Pinktober is making me crazy…for realz

It’s not just an excuse to go postal or blow off some steam, it really is making me crazy. The prolific presence of Pinktober is making me nuts. I’m seeing red (of which pink is a derivative, I suppose). The other day, a woman in the grocery store was sporting one of the worst pink offenders, IMHO, the “Save the Tatas” shirt. I saw her and her offending shirt in the produce aisle and felt a sick feeling in my stomach. I was barely in the store and was already being thrust into the belly of the beast. Just walking in the store, I was accosted by a huge display of “awareness” crap — flower arrangements, helium-filled balloons, potholders, even pink-ribbon bedecked cakes, for cryin’ out loud. Sheesh.

Do those of us who have tangled with this damn disease really need to run the gauntlet of reminders of said disease just to get into the grocery store? Sheesh.

Maybe the display of pink junk that greeted me at the store set me up so that when I saw the “Save the Tatas” shirt, I was primed and ready for a tussle. I tried to be respectful. I did. I entered into the conversation with every intention of getting her point of view. I’m curious, genuinely curious, as to why a grown woman would sport such a message across her chest. So I pointed to her shirt as our paths crossed by the giant pile of pumpkins (which thankfully had not been painted pink). I asked her if she’d had breast cancer. Just curious. She said no, she has not had breast cancer. Oh, so you know someone who has? I asked. No, but she bought the shirt to support breast cancer awareness.

Ah, yes, “awareness.” More “awareness.” The “awareness” we all so desperately need.

The interrogation continued as I asked her if she was aware of how buying the shirt helps, and what, in her opinion, does “awareness” even mean? She didn’t really have an answer for that. Huh.

I pressed on, like a dog with a bone, and asked if she was aware of which charity received proceeds from the purchase of that shirt. Again, no answer. At this point, she was probably wondering how to contact security in the grocery store. I concluded our little chat by telling her that I have had breast cancer, and I do know many other women who have as well, and that those of us in the pink ribbon club don’t care for those shirts because some of us were put in the unpopular position, through no fault of our own, of not being able to “Save our Tatas,” and that seeing such messages serve as a stark and unwelcome reminder of that most unpleasant fact.

She said she’d never thought about that. She was not aware of that.

Huh.

I bet she’s also not aware of the fact that once you lose your tatas, each and every glance downward or glimpse in a mirror is a smack in the face. That even after reconstruction — or multiple reconstructions — those tatas will never be the same. Some women end up with a version they like better. Some end up with a version that makes them sad each and every time they see that new, not-so-improved version.

She and I parted ways, me feeling marginally better for having unburdened myself, her probably feeling like she needed to go home and lie down. Hopefully she went home and threw that damned shirt in the garbage, where it belongs.

Then I hear that our local professional soccer team, the Houston Dynamo, is hosting an “awareness” event of their own tomorrow. The first 5,000 fans at the Breast Cancer Awareness Match will score a mini pink soccer ball. Sweet.

But this is how they choose to market the event.

Not so sweet.

Tell me, please, anyone, what the scantily-clad cheerleader in the pink attire has to do with breast cancer? Or is that what it takes to get people to attend the event? Questions, people–I have questions!

I had to dig pretty hard to find any info on the actual event. While these images are splashed all over the web, details on what the event really is all about remain elusive. The Dynamo website shows a much less exciting image:

houstondynamo.com

But when I clicked on the link to bobby boots breast cancer/Dynamo Charities, I got nowhere. The computer told me that the page I sought could not be found. Bummer. My next question: is the bobby boots breast cancer image above, with the philanthropic player (who I assume is Bobby) and the soccer-cleat-wearing pink ribbon, that much less effective than the perky cheerleader in her push-up bra? Do people really care less about this dreaded disease if it’s marketed without actual images of breasts?

I was still full of questions when I saw this on a car:

Great, here we go again.

This time, I didn’t accost the person sporting the offending message because the light turned green. But I wanted to. I wanted to say, Can you imagine in your wildest dreams putting sticker on your car that says “balls! support testicular cancer research!” Or “ovaries! egg-makers or silent killers?” No, me neither. As the shirt says, It’s all about the boobies. 

It certainly isn’t “all about the boobies” — it’s about a woman’s life, and how BC threatens and too often takes her life. I’m still waiting for an explanation of how any of this boobie culture makes any difference in the “fight” against breast cancer. If you see a guy wearing a shirt like this, does it enact any change whatsoever in the BC arena? 

I wonder how he would feel if I wore a shirt saying “PROSTATES make me happy”? I can’t even find an image of such a shirt because guess what — it doesn’t exist! No, instead the prostate cancer “awareness” shirts look like this:

and this:

“I Wear Blue for My Dad” conveys a slightly different message than “Save Second Base.” It says the focus is on the person, not the body part. The take-away message here is that sexualizing a devastating disease does nothing for those who suffer from it.

Well, wait a sec — I take that back. Sexualizing a devastating disease does do something for those who suffer from it. It makes them feel bad. Really bad. 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 be crossing that bridge from “survivor” with NED to stage IV without a cure. I will never, ever forget the feeling of utter fear when the first oncologist I consulted said once a cancer comes back, no matter what stage it was upon original diagnosis, the recurrence sends you straight to stage IV and you’re considered incurable. Not that you’re going to die from it, as many stage IV cancers can be managed, but treatment is ongoing, as in, for the rest of your life (however long that will be).

That, my friends, is the reality of breast cancer. Not a cutesy slogan. Not a titillating (pun intended) t-shirt. Not an overtly sexual bumper sticker. It’s not about the boobies. It’s about my life.

 

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39 Comments on “Pinktober is making me crazy…for realz”

  1. Ev Emerson says:

    Great blog entry. Makes me angry, too. I NEVER liked pink anyway and really loathe it now. Susan Komen really blew it for me this past year with her Planned Parenthood gaffe. You go, girl.

  2. David Benbow says:

    You said it, girl. Although I’d like to think that the boobies bumper sticker was actually a satirical comment about Bush-Cheney.

  3. Eddie says:

    I believe the problem lies if the focus on the breast half of breast cancer instead of the cancer. The goal should not be to “save the tatas” but to get rid of the cancer. If both can be done, great, but cancer not breasts is the issue. Additionally, as a man I feel ashamed by reducing women to a body part, it’s dehumanizing. I feel as if I should apologize to all women for what I suspect is a largely male-driven campaing, but then I see so many women embracing the process of marginalizing them. Following the logic of this campaign are small-breasted or flat-chested women lesser? No wonder so many women get implants of absurd proportion. Maybe we should get rid of all the “boobies” and start saving humans.

    • Another astute comment, Ed. I too wish the focus were on the person rather than the body part. Maybe someday, after all my caterwauling and that of others with bigger blog audiences, it will happen.

  4. mmr says:

    Speaking from a goodly deal of experience here, that pink cheerleader has breast implants. (And breast tissue on top of them.)And therein lies part of the problem– everyone thinks that reconstruction is the same as augmentation. No big deal, they think; millions of women do that every year. None of my non-BC friends understand why reconstruction is multiple procedures; when I say I have one more surgery to go (after 4 or 5 already; I don’t even remember– the last two years all run together), they are shocked and they indicate that they think I must be trying to make these new (and totally unwanted) foobs–fake boobs for you non-initiates to the mastectomy world– look “super awesome” or “more perfect” or something. HHHHHAAAAA. Nancy, have you ever met anyone who says they like their foobs better than the old ones? I’ve heard rumors of that, but never met an actual person who says that. If I had wanted big huge beautiful things on my chest I would have had augmentation to the perfectly nice set I had before, but then the mammo might not have saved my life….

    • Marcie, the only women I’ve heard of who are happier post-mastectomy are those who needed a breast reduction or those who had asymmetry issues. I don’t have facts & figures on that but would venture to guess that the percentage is very small. As always, I very much enjoy & appreciate your comments.

  5. Well said, Nancy. It seems chauvinism will never die, while too many breast cancer “survivors” will. The death rates from this scourge seem to be ignored by all the pink hoopla. The merchandisers and media want to focus just on one kind of loss- a superficial one involving breasts. As if that’s all that matters. The losses from breast cancer go on and on. For example, this disease played directly into the demise of my long-term marriage. How’s that for a loss? And the lymphedema? Don’t get me started. Keep up the images, girl! You are making an impact. xox

    • Oh, Jan, I hate that BC has taken so much from you, and left you with Lymphedema. It’s just not fair. I’m so flattered to hear someone as well-respected and well-loved in our arena as you say that I’m making a difference! xo

  6. You nailed it! I never liked or wore pink before I had a bilateral mastectomy and I resent that I have to now adorn myself like a popsicle in order to prove that I passionately care about eradicating this disease.

    And kudos to MMR above for pointing out the flawed perception people have that reconstruction is the same as augmentation. I would go on further to say that it irks me to no end when people joke with me why I didn’t get DD’s. I’m 5’1″ and was a perfect B before. DD’s on my frame are for boat show conventions.

    http://www.coolgirlsgetcancer.com

  7. You nailed it! I didn’t like or wear pink before my bilateral mastectomy and I resent the fact that I am now supposed to dress myself like a popsicle in order to prove that I am dead-serious about eradicating this disease.

    And kudos above to MMR for pointing out the misguided perception that most people have about breast reconstruction being the same as augmentation and that those of use who have to endure multiple procedures do not do so for reasons of vanity or perfectionism but rather for just wanting to go back to feeling as closely as possible (in both mind and body) to the way we remember.

    I’d go further to say that it annoys me to no end when people ask me why I didn’t opt for “the DD’s.” I’m 5’1″ and had perfect size B’s before…DD’s on my frame are appropriate only at boat show conventions.

    http://www.coolgirlsgetcancer.com

  8. Mandi says:

    I keep taking deep breaths. I refuse to get angry, although I have seen things that make me very angry. There is money going somewhere that helps someone and the research that has been done wouldn’t have been done without the fundraising. I think it is ok that some women have pride in the survivor status and wear their ribbons proudly. We all come at this world with different perspectives. I am just pushing myself to not be consumed by it.

  9. Scorchy says:

    Sing it, sister!

  10. Renn says:

    Nancy, you ROCK! This was searing and sad and SO needed to be said. Thank you.

  11. You go girl… The wave of pinkness keeps on spreading here in the UK, a fire engine for goodness sake, I thought they were red for a good reason.
    http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2012/06/06/new-pink-fire-engine-will-save-lives-on-merseyside-and-support-year-of-action-on-cancer-100252-31128228/
    They did at least step back from where I thought it was heading and include all cancers. But there is plenty more pink boobie stuff, as you describe.
    I wonder if the women who wear them think of them as some sort of talisman? shakes head.

  12. Nancy … “BRAVO” for your courage and commitment to all of us affected by breast cancer and the further exploitation of all of us who have lived it, fought it, challenge it and remain in a holding area to one day be counted as a statistic. You’d have been proud of me yesterday as the guest speaker at Sutter Medical Foundation’s 10th annual Catwalk for a Cure … pink of course was the color of the day, though in a much better way than a woman wearing the ridiculous TaTa tee without any idea where the $$ actually goes … nor for the feelings of those like you, my wife and countless others who actually do have to look into the mirror once, twice, three times a day and realize the TaTa’s are much less than they once were. Keep confronting and continue to challenge. I was saddened to see the name “Cheney” next to the bumper sticker – an odd coincidence with a strange relation. Keep kicking ass and taking names! ~ Paul

    http://www.sutterpacific.org/catwalk/

    • Paul, I’m sure you rocked the house at the Catwalk, and I’m sure Bonnie looked beautiful. She & I have come a long way since the early days of diagnosis, but looking in the mirror still stinks, big time. Hope Bonnie is healing well after the last surgery.

  13. [...] particularly like to read The Pink Underbelly during October as the author points out all the pink inconsistencies that abound. In her latest [...]

  14. Yvonne says:

    Oh, Nancy, didn’t you realize breast cancer is for the girls? (pun intended of course) Sugar and spice and all things nice?? Grrrr …. the only ta-tas that come to mind for me are the damn JP drains swinging from my hips and under my arm after the surgery.
    Promised I wasn’t going to post a single thing about pinkness and october – it’s my first since joining the club last November. But after the presidential candidates didn’t even raise the subject of breast cancer, I have gone back on my word.
    More later … keep on keeping on.
    xx
    yvonne

    • Yvonne, I love the correlation between tatas & drains! Man, those drains are brutal, just brutal. I too had hoped to hear something from the candidates n this topic…what a wasted opportunity.

  15. Nancy,
    Great post! I appreciate that you talked to the woman in the grocery store. Your post gives many food for thought and your conversation with the woman in the store definitely gave her food for thought. That is what it is going to take…one blog post at a time, one reply at a time, one conversation at a time. But the more of us who are joining in, the more people we will reach. Thanks!

  16. Janeen Grimshaw says:

    After seeing all the “pink” during the NFL football games yesterday from sneakers to sweat towels & those insidious pink decked out NFL cheerleaders I was so tired of it! All the sports newscasters had pink ties & lapel pink ribbons too. I googled pink fatigue & found your blog. You’ve really hit the nail on the head! Please, no more shirts proclaiming “tatas”! I had a bout with Uterine/ovarian cancer this year- there’s no Uterine cancer awareness NFL day. What color would they chose to adorn Uterine cancer with? There was an article in our local paper about mammograms for uninsured women – what do they presume a woman with a bad mamo without insurance will do? No wonder the uninsured women aren’t going to get the free 500 mammograms when there is no way to pay for treatment! You mention in a post on depression that mental health doesn’t elicit a positive fundraising effort like breast cancer. Sadly, some diseases are definitely more popular with the public than others.

  17. Welcome, Janeen! I’m so glad you found me, and I appreciate your comment. I’m torn on the pink NFL gear and will be blogging about it, so stay tuned! You’re right about the lack of “awareness” for other cancers. It’s a pretty sorry situation. My mom died of ovarian cancer at age 67, so it’s something near & dear to my heart. Not sure if research would’ve saved her bc her form was extremely rare, but more research is the only way out of the prevalence of diagnoses, IMHO.

  18. [...] sexualizing of breast cancer makes me want to throw up and punch someone at the same time. How seeing a grown woman in a “Save the Tatas” shirt causes me to go all Serena Williams on her in the grocery [...]

  19. [...] secret that I’m not 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. [...]

  20. [...] more than likely are chock full of BPA, which has been shown to cause cancer. While in the store, run across a woman wearing a ridiculous t-shirt and accost her for doing so. Tune in for the presidential candidates’ debate hoping to hear a [...]

  21. [...] been awfully serious around here lately, with the rantings about how ridiculous Pinktober is, and the caterwauling about how insulting the pinkwashing has become to those of us who’ve [...]

  22. [...] to fortify your liver for maximum alcohol consumption. Today’s PSA won’t even mention Pinktober, pinkwashing, or how misguided The Susan G Komen for the Cure organization has become. [...]

  23. Nancbeth says:

    I know I am super late to the game, but I am living with NED, trying not to worry about mets, and hating the pictures used for every “awareness” event. So here’s a link to my WEGO #HAWMC blog post about it:
    http://www.breastcancerbattlescars.net/2013/04/gimme-three-stepsi-mean-wishes-three.html


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