Monday, September 15, 2014

BRA Day "What's Under Our Breasts" Update

(Excuse errors and typos, I am having technical issues but I wanted to get the gist of this online)

I received an email from Ms. Hollister Hovey of the PR firm that sent out that crass and insensitive letter.  She asked for my phone number so she could apologize in person and we did managed to speak yesterday.   I expressed my disbelief that a  PR Firm devoted to Healthcare could miss the mark by so much, and I shared how we cancer patients feel about these campaigns.  She agreed that it was insensitive but said that it was intended for early stage women, or women who were doing prophy mastectomies.  I explained that these women also fall under the cancer umbrella and they don't want what they experienced sexualized or trivialized any more than we with metastatic disease do.  I said that if they wanted to discuss how one might appear after a mastectomy using a special expander, perhaps focusing on something other than sexuality was wise - we are a lot more interested in looking at ourselves and not thinking "cancer" than looking at ourselves and saying "I am gonna get some tonight."  There was my contribution to the world of marketing!

She acknowledged that they had gone very off-track, and I think we had a productive conversation. She ended by saying she would like to donate money to the breast cancer charity of my choice (I said StandUp2Cancer and Metavivor) and I offered to be an ear in case they ever wanted to get a cancer patient's perspective.

She followed up with a letter:

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me earlier.
First, we want to apologize again for the inappropriate approach and language used in the now-cancelled BRA Day campaign about which we emailed you and a handful of other people. The campaign and note absolutely minimized the seriousness of the issues at hand and lacked the respect you and all women fighting this disease deserve. It detracted from the very honorable core goal of the campaign: to ensure that women who are facing a terrifying diagnosis understand all their options.
We are dedicated to helping you and other patients change the dialogue around breast cancer so that all patients are treated with the dignity they deserve at all times. We fully agree that, as a society, we need to turn the focus to the patient and the cancer itself, away from the organ in which that cancer developed. 
To that end, we will make a donation in your name to Stand-Up to Cancer and METAvivor, charities we know you support, as well as the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. We would also like to discuss positive ways we could possibly work together to support education that allows women to be fully aware of their options when facing such a terrifying diagnosis and the complex web of choices they will have to make about their health and bodies.
We also absolutely agree that more attention needs to go to innovation and clinical research that could lead to new therapies and technologies that have the potential to help women live longer and make cancer a significantly smaller part of their lives.
We sincerely hope that the mistakes made with this effort can lead to a positive dialogue about how women living with and fighting breast cancer deserve to be treated.
Hollister Hovey. Lazar Partners Ltd.

So I congratulate Lazar Partners for withdrawing the campaign and listening to our voices.  (Although where this idea that women don't know their reconstruction choices came about is beyond me.  In my experience, everybody knows what is available.)

Many of us received the below letter from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons:

Dear Ms. Silberman
Thank you for calling to our attention the highly inappropriate campaign which improperly references the Breast Reconstruction Awareness campaign.  We have taken action to demand that this social media campaign be halted immediately and have disassociated our Society from this campaign.

The Breast Reconstruction Awareness Campaign was created to educate and empower the high percentage of women and men who are unaware of their reconstructive options and rights following mastectomy.   It was initiated to support those who have fought legislative battles for reconstructive options for many years.   The campaign also raises funds to provide medical care for breast cancer patients as well as for scientific research and public awareness.  There is no commercial aspect to this campaign.

As physicians, our members will not accept the trivialization of breast cancer in any manner.   Our members provide post-mastectomy care as an integral part of the breast cancer patient's medical team and only wish to provide the best care possible once the patient has been fully informed of all treatment options.

Thank you, again, for informing us of this campaign and feel free to contact us if you wish to discuss further.    Please accept our deepest apologies for the insensitive language to which you were subjected.


Robert X. Murphy, Jr., MD

Michael D. Costelloe
Executive Vice President


  1. Thanks Ann! Especially when you told her that early stage women don't like the disease treated this way, either. To me, her answer there spaks volumes about all the ignorance that is still out there about early stage -- that if its caught early enough, you're cured. (So if you're cured, then all you have to think about is feeling sexy again, now that its over ... ) Which we know isn't true, but so many out there believe that from all the feel good awareness and early detection campaigns.

  2. Thank you Ann for correcting the misinformation and drawing attention to the seriousness of any cancer diagnosis. Thank you for preserving our dignity!

  3. Thank you for your ongoing efforts on our behalf.
    Unfortunately, I know of a few survivors who have bought the whole pink campaign lock, stock, and barrel who probably would not have seen the problem. But, I am pretty sure most of us would agree with you on this. I spent a lot of last October telling people that breast cancer is not a pretty fun sexy disease and it still kills women. (Amazing how many people out there who think no one dies from it anymore and reconstruction is just like a "boob job.")
    Elizabeth J.

  4. Hi Ann,
    Thanks for the update. As you know, I received the same email last week and then the same apology. Thank you for speaking with the PR firm and for the suggestion you gave them as far as who to donate to. I totally agree with the above comment and the point that early stagers don't like this kind of campaign either. I'm so sick of that 'let's lighten things up' attitude that so many awareness campaigns use as an excuse to use this demeaning language. Also, thanks for your suggestion that we all monitor things and try to unite efforts when we can. I like your idea of the hashtags and I'd like to suggest a couple of others such as #PinktoberBS or #calloutpinkcrap or #pinkstink or something like along those lines. This way whenever we'd see such hashtags, it'd say to us all - take a look, share, retweet, respond, etc. I plan to write a post about this next week. Or soon. Again, thank you, Ann. We all appreciate your efforts. So glad you're feeling better this year. Lord knows we need your voice in October and all year long.

  5. Ann - I've been following you for several years - found you because of the blog name - so glad I'm not the only one to hate pink - I look so much better in Purple!
    I wanted to hear your opinion on the Wall Street Journal article in today's edition regarding early detection and monitoring vs. treatment.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us. We have laughed, cried, prayed for and celebrated with you!
    Lynette S. - Atlanta GA


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