It used to be oh-so-simple, when Breast Cancer Awareness Month was limited to October. I remember the good ‘ole days, the days when our disease was exploited only one month a year. Now, like a cancer, it is spreading beyond October into other perfectly good months. Like September. Like August. Dare I say, even July?
Actually, here in the US, Breast Cancer Awareness Season officially kicks off in spring, just in time for Mother’s Day. That’s a half year of breast cancer awareness nonsense — just to market products and line the pockets of greedy corporations without a conscience. I mean, really, if I buy yogurt or a loaf of bread with pink ribbons on them, am I really contributing toward a cure for this horrible disease? I don’t think so.
Everyone is aware of breast cancer ad nauseum. But very few people are actually educated about breast cancer.
Awareness is not education.
So many people are unaware of the facts. Just to state a few:
*Thirty percent of breast cancer patients will go on to develop metastatic disease, which is what kills, yet only 2 percent of funding goes toward Stage IV research. Pathetic.
*Early detection does not always save lives. Breast cancer biology is such that, even tumors found early, whatever that means, can and do metastasize.
*Men get breast cancer.
*We need better routine screening tools than just mammograms. A mammogram missed my cancer, for example. However, I do applaud those who are trying to get mammograms into uninsured and underserved communities. I still think a mammogram is better than no screening tool at all.
And now onto my pet peeve — describing breast cancer as a battle. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, battle language to describe breast cancer (or any cancer for that matter) is wrong, wrong, wrong.
A battle has winners and losers, right? Guess who the winners are? Those who live. Guess who the losers are? The ones who didn’t make it.
This battle metaphor diminishes what all people with breast cancer go through. It is NOT the patient’s fault if his or her breast cancer metastasizes. People fight equally hard to live, whatever the outcome.
A survivor is no more brave or victorious than one who has not survived the disease.
I often receive unsolicited e-mails asking me to promote some pink product or to inform my readers to be aware of breast cancer. Um….many of my readers are too painfully aware of breast cancer. See, dear solicitors, they are breast cancer patients and survivors or those who lost loved ones to the disease. Some used to read my blog until they died of breast cancer.
Apparently, unwanted solicitors don’t read my blog, where I discuss how devastating breast cancer diagnosis and treatment are. Lucky to have survived thus far, I’m unlucky enough to face the harsh emotional and physical aftermath of cancer and to witness so many people dying of this dreadful disease.
Corporations are accountable how they are informing the public about breast cancer.
If any cause-marketing solicitors are reading this post right now, which I highly doubt, and they really want to be educated about what breast cancer is like, which I highly doubt, there are many, many bloggers — female and male — who lend an authentic perspective of the breast cancer experience.
Organizations such as The Keep A Breast Foundation are doing us a major disservice by its name, fear-mongering “information,” and products. Besides offering a bracelet with the slogan “I (heart) Boobies,” the organization sells school bags in its Keep A Breast collection with the same message. Nothing says breast education to children and tweens like an “I (heart) Boobies” backpack and bracelet. And because the site is progressive enough to include the fact that men get breast cancer, the organization sells men’s polos with — you got it — the I (heart) Boobies logo on it.
But it’s not just the I (heart) Boobies campaign. There are so many similar campaigns, such as Save the Ta-Tas Foundation, I cannot even keep track of them all. I’m inundated by materials from so many corporations, I’m in a pink-haze daze.
And, by the way, breast cancer is not a pretty, sexy, and fun disease. Unwanted solicitors should check out my posts on body image, survivorship, and my bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. Nothing sexy and fun about it. Nothing sexy and fun about all the scars, suffering, illness, chemobrain, bone-density loss, extreme pain, lymphedema, and emotional anguish, and invisible scars just to name a few.
Truth is, cancer is ugly.
Sorry to sound ungrateful, but I don’t feel like partying it up half the year just because I’ve survived the disease thus far. My heart breaks for those who die and their loved ones. My heart breaks because there is no cure. My heart breaks because no disease is so sexualized and exploited — and therefore trivialized — as breast cancer.
The one thing I and everyone can do is donate to and support Metavivor, which advocates for research for Stage IV breast cancer. I’m going to take on a challenge posed by Ann Marie Giannino-Otis of Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer: to give up items we can do without to donate to Metavivor instead. I’m on a tight budget, but I’ve found that I can give up an occasional Starbucks visit to donate to Metavivor.
If you would like to take part in the #giveitup challenge, click here.
In the meantime, I think I’ll try to enjoy October — until the next solicitor contacts me, that is.
Any comments or feedback is appreciated.
Tags: breast cancer awareness month, cause marketing and breast cancer, exploiting breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer, Pinktober, sexualizing breast cancer, Stage IV breast cancer