Monday, October 14, 2013

Some thoughts on breast cancer awareness month

I know that Breast Cancer Awareness started because "back in the day" no one would dare mention the word “breast” because all things “women” were taboo and women were supposed to be locked in kitchens having babies and stuff. And that was messed up and wrong. And I’m glad we have made progress from that day.

And yet. We’ve kind of overshot it, you guys. All this freaking pink. And some of this pink? They are slapping it on things, taking advantage of people’s sympathy and good nature, and sometimes not even giving money to breast cancer research (because, awareness! It’s pink, so we’re done! Or they’re giving dubiously (see my genius husband’s piece: Is the NFL Profiting off Breast Cancer?).

Not to mention the whole, “save the boobies” business. I think the problem with that is best captured by this tweet (below) and this blog post: Please put down that can of soup and put your bra back on.

You want awareness? How about awareness that Komen probably gave their outgoing CEO more in salary and benefits than they put into research for a cure for Stage IV breast cancer (giving her a huge raise, despite their losses and horrible year in PR). How about awareness that stage IV breast cancer is terminal. Meaning, it is treatable, but not curable. No amount of pink is going to save these women’s lives. The average life expectancy is about two and a half years from diagnosis. Let that sink in for a moment. Be aware of that.

We don’t hear much about that because for all the hype about survivorship, people (because men can be diagnosed with breast cancer too) diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer tend to get swept under the rug in the “feel good” early detection/silver bullet myth. They are a little too “debbie downer” for their "rah rah! let’s beat this!" message. Which sucks. It doesn’t matter how early they “feel their boobies” or when they got their mammogram. If the cancer metastasizes, which is especially likely if it is a more aggressive triple negative, BRCA 1 or 2 form of breast cancer, early detection and awareness without aggressive research into treatments will get them a whole lot of nowhere. Meanwhile people with stage IV cancer are a wealth of medical and personal knowledge (unfortunately, the awareness campaigns keep turning their backs on them). 

The truth is, October can be a cruel month for some people undergoing advanced breast cancer treatment. And I know most people mean well. But it is time to reconsider the pink, the obsession with boobies, and the “awareness.”


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