By Lorri Steer, reprinted from my personal blog, originally published 10/2/08
As Breast Cancer Survivors, we have a love/hate relationship with the month of October. Everywhere you turn from the grocery store to the local Mexican restaurant that is serving “Mar-Cure-ritas”, you are reminded that the color pink equals breast cancer…breast cancer that is, or a really emotional exploitation for marketing and sales purposes. Some of the more militant groups of survivors have their own slogan: “F&%# Awareness, Find a Cure.” These aren’t just vigilantes, these are mother who will not live to see their children grow up. These are woman whose marriages failed over the stress and damage of the disease. These are woman who live with the life-altering side effects of cancer treatment and metastases such as chronic pain, heart damage, and even blindness.
Some companies do what they say: raise money for breast cancer research or survivor support. Others prey on people’s sympathy for cancer and color things pink to make more sales with very little of the actual profits going toward actual cancer research or support.
I mean, I’m all for buying pink stuff…I have a pink mixing spoon, a pink rubber ducky that lights up, I had the breast cancer issue designer nail polish last year, and just yesterday, I picked up a pink-lidded jar of pickles. Those are good pickles but I really have no idea what portion of my $4.59 is going toward finding a cure.
Some of the Pink Products are oxymoronical. It is a known fact that cancer feeds off of simple sugar…that’s why you are injected with radioactive glucose before a PET scan: the cancer grabs up that fast energy and then lights up on the scan. So “Pink” products like ice cream, cookies and candy contribute to the disease they are trying to raise money to cure. See the issue? What would make sense would be for anti-cancer items – such as broccoli, real green tea and the like – to bear the pink ribbon. But I suspect it’s going to be a cold day in Hell before we see the broccoli growers of America binding their vegetables with pink satin ribbons. I did see Pink Packaged pre-cut lettuce so that’s a start, I must admit.
Yes, we as survivors are happy that breast cancer gets the recognition and funding that it does. You’ve probably never seen a ribbon for anal cancer, or brain cancer, or throat cancer. Pancreatic cancer has something like 6 researchers in America working on a cure while breast cancer has hundreds. Somehow our culture has a love affair with the breast and pink just wraps it up all warm and cozy like a newborn baby. We see the statistics given to the public and we think breast cancer isn’t a deadly disease. Oprah said the other day that 81% of breast cancer victims survive the disease. But it’s not that simple.
Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 15 to 54 in America. Breast cancer in young women is usually of a more fatal form than its counterpart in older women. Young African-American and Latinas have an even higher mortality rate than their Caucasian sisters. We all know that different types and stages of breast cancer have different outcomes but here are some more facts: 80% of stage 4 breast cancer patients will die in 5 years or less. There is no cure for cancer: even women whose disease is “caught early” can go on to have a recurrence or spread into other organs. Yes, many women go on after cancer treatment to live long and healthy lives but that doesn’t mean there should be a Breast Cancer Barbie with a pink ribbon over her perfect bust line like a contest winner. As one survivor of early stage disease said, “There’s no prize for being stage one.”
It’s suitable that October actually is Breast Cancer Awareness month. October is also Halloween. The stores are filled with all manner for scary, creepy ghoulish figures and masks. Yesterday, I saw a small red trollish looking devil doll. When you pressed its stomach its red eyes lit up and it made a demonic screaming sound. One kind of chemo treatment is nicknamed, “The Red Devil.” The young women on the cancer board call cancer “The Beast.” This ugly devil doll would actually be a much more suitable mascot for breast cancer. Please don’t fall for the deception of the soft pink wrappings: breast cancer is a cruel, damaging, and often fatal disease. When you are shopping and see those pink items out there, go ahead and purchase some if you want to, but remember the real face of cancer isn’t a beautiful smiling Barbie…it is a red-eyed ugly beast that has yet to be slain.
What you can do to make a difference: