Real Breast Cancer Awareness Part II

Real Breast Cancer Awareness Part II

This was posted in my personal blog ‘Get Out Gertrude’ on the 17th October as one of a four part series on my thoughts on real breast cancer awareness

How do Breast Cancer fighters / survivors feel?

So much pink in October is also quite hard to for Breast cancer survivors  to handle at times.  While those that have finished treatment and have a good prognosis for a complete ‘cure’ either embrace it or ignore it, for those with a more complicated relationship with breast cancer  it is quite hard to know how to handle all the reminders.

My friend TLA sums it up this way  “I know for myself, I wish I could be on an island the month of Oct and not see anyone. People who wouldn’t even look at me when I was in treatment, let alone do anything to help me, are awash in pink. They care! Really? See I am a care in action person. Now I am the first to say that some care is invisible, like the men and women who told me I was in their daily rosary devotions, something not so visible, but very important. Some care is more visible. But my friends point is that just sticking a ribbon on it, when that is all that is done, only hurts women as it has become a feel good, meaningless symbol of caring.”

I had just been told the cancer had come back at the beginning of  October 2009 and I had to make a conscious decision on how I was going to deal with it.  I chose to take part in some fundraising activities but at the same time it was hard to deal with the advertisements on TV, the pink ribbon sales pitches,  and all the other constant reminders that I had breast cancer. 

Even some of the breast cancer charities themselves get it wrong sometimes.  The  Breast Cancer Research Trust have had two advertising campaigns in recent years that I took offense at.  While I admire their commitment to finding a cure their “Seriously, breast cancer’s not a big deal” in June 2009 really touched a nerve with me and even when they add the tag line “because we are going to find a cure in 10 years “  it didn’t really mollify me.  And then their replacement campaign still pushing the 10 year cure wasn’t much better

You see for people like me, who’s already had one recurrence, or my other friends with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer especially IBC we don’t even know whether we are going to be around in 10 years time   and they also don’t mention that for aggressive breast cancer the ‘cure’ will still involve such life and body altering things as mastectomies and chemotherapy.  No big deal – I think not. 

Also they said such things as ‘will find a cure  for 90% of all breast cancers ‘ – ok IBC is less than 5% of breast cancers – do they mean they will find a cure for that or not? 

There’s also the ladies that are picked to be the face of breast cancer appeals -always success stories, always so positive about their successful breast cancer journeys so that when people like ‘justenjoyhim’ and ‘whymommy’ try to say something different they are shot down as being cranky or ungrateful when in reality they are dealing with the very real emotions that dealing with a recurrence scare or actual recurrence can bring.

I guess being real isnt a good marketing ploy (yes -I’m being facetious)

I’m usually way more positive than this but its a fact that Breast Cancer (especially if its IBC) is not all cutesy or sexy or  ’happy happy joy joy ‘ as some well meaning fundraisers would portray it. As I was saying to my uni friend AW most of the time I’m positive and try to ignore or play down the more dire possiblities that this disease can mean for me personally but sometimes things happen that make it slap me in the face.

I’m not saying that  Breast Cancer Awareness Month is necessarily a bad thing I’m just saying lets be a little more real with what it actually means

For me personally its turning up to the hospital every three weeks for the foreseeable future to have IV herceptin in the hopes that it will keep me in remission.  And although I was  back  in remission May 2010 I have already had one scare and scans to check recurrence or metastasis – they came back clear – but they want to scan me again in December ‘just to make sure’.  Its having an echocardiogram every few months (next one due the week of my university exams) to make sure that the herceptin that is my ‘cure’ isn’t giving me heart failure.

Its ‘just enjoy him’ worrying about whether elevated tumour markers mean a recurrence, its ‘whymommy’ being too sick and tired from her chemo treatment from her recurrence to play with her young children.

Its my friends from Sweet Louise who are all dealing with metastatic cancer.

And especially its my IBC sisters Angela, Roxanne, and Malu who all lost their lives to this disease in the last week

For all the success stories there are still people suffering and dying from this disease and each one is one too many.

If you see a pink ribbon, remember them – I know I will.

Parts I, III, IV can be found on my blog (warning part IV has pictures of IBC breast and mastectomy scars)

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6 Responses to Real Breast Cancer Awareness Part II

  1. bugoliath says:

    First, I’d like to say, I’m so very sorry for the loss of your friends. It’s so sad. This disease takes so much. My thoughts about October being awash in pink are like yours. It’s so proper now to say you’re working for the cause, for research, but I feel the women dealing with breast cancer everyday are being lost in the shuffle. Research is great and necessary, but some of us are still here and have needs that should be recognized just as much as finding a cure “someday.”

  2. cbkingston says:

    Thank you for this post, it’s important to have these perspectives about breast cancer awareness month and see the women behind the pink ribbons. For me, when I see a pink ribbon I wish I could think of my grandmothers and my friend. Instead I wonder “how much money from that purchase actually went to breast cancer?” “You are wearing the ribbon, but do you know what the symptoms are?” Perhaps there could be a “trade in your ribbon for education” program?

  3. EM says:

    Breast Cancer Awareness Month is winding down. I’m relieved it’s over with and glad that I succeeded in some small way of creating more awareness for metastatic breast cancer. I will start earlier next year and build on what I’ve learned.

    But I’ve also decided to create my own holiday: Breast Cancer Remembrance Day. On Oct, 31, the final day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I will remember the friends and family I have lost to this disease. It’s Sunday, so I will light a candle for them and say some
    prayers.

    I will wear black, not for its funeral implications but for its simple dignity, a quality that has been sadly lacking these past 30 pink saturated days.

    At 8:45 that night I will go outside with a flashlight. I’ll think of the one in 8 U.S. women who will get breast cancer and the 45,000 who will die this year.

    My eighth grade science teacher told us if you turned on a flashlight and pointed it toward the sky the photons leave the flashlight and they immediately start to spread out. Provided that they don’t hit anything,each individual photon travels through space forever.

    Time slows down as you approach the speed of light.

    I’ll think of those whose time was all too brief and I’ll hope for brighter days ahead.

  4. justenjoyhim says:

    I love this post. It is SPOT. ON. Thank you.

  5. Jenster says:

    Thank you. I love pink, just not so much in October.

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