Blog with love

I woke up in a snit this morning. I have been dreading this day for a couple of weeks, from the first glimpse of the ubiquitous pinkwashing that occurs every October. It’s the official start of “Breast Cancer Awareness” Month — quotation marks mine, because I really can’t in all seriousness say that phrase without denoting how absurd the “awareness” idea is. I have a lot of ire toward Pinktober and the pinkwashing of everything from toilet paper to yogurt. As someone who went toe-to-toe with the dreaded disease, I find it offensive that corporations can still hock their wares under the guise of awareness. Is there really anyone on this planet not aware that breast cancer exists? Come on. Enough with the awareness. Try doing something really meaningful, like slashing the pinkwashing advertising budget and cut a check directly to a do-good organization.

I noticed the Pinktober creep starting a couple of weeks ago. As I pushed my grocery cart through the store, filling it with the provisions that keep my family up and running, I saw something awful out of the corner of my eye.

Pink-ribbon saucepans, and water bottles, and plastic containers. Oh great, here we go again. I wonder if any of that wall of pink plastic is BPA free? The studies that link BPA, a common chemical in rigid plastic, to breast cancer, are piling up at an alarming rate.

It gets worse — pink-ribbon hair brushes, so you can brush for the cure. Unless of course you’re undergoing chemo and have no hair. I’m sure the bald BC patients shopping for groceries appreciate the reminder that wait — not only do you have a scary-ass disease, you’re also bald and vulnerable and grappling with negative body image. Thanks, Revlon. This pinkwashed product seems particularly crappy. 

What about a pair of pink-ribbon socks? From the grocery store. Yeah, I bet those are soft and cozy. And how much of the $1 price tag is going toward any kind of change on the BC front?

I’m lucky I didn’t throw up in my mouth at the first of this year’s crop of pinked-up junk masquerading as charitable fundraising products. I guess the junk is designed to give shoppers a warm-fuzzy feeling about doing something important for the disease that descends upon one in eight women in the U.S. every year. The products themselves make me sick, but the fact that the pinkwashing starts earlier and earlier is really disgusting. As if the Christmas Creep isn’t bad enough, we now must endure the Pinktober Creep as well. Son of a nutcracker.

If buying pinked-up products could cure breast cancer, dontcha think it would’ve by now? Why not cut out the middle-man and send your hard-earned and well-meaning money straight to an organization that can actually do something useful?

Like my friend Jen at ihavebreastcancerblog, who is also blogging about Pinktober, I wore a pink shirt today. Not because I want to commemorate “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” but because it matched my bright blue Nike shorts with the pink & white stripes, and as I headed to the gym for another grueling post-knee-surgery PT session, I needed the lift that a well-put-together outfit can provide. The pink shirt in question happens to be my survivor shirt from last year’s Race for the Cure. My first — and only — Race for the Cure. 

After the gym, I was in the drive-through lane at the bank, and the bank teller was super chatty. I’m all for some friendly chit-chat from a service provider, as long as they can multitask. If they can talk and conduct business, fine with me, chat away. But if they have to stop to chat, uh-uh. Nope. Zip it and get your work done. I don’t want to take time to listen to idle chatter from someone with whom I’m not likely to form a relationship. Does that make me cranky? crotchety? unfriendly? mean? Maybe. But I’m honest. The last thing I want to do is listen to someone blather on while I wait for them to do the job they’re supposed to do. So when the bank teller started chirping about how it’s the perfect day for a convertible, and asking me if I’m working today or just out enjoying the day, I could feel myself getting snippy and impatient. When she asked if I had a good weekend, I was about to turn off the smile and figure out a nice way to say, “Hurry the hell up, lady. Less talking, more working.” Deep breaths, deep breaths.

She noticed my Race for the Cure t-shirt and commented on it. I haven’t worn this shirt since I learned the ugly truth about the Susan G Komen organization and how precious little SGK has done to actually look for, much less find, a cure. Once the SGK-Planned Parenthood debacle occurred, I decided that SGK would not get one dime from me, ever again. I did the Race for the Cure exactly once, to see what it was all about. It was a nice experience, but I’d rather send my $40 registration fee someplace in which it has a shot at making some real progress instead of lining SGK founder Nancy Brinker’s pockets and/or perpetuating the farce that SGK is committed to ending this wretched disease.

The chatty teller asked me if I was going to do the Race for the Cure again, and I said no. Sometimes I wonder why I’m compelled to answer so honestly rather than just tow the party line and say what people want to hear. Then I realize that wondering something like that is akin to wondering why the sky is blue instead of green, and that it’s utterly pointless to expect things like that to be different. Anyhoo, I told the teller that no, I will not be doing the Race for the Cure again, and of course I proceeded to tell her why.

She may be somewhat sorry she chose to be chatty with me today.

She got a bit of an earful. A well-reasoned and calm earful, but an earful none the less. I explained that before being inducted into the Pink Ribbon Club, I knew Susan G Komen for the Cure was the leading breast cancer organization, and that it wasn’t until I acquainted myself with more than just the superficiality of SGK and its pink-ribbon-bedecked world that I realized that the group wasn’t exactly working hard to find a cure. Silly me, I thought that if “for the Cure” was part of the group’s official name, so much so that it would sue others for harmlessly using it for their own fundraising, that the group might actually be focused on finding a cure for this disease that had so rudely interrupted my life. Not so with SGK. Instead of funneling the majority of its funds toward finding a cure, it instead chooses to focus the majority of its resources on education and “awareness.” As someone who has walked more than a mile in pink shoes, I can’t abide SGK’s priorities. As stated on its website: “In 1982, that promise [between Susan G Komen and her sister Nancy Brinker] became Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Susan G. Komen is the boldest community fueling the best science and making the biggest impact in the fight against breast cancer. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure, we have invested almost $2 billion to fulfill our promise, working to end breast cancer in the U.S. and throughout the world.”

Sounds good, right? But think about it — if  SGK is the best of the boldest and has been working toward a cure since 1982, wouldn’t you expect to see more progress? Thirty years. And very little change.

In fact, The American Cancer Society says this about the incidence rate of BC:

•  Between 1975 and 1980, incidence was essentially
constant.
•  Between 1980 and 1987, incidence increased by 4.0%
per year.
•  Between 1987 and 1994, incidence was essentially
constant.
•  Between 1994 and 1999, incidence rates increased by
1.6% per year.
•  Between 1999 and 2006, incidence rates decreased by
2.0% per year.

It wasn’t until 1999 that BC rates decreased — 20 years after SGK came on the scene — and even then, by 2 percent a year. Does that sound like progress?  Does that sound like “for the Cure?” Not so much. I did not whip out the above statistics for the chatty bank teller (I do have some standards, after all, even when I’m ranting to a total stranger through a plexiglass window), but I did tell her that this is why I won’t do another Race for the Cure or support the Susan G Komen for the Cure. She did ask, after all.

She said she had no idea. She thought that SGK did all kinds of good things for breast cancer, and that they raised a lot of money to find a cure. I said she’s right about part of that: Komen does raise a lot of money, but precious little of it goes toward the research needed to find the cure. She asked me how much of Komen’s money goes toward research, and when I said the best estimates are no more than 19 percent, she was stunned. Perhaps I should have felt a bit badly for bursting her bubble, but instead I felt triumphant when she asked, if not Komen, then who?

Cue the choir and release the confetti bombs!

I told her that personally, I like The Rose right here in Houston, and applaud the efforts to make a real difference in the lives of women with breast cancer, especially those who are traditionally underserved by screening, prevention, and treatment. I also like Dr Susan Love’s group, the Dr Susan Love Research Foundation. The DSLRF is determined to find the cause of breast cancer, not just tie a pink ribbon around the idea of it. Dr Love has been oft quoted as saying, “The key to ending breast cancer is to learn how to stop it before it starts.”  She also says:

“I have spent my whole life working in the field of breast cancer. At this point I am frustrated that we are still doing the same treatments with about the same results as when I started thirty years ago. Now that we can get to where breast cancer starts we have the opportunity to eradicate it. I am excited and impatient. The road is clear. We can go slowly or quickly, but everyday that we delay another 592 women will be diagnosed and 110 will die. The cost is too high to hesitate. This is our job not our daughters’, granddaughters’, nieces’ or nephews’. We can do it and we have to do it!”

Thanks to The DSLRF’s focus on research, we’ve moved from throwing around “for the Cure” to actually working to figure out and eliminate the disease. I like Dr Love’s idea of eradication much better than Komen’s “idea” for the cure.

Now is a great time to mention Dr Love’s latest initiative: The HOW Study. To get the word out about The HOW Study, Dr Love is encouraging us to Blog with Love. Today’s the day for the third-annual blogger initiative, and I’m all in! The HOW Study, along with The Army of Women, is in my opinion much more viable and holds much potential to enact real change. I’ve participated in several Army of Women studies and will continue to do so every chance I get. I encourage everyone reading this to check out The Army of Women and see if there’s a study that applies to you.

The HOW Study is a ground-breaking study for women (and men) who have no history of breast cancer. See, the majority of women diagnosed with BC don’t have a family history of or clinical risk factors for the disease. Dr Love wants to figure out what causes the disease so we can figure out how to stop the disease. Dr Love’s website says that 280,000 women were diagnosed with BC last year. Of those, 40,000 women will die from the disease this year. You can help turn those numbers around by joining The HOW Study.

I’ve just decided I’m ditching my Race for the Cure shirt and am going to get this shirt instead:

zazzle.com


16 Comments on “Blog with love”

  1. I love your post ! Thanks for the shout out to my blog and blog post !

  2. My blog a couple of days ago was far less courageous than this one as I did NOT name any one group in particular exploiting “awareness” for a few extra bucks – nice job with this piece Nancy. We just got home from the hospital after Bonnie’s Oophorectomy and all is well. She rests, and her doc stated “all went well” … oddly enough, all the docs are wearing blue NOT PINK as you astutely put it … pretty sure there’s not a sole on this planet that is not “aware” of BC. My best, Paul.

  3. mmr says:

    Oh Baby, GO GO GO– rant on!!! I was already dreading this day for the last week. I was first diagnosed in October (which is also my birthday month– happy birthday me….surpise! –a mastectomy, the gift that has kept on giving for two years now) and now I see all this pink crap and hear it constantly and I wish that something had actually been done with all that money to stop the disease BEFORE I had to give my breasts to “the cause”. Bless you for the info on Dr. Love’s group. And you quoted my very favorite phrase from her book. Let’s take back OCTOBER!!!! I’m a 2 percenter— in the 2 percent who don’t have BRCA and no family history and WAS premenopausal before this crappy disease turned me old before my time and stole parts of my body and my life, my personality and happiness, and probably my mind.

  4. Jody Hicks says:

    Excellent blog. Your patience with the chatty bank teller will likely pay big dividends since she is the type who will spread the word about SKG. I’m going to check out the HOW study. You go, girl!!

  5. Eddie says:

    There is no reason to feel badly about bursting someone’s bubble if said bubble is erroneous and harmful. You did her a favor! As for pinkwashing, I don’t think it is “designed to give shoppers a warm-fuzzy feeling about doing something important for the disease” but to give them said warm fuzzy while doing what they were going to do anyway. It lets them not get involved while pretending they care. Please continue to call out SKG and to identify others doing real work. This is why MD Anderson’s moon shot is so significant–treatment is all well and good but a cure is what we need.

  6. You go, girl! No one could have said it better. I, too, dislike chatty cashiers and tellers. They should just do the job. But in this case you got to make your point, and now worthwhile organizations may benefit because you raised awareness of their existence. You never know how many lives you saved just by recommending the right causes. xox

  7. jelebelle says:

    You rock….seriously. Great post, and agree on all points.

  8. Bruce Kramer says:

    I only have a little sense of the big pink–ALS is an “orphan” and yet there are big turf wars between MD-ALS and ALSA for the research dollars. No wonder there is only one drug–it is more about the egos and the turf and less about the cure.

    Your blog makes me courageous enough to speak up, even when I had decided to just let it go. Thanks Pink, and keep telling the truth!

  9. Jennifer says:

    I bet she appreciated hearing the low down. I’m sure a lot of people would be disappointed but glad to hear the real deal. I heard it from you last year and was glad to know! It bothers me now when I see all the pink because so much of the money is wasted.

  10. [...] It makes them mad. Really mad. It makes them want to accost random people in the grocery store or at the bank and set them straight. It makes them have to confront the fact that at this very moment, they may [...]

  11. [...] were closed in preparation for the next day’s Komen Race for the Cure — how ironic that Komen impeded progress even as we tred to get to dinner. After navigating the detour for the cure, my foodie friend and I [...]

  12. gold account says:

    With all the races, walks, climbs, crusades, relief funds, white water rafting events (yes, you heard me…) and even recycling for the Cure, you’d think we’d have raised enough money to actually, well, cure breast cancer.

  13. [...] a fan of all the breast cancer “awareness” out there (click here or here or here or here for the latest rants), and the month of October wears me out. Big time. However, awareness about [...]

  14. sherrie says:

    i am inquiring about the bowls with the logo can u tell me where you found them i have looked all over internet and cant find them and my mom really likes them


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