Tag Archives: breast cancer awareness month

Pinktober: One Week Down, Three To Go.

6 Oct

It has been a crazy several months (more on that in another post) and I have wanted to write here on many occasions. But, each time, words seemed to fail me. I’ve really wondered what I could possibly add to the conversation about breast cancer or survivorship given that there are so many amazing voices out there doing it every day. And every time I think I am going to write, I don’t even know where to start. I feel like I have said pretty much what I want to say and don’t really want to become a broken record. Nothing is really new, right?

And, I guess that is the problem: nothing is really new.

We still have pink washing, breast cancer awareness month and very little of the money raised in the name of a cure going to actual research and . . . 

still, 30% of ALL women who are diagnosed with breast cancer will become metastatic – as in having an incurable disease, as in they will die from breast cancer.

Cancer sucks. Period.

One week down, three to go. For all of what I love about October (baseball playoffs – especially if my Angels are in it, my empty, beautiful beach, sunsets over Catalina and Halloween) I also dread October. It is pinkified and Komenified for the entire month. Hate that. There is pink everything, everywhere. Turn on the your t.v. and you’ll see it in commercials, the back drop of newscasts, the NFL, you name it, everyone and everything is pink.

Not going to drink this . . .

How is drinking pink alcohol fighting against breast cancer?

There is ridiculous pink branding and pink washing everywhere (Mike’s hard lemonade usually goes pink along with Campbell’s Soup, and so, so many other companies).  Walk into any grocery store, it is as prominent as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas . . . it is like Nancy Brinker started her own damn pink holiday and it lasts a full month long. I realize it is not all Komen, but it seems to be mostly them and if you have read my blog much, well then you know how I feel about Komen. I will never believe that an organization that collected 389 million dollars in the name of a cure (in 2010), but only put 14% of that 389 million towards research, could ever become an organization that I could support or trust. For more on that see: Komen By The Numbers: 2010 And Still No Answers” and how Komen participated in pinkwashing by pedaling their own pink product, here.

Here is just one of many examples of something that is pink-washed – Essie’s “Breast Cancer Awareness” nail polish – by the way, nail polish usually contains toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate (aka: dpa) – all known carcinogens – but who wants to be aware of that . . .

And how about these clever names for breast-cancer-awareness, possibly-cancer-causing-nail-polish: “Pink Happy” and “Pinking About You” and my absolute least favorite: “I Pink I Can” . . . really??!!!

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In fairness to Essie – since they do not disclose a complete list of their ingredients online –  I can’t be sure if they use the “toxic three” in their nail polish. But, most nail polish sold in the United States contains all three.  And all three are known carcinogens. But, let’s not go too crazy with all this awareness . . .

The one ingredient Essie does list online is: “dimethicone” which is a “smoothing silicone” substance that can accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes and appears to be linked to the “growth of tumors” (“Cancer Alert: Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid”, by Dr. Edward Group). Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

That, my friends, is pink washing – selling a product that is known to contain chemicals that cause or contribute to breast cancer in the name of breast cancer awareness.

One of the things I dislike the most is that for all of this “awareness” and supposed racing for the cure, we are not closer to a cure. 40,000 women will die of metastatic breast cancer this year. Not a good statistic at all. I have lost many friends, including my aunt, to breast cancer. I will see more friends die. I might die of it too

We need research. We need to learn what causes breast cancer. We need to educate. We need more RESEARCH. We really don’t need: pink portapotties, pink golf carts or Mike’s Hard “pink” Lemonade or make-me-aware-pink-potentially-cancer-causing-nail-polish with cute (sic) names. We don’t need more awareness.

I dislike the pink onslaught and pink hoopla because it celebrates something that truly is not happening. We aren’t curing breast cancer with pink balloons and pink products. This “awareness” isn’t getting us anywhere.  Sometimes I wonder if we are even treading water. My friends, your friends, are still getting diagnosed, still going through chemo, still dying, period. It is just so damn tiring. Why don’t we just all admit it – this cure thing is a fiction at this point. We are no closer to a cure now than we were when my Aunt died of metastatic  breast cancer in 1994. But, one thing is for sure – the pink profiteers are profiting big time – all in the name of breast cancer awareness.

For me, my personal breast cancer awareness is about the daily physical and emotional ramifications I still deal with nearly six years out. For me, breast cancer awareness is about my friends who have died, who will die and who will be diagnosed. For me breast cancer awareness is about how difficult it still is sometimes to simply live my life. For me breast cancer awareness is the guilt I feel in saying that very thing – that it is “difficult” being a “survivor.” After all, don’t I realize how lucky I am to be alive six years out? Of course I do. But, knowing how amazingly lucky I am does not mean that I don’t also feel like crap some or even a lot of the time. Pain and lymphedema are frequent visitors post cancer treatment.

On the upside, I’ve learned to shrug off pains now without too much thought of it being a recurrence. That is some real progress. But, I continue to see my friends get diagnosed. Many friends have had recurrences. And so for me, not thinking about a recurrence is something I have to actively work at, especially when I am seemingly surrounded by all of this pink crap during October.

So for the rest of this month of breast cancer awareness I am going to try to be less aware of the pink and try to see the orange and black halloween decorations and the fall colors displayed in the grocery stores (let’s face it, living in Southern California, that is about as close as I get to seeing “fall colors”) and try not to see too much of the sea of pink. And, I will try not to retort back with something snarky to the well meaning grocery store clerks when they ask me if I want to “donate to breast cancer” (whatever the %@&# that means). I have always been tempted to respond with something like this: “No thank you, I’ve already donated my breasts to breast cancer. I think that is enough” . . .


I still love the fall . . . but

1 Oct

Fall has always been my favorite time of the year. I live in Surf City, USA, walking distance from the beach. I love it here. Summers are crowded with vacationing tourists and locals sometimes roll their eyes a little bit over the people that invade our home for those three solid months of summer. But, I actually like the summers too. I like that I live somewhere where people want to come and spend their vacations – it is a great reminder of how lucky I am to live here. And, I even enjoy the crowds – especially knowing that it is a temporary condition. Sometimes I walk down to the beach on a July or August day and it looks like there is one large pep rally going on, a sea of umbrellas, beach blankets, and sunburns. And then there are my family and friends that come to visit (maybe a little bit more often in the summer – to escape the inland heat) and my downstairs tiled entrance is covered in sand, and I like it because it reminds me that my nephew has just visited.


This is my empty beach 🙂

But, when summer winds down and the crowds leave and fall approaches – that is my favorite time of year. Surf City returns to this little small town. The crowds are gone and it is just “us”, those who live here year round. The locals here know each other, I often walk to a local breakfast place and they know my name (no, it isn’t Cheers and I am not Norm). They know what I am having for breakfast and I am asked if I want my breakfast now, or “do I want to sit for bit” (I like to read the paper). I visit with other regulars. It is nice. And the beach – the empty expanse of the beach in the fall

Pink Ribbon chocolate lollipops for Breast Can...

Pink Ribbon chocolate lollipops for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Saving lives one processed, sugar containing ribbon at at time? NOT.

– is truly remarkable. I feel like it is a secret because if people only knew that the beach here is empty this time of year – surely they would come. The weather is amazing right now, the sunsets are glorious and I am grateful to have this all right here where I live.

This is my favorite time of year. But, October . . . not so much. I still love it here. And, thankfully the beach does not become riddled with pink ribbons. I am grateful for that. But everywhere else? It is Pinktober.

I most definitely do not like Pinktober. It has always felt like this big scam. And when my Aunt was dying of breast cancer the sea of pink all felt so wrong to me. What had big pink done for her? What had the Susan G. Komen Foundation done for her? They did not help her get better, they did not “race for a cure” for her. They did not race for a cure for me. They did not race for a cure for any of my friends who have metastatic breast cancer and they did not prevent my Aunt or any of my friends from dying.

I have thought a lot about how I was going to deal with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the pink onslaught.

Would I write scathing articles about Susan G. Komen’s hoarding of all of the breast cancer research funding and how they have – for so many years now – hijacked the lions share of breast cancer research funds and not actually put it towards research? (In 2010 the Susan G. Komen Foundation only put 14% of the 389 million dollars they raised in the name of “racing for a cure” towards research – the rest of it went to, oh I don’t know: maybe salaries – like Nancy Brinker’s $600,000,000 plus a year salary, to pink port potties maybe, to pink golf carts, maybe . . . who knows . . . but it didn’t go towards research).

Would I skip shopping for the next month (as I did for the most part last October) to simply avoid being bombarded by the pink? Would I refrain from speaking up in a grocery store line, and telling people how I really feel about SGK and pink-washing, when I am asked if I will “donate money to breast cancer”?

Every time I was in the check out line of my local grocery store last year, I was asked “if I wanted to donate money to breast cancer” . . . I don’t even know what that means – donate to breast cancer. I sometimes wanted to respond with: “No thanks, I donated my breasts, some lymph nodes, and peace of mind to breast cancer . . . I think that is quite enough for now.”

It is all this big giant shell game really. “Here, let me take your money for buying that pink ribboned, processed, cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting “food” product and we will put some of that money towards . . . something and you will feel like you have done something good today”.

I’m not saying that money does not go to research. I am saying that not enough money goes to research. And, I am saying that I think we have enough awareness – at least of breast cancer – that it exists.

But, some are unaware that after all of these decades of pink, decades of “races for the cure”, decades of “awareness”, and decades of Pinktobers, mortality rates for breast cancer are basically the same, unchanged. So where’s this race they keep talking about? I think it has been pretty much a run around in circles. And for someone who has attended a few “races for the cure” I can say that there has been little or no attention to metastatic breast cancer at these events. Metastatic breast cancer is the only kind that kills. It is the kind that killed my aunt. It is the kind that has killed my friends. It is the kind that will kill more of my friends and it is the kind that could kill me if the cancer I had were ever to recur.

That is what bothers me. I could stand the pink a whole lot better if I thought it were actually doing something.

I still haven’t figured out what I am going to do this October. I know that I am going to live my life, run my business, play some music, take walks on the beach, participate in the 12 week breast cancer “Step by Step” clinical trial (it is an exercise program for breast cancer survivors and it started yesterday) and I am going to be grateful and I am probably going to agitate a little bit . . . because that is how change happens. And we most definitely need some change.