has grown up with a terminally ill mother - I've lost my body and I have lost my energy.  Reconstruction and breasts is the least of my worries and is the least of the worries of most of us who get this disease.  
You are going to find a lot of pushback against this horrifying campaign on blogs, on facebook and on twitter. You can read my blog at to see this campaign highlighted soon.  In the meantime, please read this post and educate yourself.
Women with metastatic disease have long known how cruel it is to use our disease in this manner, but we are finally getting newly diagnosed women on board. We are joining together to unfurl the pink ribbon and put it away for good.   It is time our disease is not used as a method to sell product.   I will also be contacting the American Society of Plastic Surgeons to explain our position.
What is under our shirts are scars and pain and physical manifestations of the torture we have experienced to stay alive.  What is under our shirt is the knowledge that our children will lose their mothers, that our husbands will be alone.  What is under our shirt is sorrow that we will miss weddings, graduation, grandchildren.  What is under our shirt is strength and power.
What is not under our shirt is "melons."
You should be ashamed.

EDIT:  Here is the letter I wrote to the emails I had for the American Association of Plastic Surgeons.   Please feel free to take what you like to create your own letter.

Dear Mr. Costelloe, Dr. Murphy, Ms Gates and Ms. Jouhet,
Today, I received an incredibly offensive email regarding something called Bra Day, which apparently your organization is associated with.  Not only is this social media campaign unprofessional, hurtful and quite insensitive - coming from an association of physicians it is actually astounding.  
Isn't it unethical to use a disease to sell a reconstruction product in this manner?  Are plastic surgeons so interested in money that they will stoop to anything?  Can you imagine how it feels to have end-stage breast cancer and receive an email discussing "melons," being butt naked, and be offered cards that say "looks great naked."  Your organization, of all people, should know that is impossible - and not really the focus of our treatment to begin with.  
Do we do this kind of thing with ANY other disease?   What kind of other cancer reconstruction do we have social media campaigns to sell product for?  Do you sell drool products for facial cancer patients with cute hashtags  like "stoptheflood?"
  (I put the letter I wrote to "Liz" above right here)
And, you should be ashamed as well.  Many of the bloggers who received this email are horrified and posting its disgraceful contents.  Many are crying.   All feel like this campaign has nothing to do with those of us with cancer.
My blog is here:, and I have posted all the communications as well as your contact information.  This is spreading like wildfire through facebook and soon twitter and I have posted your information so that others can express their displeasure.  It is time that we treated breast cancer like the disease it is, and not like a big pink sex toy.  If we can't expect that from marketers, we should CERTAINLY be able to expect it from our physicians.
I am respectfully requesting that this campaign be stopped now, that you will not be a party to selling any product to breast cancer patients,  and that you put out a statement stating that you will not be participating in anything called "bra" day or any kind of social media campaign that diminishes or disrespects breast cancer patients.

And firing this company would be nice too.
I will await your reply,

Ann Silberman

And, because AirXpanders does not have email, I contacted them through their page and sent them here.  And, I will find them on twitter and tweet this page to them.  You do it too.  @airxpanders.  Marketing to cancer patients in this way is reprehensible.



  1. I really did not react well when I got this email in my inbox. I read it to my husband to gauge my oversensitivity, he told me to just tell them "no thank you" vs. the angry email I had written in my brain. Reading the reactions of others, I am feeling better about my reaction.

    1. Your reaction was correct. Keep composing the email. This is proof positive that breast cancer marketing has gone way too far. Also, contact AirXPander as I think they are the ones who hired the PR firm. I just wrote them.

  2. Very well said, Ann.
    Elizabeth J.

  3. If it wasn't so offensive, I would have laughed. Why in the hell would they think breast cancer patients and survivors would want to wear shirts that say "what's under here?" Well, not MY BREASTS. I sure as heck don't want cards that say "looks great naked" while I am bald, gained 50 pounds from steroids, and have breasts with scars and no nipples. What in the hell are these people thinking? How insanely insensitive. Jody Schell

    1. I know, it's laughable. It clearly came from people who had no idea what cancer is about. Oh wait...people who make expanders? The American Society of Plastic Surgeons....what???

  4. Thank-you, Ann for writing those letters. Liz's letter was repulsive.

  5. All my emails have been sent. Thanks for bringing to my attention. This is all and only about greed.

    1. Yes. And, the entire "Bra Day" that happens in October was started by implant companies. Oy......

  6. Money. Money. Money. Mycancerisnot4sale.
    Thank you again for your very valid posts.

  7. Both the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and Lazar PR have responded immediately and sincerely to me, shutting down this campaign. They deserve credit and thanks for fast, effective responses.

  8. This is their facebook page for bra day

  9. i tweeted to Lazarpartners - the PR firm. THEY should care about the neg pushback. Very clueless, insensitive and inappropriate campaign. Thank you for 'raising awareness' about it!

  10. Hi Ann, Just read your terrific p

    Sorry I missed your post yesterday. Wasn't this campaign just awful? I'm glad the ad agency pulled the plug on this one. Thank you for your efforts in making that happen. I love the hashtag idea and I think we need a couple more to use to call out this crap. Thanks again, Ann.

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  12. Bravo to you. Sending you strength and love.


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