Let me be perfectly blunt and to the point. I do not have breast cancer but it has affected me personally and I am considered a “high risk” to contract the disease. Yet, I hate the pink-washing and hype surrounding National Breast Cancer Awareness Month that comes along every October. I don’t ever want to be a “Cancer Survivor” or “Warrior”, I don’t want to “Fight like a Girl”, I don’t want to be in the “Army of Pink”. I’ll reserve all the military jargon and terminology, including the label of warrior, for our military men and women, thank you very much.
Why? My mom died of breast cancer when she was 43 years old. That was back in 1990. She was first diagnosed in her mid to late 30’s. Now when I hear co-workers, friends, and family members discuss the current treatment methods and options for breast cancer, it sounds as if nothing has changed. Nothing.
Well, maybe one thing – early detection. Statistics can often be found showing how early detection has improved treatment and that more people are surviving the disease. Sure early detection is a great thing, anytime you detect a problem early, it’s a good thing. But how would you account for people like my mom? Even now, being diagnosed in your 30’s with any form of cancer is not that common, and unless there is a problem, women aren’t supposed to start getting mammograms until they are 40.
Also, I often question why there seems to be such an increase in the number of cancer diagnoses, in general, now verses how many there were just 25 years ago. Sure, the population has increased, but how is early detection helping on the whole? How is it possible to determine how many lives could have been saved if the cancer was discovered earlier? Besides, someone will always argue, just because you detect it early, doesn’t mean it would have progressed to a deadly disease, so how can we accurately calculate how many lives early detection has saved?
I know a number of people who have handled their diagnosis and treatment very positively and remained outwardly, at least, confident (and not all of them outlived the cancer). But I’m pretty sure I would turn into a grumpy, sarcastic, mean, mess. I mean really – if I was going through chemo, had just started loosing my hair, and saw a pink “Bald is Beautiful” t-shirt, I would probably give a verbal thrashing to the poor sap wearing the t-shirt or have some sort of public melt-down. And with my luck, the t-shirt wearer would honestly think they are supporting a cause and helping somehow. And maybe they are. Maybe for someone they are close to, that t-shirt means something. But for me, even now, I wonder if they really are helping at all.
Mostly I dislike all the pink hype because I want to know why so few researchers seem to be trying to discover the CAUSE of cancer instead of simply curing it. Because let’s face it, if you figure out the cause of something, you can cure it pretty damn fast. Sure the problem might not go away completely, but it would certainly be a huge improvement. I have a general feeling that no one wants to fund this type of research because deep down the conspiracy chain, some one, some where, already knows the cause, and by focusing the attention on the “war against cancer” and on trying to find the cure, we are distracted from the real problem. Think about it, the newly diagnosed diabetic or celiac patients needs to change their diet; the alcoholic needs to give up alcohol. How difficult is it for humans to give up the things they have come to crave or believe they need? What is it that humanity needs to give up to stop cancer? Scary thought, isn’t it?
In the mean time, please, please, consider where you’re money is going when you donate to a pink (or any color ribbon type) organization. Would your money be better helping the local hospice program? The oncology department at your local hospital? Are there members of your congregation, co-workers, or family members, who are going through chemo – could any of them use a hand with housework or running errands instead of a pink t-shirt? Don’t get me wrong, there are number of good organizations out there, and most people think they are helping the cause. Just do your research. Because let’s be honest, as pointed out in the attached article below, do you honestly think fund raising ribbon on the salsa label is going to help move any cause forward?
And for goodness sake, if you simply like the color pink – by all means wear it, use it, and enjoy it. As and artist, I love colors, all colors and it bothers me that so many marketing campaigns have ruined some perfectly good colors.
Here’s an interesting article written by someone who’s experienced breast cancer personally. It includes a few links to reputable research organizations.
If you’ve ever wondered what the different colored ribbons stand for, check out this Wikipedia page. (I went with Wikipedia, because it’s not a cancer related organization.) Personally, I find it funny that so many represent multiple issues or diseases, like Silver- it can represent Schizophrenia, Stalking, or Parkinson’s. And because of that, it seems as if we’re inventing patterned and multi colored ribbons.
Think Before You Pink is an organization created lend some transparency to pink organizations. They were formed in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the number of pink merchandise available that supposedly was “funding a cure”. They offer a set of questions to ask before you purchase anything marketed as a fund raiser as well as a few campaigns of their own.
Just this year I learned about Cast Off Chemo!, a pink organization raising funds to finance clinical trials for a cancer treatment that does NOT rely on chemotherapy. It’s not a cure, but it’s a different strategy, which for many, is a step in the right direction.