Dear But Doctor I Hate Pink,
With Breast Cancer Awareness month fast approaching, we wanted to take the time to introduce you to our product, the Pink Crapola JunkYouDon'tNeed. 10% of the sales of this very special Crapola will go towards Useless Awareness Charity Du Jour, which we are proud to say will do absolutely nothing to help any actual breast cancer patient, but which will certainly line our client's pocketbooks with profits as well as giving them a tidy little write-off. Will you please promote it without even a review sample, so that we can have some free advertising too? After all, it's for your kind.
Pinktober used to be only in October, but now, like all good cancers, it is spreading throughout the rest of the year, metastasizing, taking over, strangling functioning parts, and making cancer patients vomit all year round.
Not only does the pink takeover disturb metastatic breast cancer patients, who understand that this cause marketing is not their cause, it also disturbs many knowledgeable early stage women, who are reminded of their suffering year after year, and who also understand that the money does not go towards a cure. And, of course, when the White House is lit pink, people with other cancers, such as lung, colon, and ovarian feel like the only important patients are breast cancer patients, and that our discomfort is elevated over theirs. They don't know we hate it too.
I am trying to be the chemotherapy to this metastasis, slowing it down or stopping it, and the only way that will work is if we all combine our molecules to gain power. We must refuse to cooperate in the big pink scam, refuse to buy a pink ribbon product and let the companies know why. We must share information about mets and the uselessness of the idea of awareness with everyone we know. We have to beat them at their own game.
This October is the first one in years that finds me in decent health, thank you Perjeta, Herceptin and Dr. B. In the coming month, I'll be devoting this blog and my facebook page to sharable information about metastatic disease as well as facts about how the pink charities do not help save the lives of breast cancer patients and in fact, seem to be doing harm. Along with other metsters, I am going to point out foolishness, hypocrisy, greed, lies, insensitivity, and what I call "the don't get it itis".
Let's start now, shall we?
I was sent this little nugget of awareness by a facebook friend. Because she may be treated at this cancer center, I don't want to name her. But she was passing by and saw this little gem:
Do you see what that is? It is a bra decorating contest. "A breast cancer prevention event." One put on by a hospital, the Cheryl Lindenbaum Cancer Center, to be exact. For awareness, of course. You can enter the contest and make your mammogram appointment at the same time, because mammograms and decorated bras and contests prevent or uh, make you aware...or ...uh....wait, what?
Aha. Found a press release put out by the hospital. Explains it all.
According to Anne Campbell-Maxwell, Director of Oncology Services, “We are asking people to decorate a bra as a way to tell their breast cancer story, whether it’s their own story or the story of a friend or loved one. The bras will be judged the night of our big event. It’s a fun night that we hope will educate the public on prevention and early detection of breast cancer.’’
I don't know what to say.
Wait, yes I do; you know I do.
Somehow, this hospital decided decorating bras is a breast cancer prevention event. This is alarming news to those of us who have preferred plain beige and black bras. No wonder I got cancer. Damn. Why didn't I go for the sequined ones? I might still have both breasts and have avoided five years of awful treatment (so far) if I had just gone blingy.
But hey, at least I can tell my cancer story, right? I can jam five years of treatment and a terminal diagnosis into one 36C decorated bra. (As long as I don't forget the straps.) At least the bra is my (former) size so maybe I still have a few tucked away. Hmmm... I'm not sure how I can get the c-diff sepsis in there though, or the liver surgery. Some stories require a 38DD.
All jokes aside, it is infuriating is that this woman, a Director of Oncology Services, (whatever that is) says they are trying to educate women on how to prevent breast cancer.
Okay, Anne. How?
Um hmm, that's what I thought.
Prevention is a Myth
Hospitals should know there is no way to prevent breast cancer. Saying otherwise is an irresponsible statement, and it's no mistake by this cancer center, it has been going on for 3 years.
The fact is, science does not know what causes breast cancer. Sure, there is the nasty BRCA genes, which can strongly indicate that breast and ovarian cancer might be headed your way, but even in that population, not everybody gets cancer. For the vast majority of us who do not carry the BRCA gene and who got breast cancer anyway? It's a mystery. Despite shady websites telling us otherwise, it is not what we ate or drank or where we lived, it's not chemicals we inhaled, or petting our cat too often or wearing plain bras.
Nobody knows. It's likely a complicated mix of all of the above, with a dollop of bad luck. Cancer, my friends, has been around since the dinosaur days and they have found breast cancer in Egyptian mummies. It's just as wrong to state you know what causes it as it is to pretend that the cause is from chemicals in your hair gel (so buy my natural gel). It is infinitely worse coming from a hospital rather than somebody trying to profit by selling you a book, because the level of trust is much higher.
It is peculiar to the breast cancer world that the location of our cancer becomes the focus of the cancer, over the disease itself. So yes, charities decorate bras for cancer, and men try to motorboat women's boobs for cancer awareness (ha!), and people make breast shaped cupcakes. This all trivializes the cancer experience, especially for those of us who have mets.
Nobody ever made a liver cupcake for me. Maybe it's because it's hard to cut a cupcake in half. Thank God my surgeon could do it.
After 7 different chemos, having half my cancerous liver removed, gamma knife radiation to the remaining half, sepsis, and a few other drugs and surgeries sprinkled here and there - after five years of being truly, horribly sick, I can tell you that it is not a cute, fun little disease that you can play with or have a party about. Breast Cancer is the most trivialized disease in history. Precisely because of events like these, many people don't understand that we are still dying.
Including the Director of Oncology Services at a hospital? Why is a hospital associating bras with breast cancer?
I wonder if this cancer center does this with other undergarments in relation to other cancers? After all, their tagline, "Jazz Up your Foundation" fits many cancers.
Do they have a tighty whitey decorating party for anal cancer? Let's put a little brown glitter around the back end of the underwear, hey? Maybe some red sequins to show one of the signs that cancer lurks in that area? Yeah, let's tell that cancer story through decoration. Or, how about decorating a banana hammock for testicular cancer? I'd cover mine with ping pong balls, perhaps using a bit of blue embossing powder. Of course, the obvious choice is decorating a hat for a glioblastoma. Wouldn't that be fun? I think I'd pick a fedora, cover it with grey sequins and then use the aforementioned glitter, this time in red, to add in a tumor. I would add some streamers to symbolize the seizures that are sure to come.
When so many women's bras in real life are decorated with nothing but a prosthesis, a hospital should be a bit more careful about what they decide is "fun," don't you think?
It's not only a party to tell one how to prevent breast cancer, it is a contest. I wonder what the prize is? Oddly, they don't say.
If you turn in your decorated bra (don't forget the
If this hospital or charity relies on donations and they are spending money on this, is this the best possible use of funds? If I donated to them, or their partner charity, Support Connection, I would think twice.
How does decorating a bra help help people become aware about how to prevent cancer, Ms. Campbell-Maxwell? Because, I truly do not get the connection. Why bras? Why not a canvas, or a quilt, or a scrapbook page? Cliche much? What about men who get breast cancer, do they still tell their story with a bra? Or are you totally leaving the men out?
We know you can't educate on prevention because nobody can prevent cancer. You can talk about screening and early detection, but what do you think about educating people on the tragedy of over-treatment?
What does a Director of Oncology Services do? Can you get me a pedicure while I'm having my infusion? If you are responsible for patient support, what do you imagine metastatic women who have suffered for years and are dying think about your bra display party?
That their own hospital thinks they could have prevented their cancer, maybe? That you think they are at fault? Supportive.
I posted this event on my facebook page, and within minutes after posting, these are the words that appeared: sophomoric, patronizing, crass, disrespectful, undermines the real pain and suffering of women, ridiculous, out of touch, shocking, tasteless, absurd, tacky, stupid. And that was just the start.
Those words would apply to anybody throwing this sort of event, even for charity, even for a worthy charity (this is not a charity event), but there are times you give credit for ignorance mixed with a big heart and you let the big heart win.
When it is a hospital, it is inexcusable. Hospitals are supposed to be about science, and include ALL patients.
Apparently, it's all about the breasts, even in a hospital, even from the Director of Oncology Services. It is not about a tragic disease that has taken good people: my friends, your mothers, your relatives, loved ones, sisters and brothers. It's boobs and bras. When will the trivialization of our very real disease end? Who will be brave enough to stand up and speak up and say enough is enough?
You, that's who.
Welcome to Pinktober, Metastasized.