Tag Archives: pink products

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” . . .


When Pigs Fly: More Thoughts on Komen . . .

24 Jan

This year I could not have been more grateful for the month of October (aka: Pinktober) to end. Next year, my plan for getting through Pinktober (and SGK’s pink peddling and pushing) is to simply do all of my grocery shopping online and at local farmer’s markets. I want to limit my exposure to the sea of pink. And, I don’t want to be asked again at a grocery store checkout stand if I want to donate to Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure” [sic] (And by the way, I mean “SIC” as a double entendre).

Just one of the many pink products sold all year long: a Komen Pig Note Pad. But, take a closer look below . . .

When you’ve had breast cancer you have a whole different insight into the world of pink ribbons, pink products, 5ks and three day walks and so on that are all supposed to raise money for a cure and to help women (and men) with breast cancer. I used to think that SGK was using their money to benefit women with breast cancer and to help find a cure. But, I learned quickly, the hard way, that SGK will not be there for you if you need their help. See my earlier post on how SGK abandons breast cancer patients and leaves us in the cold. (I personally called SGK’s advertised phone number that breast cancer patients are invited to call for financial help over 100 times) and not once did I ever reach a live person, not even a voice mail where I could leave a message – in my opinion – what they did – what they did NOT do – while claiming that they would do something – was fraud).

I know many people who love the pink ribbons and love the Susan G. Komen Foundation and their pink rose ceremonies and pink balloons and 5k walks and  – sadly – they think that buying pink will help eliminate breast cancer . . . one day. They think that buying pink will somehow help someone like me.

So why am I talking about this in January now? I was out picking up some office supplies at my local Staples store and did a double take when I saw all of the Christmas displays and seasonal products for the holidays replaced with pink, pink, pink. Seriously? Is it necessary for this to be a 12 month thing now?

I decided to take a stroll throughout the store and take in all of the pink, just curious about whose name is on it and where this pink-breast-cancer-curing-money is really going. Nearly every product I saw at Staples that was pinked was done so in the name of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Not much of a surprise really.

Maybe when pigs fly we'll have a cure . . . until then, by all means, let's keep "benefitting" SGK!

But, here is what really surprised me . . . they don’t even claim any more to be giving the money to “the cure”. Instead this is what the Susan G. Komen pinked products I found now say: “benefitting” The Susan G. Komen Foundation . . . at least they are being honest about it now . . . where the money from your purchase goes . . . “to benefit The Susan G. Komen Foudation”.

It certainly did not go to benefit me or anyone I know who has had, survived or died of breast cancer. I love this complete lack of accountability (not). I guess it is just par for the course. The sad thing is that people buy this stuff thinking, believing that it will actually lead to a cure . . . yeah, maybe when pigs fly . . .

Pinktober comes early . . . ugh

13 Sep

This past weekend while I was reading the paper I decided to take a look through the Sunday paper’s coupons. (By the way, there is almost never anything that isn’t processed, full of chemicals or full of high fructose corn syrup in the coupon items).

Anyway, to my delight (NOT) I found this (see below) the first of the Pinktober ads that we will soon be inundated with, everywhere, during breast cancer awareness month or what used to be known as OCTOBER.

I already feel more hopeful . . .

Wee! Apparently, just like Christmas, retailers make sure it starts earlier and earlier each year. So now Pinktober – the month of breast cancer “awareness” hell – apparently begins a month early. Why should I be surprised. Costco is already selling Christmas items. And why not let them get a leg up on Pinktober? After all, they are curing cancer right? Oh, wait, I meant to say they are “re-branding” . . . isn’t that what Susan G. Komen calls it when they solicit corporations to pay to be pink?

We have all seen it: Pink buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, pink Hamburger Helper, pink cosmetics (that often include carcinogenic chemicals), pink, pink, pink. So where does your money go when you “go pink”? Well, here is where it goes if it is going to Susan G. Komen (only 19% of it goes towards breast cancer research, this from a “non-profit” that sues little non-profits for the use of its trademarked slogan: “For the Cure” (TM)). See chart below:

The above pie chart was created by Cancer Culture Chronicles. Her post “Komen By The Numbers: 2010 And Still No Answers” is a major eye opener on Komen, their expenditures and just how it is that Komen has a “four star rating”. And for a breakdown of the math behind where your money goes, see these two posts by Uneasy Pink: here, where she points out that only “two percent of all research dollars go to metastatic cancer research” Uneasy Pink goes on to remind us that metastatic breast cancer is the kind of breast cancer that kills. So what are we racing for anyway? Certainly not a cure. Certainly not if only 2% of the money goes to research for metastatic breast cancer. And check out some more math from Uneasy Pink in this post where she calculates that out of the $59.00 purchase price for a bottle of Komen’s “Promise Me” perfume only a stinking $1.51 of the proceeds go to research. PUHleez!

Perhaps one of the most outrageous (to me) pink for profit items I have seen are the pink alcoholic beverages.

Their Campaign: "Good On So Many Levels" See? We can all feel good when we buy these products even it is a known fact that alcohol consumption increases a woman's risk of breast cancer . . .but, whatever, right?

To be fair, these companies do make contributions to breast cancer research organizations. But, don’t think that it doesn’t increase their sales – there is real profit in going pink. And if you don’t believe the power of pink in selling a product, here is what one customer of Mike’s Hard Lemonade had to say:

“I went to pick up some of the Mike’s Hard Berry, I was told it was temporarily replaced for Pink Lemonade, due to Breast Cancer Awareness . . . I noticed the proceeds were also going to Breast Cancer Awareness Research, so I went out and bought a whole case.” (Emphasis added). For more on Mike’s Pink Hard Lemonade’s “Good On So Many Levels” (blech) campaign, and more customer comments where they claim they are purchasing more because of the good it is doing, click  here:  (By the way, what is “breast cancer awareness research“? I think the buyer may have meant breast cancer research . . . who knows . . . who cares – it sells).

I do not like Pinktober. So what is my problem with breast cancer awareness month? Why does it bother me, you might ask? Isn’t it good to increase awareness? Isn’t it good to raise money for research? Sure, but, when so little actually goes to a cure and when so many products in the pink bandwagon are actually dangerous and increase the risk of breast cancer and other cancers, I feel it is at best disingenuous.

But most of all, I do not look forward to being asked to donate a dollar “for the cure” every time I go into a grocery store checkout (when I know that only pennies of that dollar ever go to research and far less goes to research for metastatic breast cancer – remember – the kind that kills). I do not look forward to the wall of pink crap food at the entrance of and through every aisle every grocery store (I have yet to find a remotely healthy product that has gone pink . . . maybe this year I will find one).

I do not look forward to the false hope that pink sells.

Komen's "Promise Me" Perfume (or what I like to call "Fleur de Fraud"). Cost of this perfume: $59.00. Actual amount of purchase price that goes towards cancer research: $1.51 (Thank you to Uneasy Pink for doing the math).

And I especially I do not look forward to my disease, my suffering, my Aunt’s suffering and her ultimate death from breast cancer, and the suffering of so many other women and men being hijacked for profit.

I do not look forward to my friends and loved ones – who often have felt so helpless in the face of my illness – manipulated into purchasing items that are pink, tricked into believing it is doing me some good or that it will help some woman out there, when in fact these pink purchases often deliver very little to research. And some, deliver none – their promise in exchange for your money? To increase awareness. We need to move past awareness and sink our dollars (not just pennies of our dollars) into research.

And what about the walks and races to raise money for breast cancer? These are often incredibly uplifting events, providing a great deal of support and hope to both cancer patients, survivors and their families and friends. So clearly their IS some value beyond the irritatingly low 19% that goes towards research. Still, in my opinion, not enough. So many show up at these races to do good. I have walked in the past. My friends have walked on my behalf and their doing so has made me feel stronger. Chemobabe wrote a great post about this and dealt with the question of how we can be critical of an organization that makes these experiences (their walks) possible.

And for more reading about Komen try Komenwatch and read here, a blog post by one of my online friends Nancy of Nancy’s Point where she asks SGK for an apology. I agree with you Nancy, I think we all deserve one.

Okay, so you get it by now, Lisa (that’d be me) is not a fan of pink. And now, hopefully, you will have an understanding of why. I am hopeful that SGK (and others who are taking money in the name of breast cancer research) will find the surge of criticism on the web to be constructive and will prove to us all that they can do better than 19%, will do better and will honor their mission (albeit trademarked) to race for a cure (Registered Trademark, Susan G. Komen).

And, just so you know, I have worn my share of pink . . . I wore a pink t-shirt to many chemo and Herceptin rounds. But, I wore that shirt because it had, in very bold, large, black letters the word “FIERCE”.

My Mom bought me this "fierce" t-shirt, it was my "F" word for cancer treatment.

I loved that shirt. It is faded now, having been through the wash many times and worn many times . . . to chemo, to the gym and sometimes to bed. It was as if wearing that word across my chest (and for a good part of the year . . . across no chest) could influence the battle beneath. Fierce. I could make myself fierce even if I did not feel that way, I could make my cells within my body wage the war I needed waged and conquer the cancer.

So, I wore that shirt in spite of it being pink. But, that pink shirt didn’t save me. Research saved me – if I am even saved (I am thankfully, gratefully NED: “no evidence of disease”). Research that lead to the development of Herceptin made it possible for me to still be here. Women who gave their last days of an aggressive cancer to participate in early trials of Herceptin, they saved my life or at the very least, prolonged it.

Awareness did not prevent my cancer. Awareness is not a cure. And, we still, after so many years of pink branding, really do need to race towards research to cure all cancers.

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