Welcome to Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As we enter into Breast Cancer Awareness Month I find myself conflicted about how breast cancer is portrayed.  How commercialized and kitschy it’s all become.  How the media and corporate America seem to be using breast cancer to boost profits.  I feel like corporations play to our emotions and use our pain to their benefit.  To benefit their bottom line.

Excuse me while I climb up on my soapbox for a moment…

Last week I watched the Canadian independent documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. which tackles these issues brilliantly.  I highly recommend all those impacted by breast cancer to watch it.

Everywhere you look this month someone is selling something that is supposedly benefiting me and my fellow breast cancer warriors.  But so many of the products they’re pushing are full of ingredients that actually cause cancer – cosmetics with parabens, unhealthy fast food, personal care products riddled with chemicals like BPA, yogurt made with milk containing hormones and excessive amounts of sugar.  The hypocrisy infuriates me.

Then there is the question of where all this money goes.  How often do we just blindly hand over our hard earned money, assuming it is being spent fairly and honestly.  Not taking the time to read the fine print, ask questions, or demand to know what exactly our money will be spent on.  The generic answers most commonly heard are that the money is used for research, prevention, and finding a cure.  But how can we find a cure when we don’t even know what causes breast cancer?  More than half of breast cancer patients do not have any of the risk factors.  Only a small percentage are genetically based.  So what caused the rest of our cancers?  Is anyone looking into that?

The majority of research money seems to go towards creating things that can be sold – whether it be a new drug or a regular mammogram.  Why not spend money to research things like how lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and stress contribute to cancer growth or recurrence.  Or why the number of women with breast cancer continues to rise.  Or how all the toxic chemicals we take in on a daily basis are wrecking havoc in our bodies.  But who would make money from that?  Not the pharmaceutical companies who currently control the majority of cancer research.

The other thing I take issue with is the cheery and uplifting pink washing that blankets breast cancer awareness.  Breast cancer is not all smiles and upbeat female bonding.  It is painful.  It is devastating.  It is emotional and ugly.  It rips apart families.  Destroys lives.  And it is not pretty.  If we are going to take a true look at breast cancer we need to see it from all sides.  The good AND the bad.

So this October, as you are confronted with the endless array of consumer products claiming to support breast cancer awareness take a step back, read the fine print, ask questions, make informed decisions.  Feel good knowing that you took the time to understand who and what your money is supporting.

For more ways to support the cause and links to some of the best breast cancer blogs out there, check out this post on the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network by blogger Holly Raby.

Together we can make a difference.

Peace.  – T

25 Responses

  1. I don’t think that corporations just seem to be using it – they are using the fight against breast cancer to boost their bottom line. Unfortunately, like “corporate sustainability” and the general “going green” of companies, these movements are being used by companies to gain leverage over the competition. And hey, it just worked for them in my particular case. I was out rushing around doing errands and trying to find printer cartridges to replace my supposedly out of date printer. In one of those big box stores I saw a pile of printer paper packaged in that characteristic pink and just grabbed one: “hey, that is right! I am out of paper”. I did not even bother to compare prices, figuring this one was sending some of my money to the right place and I had no time to think anyway. When I got it home I took a closer look and nowhere does it say what the company is doing to for the breast cancer fight and the pink package featured this picture of a beautiful blond (yoghurt commercial) family that seemed so out of reality. I felt incredulous and duped.

  2. Terri
    First and foremost I want to take the opportunity to congratulate you on the success of your surgery. God Bless you and may God continue to bless you with strength, courage and perservearence.
    My name is Marie Petrides also a Stage 4 Breast Cancer Survivor and Thrivor.I respect your honesty and candidness about this particular topic. It is very hard to get into the hoopa la of Breast Cancer awareness month…..As stage 4 patients every minute of every day is Breast Cancer awareness for us. We are living with this disease. Raising our children and being the best possible spouse under the worst of circumstances but yet we keeping moving foward and continue to be hopeful and most of all we fight. With that said I still practice gratitude each and ever day and pray for a cure for this disease that is taking so many parents from their young children……Keep fighting and please know that I admire your strength and SPUNK…..Stay strong Girl!!

    • Thanks Marie. It sure is a crazy journey. I’m still trying to adjust to the ‘new normal’ of my life. Connecting with other metastatic sisters gives me strength to go on. So thank you for sharing. Never give up the fight! Bless you.

  3. You are so right. I agree with everything you said, but, if there was no corporate involvement, how much less money would there be for research or for those that need help. Yes the corporations will make money off of Breast Cancer, but corporate America makes money from almost every disease they can get their hands on, it is right? No, but is it altogether wrong? The drug companies are the real whores, I really believe that there is a cure closer in the pipeline than everyone says, but the pharmaceutical companies are blocking it, because THEY are making so much off of the drugs, that we need so badly to stay alive. I am a three time breast cancer survivor and have been through my share of bad times. I do know that with all the bad times, there have been some really great times.

    • Beverly,

      I think it’s pretty complicated. For example, there have been companies that sell products that are carcinogenic, but have promotions that are to “raise breast cancer awareness”. Now, for a brand (a particular charity) letting anyone and everyone buy into your brand is good business. And sometimes awareness is *vital* – let women know who has to get tested, and how often, and what tests mean, and what kinds of treatment are available – or even “call us if you have questions and we’ll answer them!” . But sometimes… sometimes awareness just means “we are aware that breast cancer is bad… uh… and affects breasts! I mean, women!”

      And on the one hand, you don’t want to chase away potential allies. On the other, this is business – and a person just making money off of a situation isn’t an ally, they’re a business partner.

  4. I’m a 20 year survivor and have been working with women with breast cancer for almost 19 years….you are right on! Pink Ribbons tells it like it is and I thank them…and you…for speaking the truth about the breast cancer industry. Keep up your great blog!

  5. You, Terri Luanna, are a gift from another world. And while I’m still a part of this one, I will continue to revel in the joy that you bring to every spirit you touch. To know you is to understand humility.
    Thank you for opening all of our hearts, minds, spirits….and S O U L S.
    Aunty Cole

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  8. I read something recently that touches on exactly what you are talking about. I like to say, “Think Before You Pink”. You are awesome!!

  9. Here, here. You have hit the nail on the head yet again. My husband has lung cancer and I am furious at the “commercialization” of cancer. Every show on TV; every magazine you pick up; every day a new walk/sale/event…it drives me crazy. With the amount of support gathered, financially and otherwise, there should be a ‘cure’ by now or at least a whole lot of progress. What you’re asking for in your blog is “preventative” medicine…drug companies (the ones who fuel the fire) are not big on cures. Don’t get me wrong, there are some dedicated, honest, amazing people working hard in tiny, crowded laboratories, hanging on to the pennies of their grants that they have to sweat and give blood to get…these are the ones that are researching cause and cure. But they don’t show up in pink ads or emotional stories. They are working too bloody hard for that. When did cancer become such a commercial success? As you say there is nothing pretty or pink about it. As for donating money to a worthy cause…mostly what that buys you is more requests for money usually using some form of emotional blackmail…”little Timmy lost his leg to cancer. You can help.” Give me a break.
    Is there a purpose behind my rant? Not really…just wake up people. This is not something to be taken lightly or to be the subject of a ‘feel good’ cause. It doesn’t feel good, it’s the scourge of the 21st century. It’s more deadly than anything previously suffered in history. I doubt that they glamourized the Spanish flu when it killed millions. Let cancer return to the laboratories. Let doctors promote healthy lifestyles instead of managing disease. Let’s get real about this so our children don’t have to live in fear like we do. Let’s take steps to eliminate everything that has been related to cancer – the additives in our food, the toxins in our air, the chemicals we are subjected to on a daily basis…lets do something productive for a change instead of selling pink ribbons and telling ourselves we’re helping.

    Wow, I guess I didn’t realize how angry I really was.

    • Amen!!! I love your rant and welcome your anger any time. The more I read & research, the angrier I get. Now I just have to figure out how to use my social work background & community organizing skills to channel our anger into a productive way to fight against the system for true change. Hhhmmmm….

  10. Terri,
    I totally get your anger piece. It seems since October rolled in I have been having some issues with anger. I would love to be able to put our heads together and figure out a way for our voices and concerns to be heard. It would be great if we could communicate in some way. You have my email adress please feel free to contact me if you would like. We share so many similarities in our views in fighting this condition ( notice how I dont call it a disease I feel like that gives it too much power).
    All my best ….Marie

  11. Today my son’s 3rd grade football team had a breast cancer awareness sticker put on their helmets. He asked me, “why?” My answer (right or wrong) was that there are a lot of people who are sick. This sticker helps people know how many. We need to work to help those people who are sick know that we care. We need to show them we will fight on the football field like they fight each day. He smiled and ran on the field.

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  13. Hi. I just found your blog, or rather it found me. This month I keep hearing about how Everyone knows people touched by cancer. I don’t. You are literally the closest person to me that has cancer and you are my favourite author’s daughter. Not exactly a huge emotional bond. Nonetheless I started reading your blog because I may be lucky enough not to have been touched by cancer, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t understand those who are. This particular post really hit me. I stopped donating money to breast cancer charities a few years ago. Why? you ask. I stopped when the BC Breast Cancer Association refused a donation from Exotic Dancers for Cancer, and several other breast cancer charities followed suit. These women donated their time and money to an annual fundraiser. Their jobs are legal and they pay taxes. This money was not in any way from criminal activities and if anyone is counting on saving breasts it’s strippers!, but several breast cancer charities refused their money. I said screw it, if you can afford to refuse donations then you don’t need my money and turned to other organizations to spend my charity dollars. I’m really looking forward to watching the documentary you’ve recommended and reevaluating my thoughts on breast cancer research charities. Maybe I’ll start donating again and maybe not, but you’ve really got me thinking so Thanks and Blessed Be. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    • Are you flippin’ kidding me?!?? Refusing a donation because it came from an exotic dancer?? That totally pisses me off. I woulda done the same thing you did – screw it. I almost feeling like contacting them myself to say something. How ridiculous!
      Thanks for the positivity and prayers Alexis. Glad I got ya thinking too 😉

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