The reality of BC

No, I’m not talking about BC the comic strip; I wouldn’t waste my blogspace on that. I’m talking about the reality of breast cancer. The everyday effects of living with — and past — this damned disease. Case in point: I was dashing through the grocery store yesterday to grab a carton of milk (organic of course, because of all the hormones they inject into the poor cows to increase their production, and hormones scare me; and in a paper carton instead of a plastic jug because plastics now scare me, too. Thanks a lot, cancer, for turning me into a paranoid freak who can barely get through the grocery store. Oh, and the receipt now scares me, too, because the chemicals on that innocent-looking slip of paper can act like estrogen, which fueled my cancer. Then there’s the money to pay for the groceries: how dirty and/or chemical-laced is it???). It’s a wonder I can get out of the house.

Anyhoo, before the paranoia set in, I was assaulted by the plethora of pink products. They’re everywhere. Yes, I know it’s October, which means Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I should expect this, right? As I cut through the canned-goods to get to the milk, I see this:

Ah, yes. Pink-label soup. Fantastic. All that sodium doesn’t contribute to lymphedema, does it??

Right next to my organic, paper-enshrouded milk is of course the pink-a-palooza yogurt display.

Take a half step to the right and there’s the pink-ribbon-edition Milano cookies, to go with the milk.

In case you spill your milk, never fear: Brawny is in on the pinkwashing, too. 

So is Viva. You’ve got a choice. There’s pink-bedecked TP, too, in case the dairy upsets your tummy. Or in case you’re in the midst of long-term antibiotic therapy for a post-mastectomy infection and feel like your gut has been attacked by a roto-tiller. Nausea and diarrhea from chemo? No problem. Quilted Northern has got your back (side).

If the paper towels can’t contain your spill, never fear: pink Swiffer is here. I know I feel better with a pink Swiffer in my house. If only I could have Swiffered the cancer right out of my chest. Or spiff up the scars left from the multiple surgeries required by said cancer.

And in case you didn’t get enough calories from the milk & cookies, there’s always chocolate:

Pick your poison. Literally.

I guess the candy makers don’t know (or don’t care) that the majority of women fighting breast cancer gain weight — I know, how whacked is that??

Need some pampering? How about some pretty pink nail polish? No harmful chemicals in that. OPI’s “Pink of Hearts” is pretty as a picture, and goes right along with the soft, feminine image we breast cancer girls want to project. 

Or, if you’re feeling feisty, try the OPI “Pink Shatter” limited-edition polish.

We’re gonna shatter cancer, one toenail at a time. But wait — don’t put that polish on your fingernails if you’re going in for yet another surgery from breast cancer. The anesthesiologist needs to monitor your nailbeds, and the pulse oximeter may go wonky.

Being surrounded by pink products everywhere is making me claustrophobic. While I’m glad that corporations donate money to “the cause,” I would like to get through the grocery store without being bombarded with reminders of  this dreaded disease. Just in case I wasn’t thinking of cancer at that very moment, BAM! there’s the shelf full of pink-ribbon dog food to remind me. On the off-chance that I was freed from the worry and strife of my cancer “journey” for two seconds, WHACK! there’s the special-edition Morton’s iodized salt to reignite my struggle. Maybe I was consumed with thoughts of the grocery list instead of wondering if the asymmetry of my newly constructed breasts was obvious to a random passerby. Too bad, because KABOOM! there’s the pink-ribbon Downy fabric softener to bring me back to the reality that is living with the messy aftereffects of breast cancer.

All this pinkwashing has jangled my nerves. Maybe I can relax with a glass of cheap wine or a malt beverage. 

They’re for the cure, right?

Forget the yogurt and the cleaning products. Where’s the pink-ribbon-wrapped bottle of xanax, to quell the anxieties associated with fighting a deadly disease? Where’s the pink iTunes gift card to buy some relaxing music when the fear of recurrence grips us?

What we really need to see for “breast cancer awareness” is this: My flat chest after a bilateral mastectomy at the ripe old age of 41.

What we really need to see for “breast cancer awareness” is the array of home-health-care products required by a post-mastectomy infection and the confusion and fear their presences brings into an otherwise peaceful household.

What we really need to see for “breast cancer awareness” is a post-mastectomy infection site, finally finally finally healing after 3 surgeries to excise dead tissue. 

What we really need to see for “breast cancer awareness” is a young woman strapped to a wound vac, to suck out all the toxins and poisons created by a cluster of bad luck in the OR.

What we really need to see for “breast cancer awareness” are photos of brave women who’ve undergone mastectomies yet still pose for portraits, like in the SCAR project.

photo by David Jay

What we really need to see for “breast cancer awareness” are blogs from women like Deborah Lattimore who write honestly and openly about breast cancer, and are brave enough to post pictures like this:

photo by deborah lattimore

What we really need to see for “breast cancer awareness” are women like my blogfriend at The Pink Birdie, who has no use for a prosthesis but bravely faces the world in her post-surgery state. Her post “Awareness on the Move” says it all. Read it, then you’ll know why we rant about pinkwashing, why the bevy of pink-ribbon-bedazzled consumer products upsets us.

What we really need to see for “breast cancer awareness” are instances of women living their lives post-surgery, post-cancer.

googleimages

What we really need to see for “breast cancer awareness” are images of women taking cancer by the balls and saying “Not me, not now.”

 

There. Now don’t you feel  more aware?


NFL goes pink

I got this letter from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Not sure what gave him the idea that I’m a football fan, but I won’t fault him too much since he’s trying to do a good thing. Maybe he didn’t get the memo that my heart belongs to the Red Sox (my broken heart, that is). Maybe he did get the memo that I have a big mouth and write a little blog about all things breast cancer. Or maybe it was just a mass mailing that coincidentally landed in my mailbox just as I’m sorting through conflicting feelings about the pinkwashing that occurs every October.

Despite my previous grumpiness about all things pink in the month of October, I must admit I rather like seeing the football players wearing a dash of pink. Not because I think it’s going to change the world or find a cure for this damned disease, but because I enjoy the incongruity of a gigantic linebacker who could crush someone like me between his fingers wearing pink.

I could be super cheesy and say that if one woman decides to go for a mammogram because she saw Tom Brady wearing hot pink gloves, and if that one woman discovers breast cancer that would have otherwise stealthily grown into something that would kill her, then the NFL campaign is a success.

I will say that I’m glad the NFL campaign is about taking specific action to protect yourself from this dreaded disease, instead of trying to use the pink ribbon to sell a product. That sits much better with me. Nothing like a pink-ribbon-bedecked can of dog food to say let’s wipe out breast cancer.

On to Mr Goodell’s letter:

To NFL Fans:

On behalf of the National Football League, please join us in supporting the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” campaign in October for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is the third season in which NFL teams, coaches, officials and players will wear pink in recognition of the fight against breast cancer.

Just about everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. That is why the NFL is proud to join thousands of others committed to fighting this terrible disease.

Throughout October, all NFL teams will celebrate survivors, visit patients at hospitals and turn their stadiums pink to show our enduring support. Alongside our partners at the American Cancer Society, we will emphasize the importance of prevention by encouraging all women over the age of 40 to get a yearly mammogram. We know that annual screenings can, and do, save lives.

Thanks to the passion of NFL fans, we have the collective strength as a league to connect with millions of people and make a positive difference. Please support the American Cancer Society’s programs to help people stay well, get well, and find a cure. We can fight back against a disease that has taken far too much from too many for too long.

There are several ways you can participate in “A Crucial Catch.” Visit nfl.com/pink for the resources and tools you can use to get involved.

An annual screening saves lives. Let’s spread the word.

Sincerely,
Roger Goodell