Tag Archives: pinkwashing

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??!!!

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 2.11.36 PM


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” . . .


Brinker Stinker: A Reminder of What Susan G. Komen is Not About . . .

5 May
Nancy Brinker

This is Nancy Brinker, clapping her hands, maybe she is applauding herself for a job well done (sic). Well I am one person who is not clapping my hands for you Nancy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This blogging thing can sometimes feel like a burden. It seems that I never know how to begin or finish a post anymore. I want to write, probably need to write, and most definitely I feel a responsibility to write. Especially when it has been the kind of week this past week has been in the breast cancer community.

In the past week, two of my friends have had cancer return and a third friend, who has been living with metastatic breast cancer for some time, is now dealing with very severe health problems due to her treatment (to put it mildly, she is in a great deal of pain). This is part of the world of breast cancer. It is not the pink bowed version of things that the Susan G. Komen Foundation sells (mammograms and early detection equal a cure, etc.). Well, clearly mammograms and early detection do not equate to a cure.

And now, this just out: Nancy Brinker reportedly gave herself a 64% raise last year (see the Dallas News article here). She also claimed she was going to step down as CEO last year (amidst public outcry to do so).  And yet she has not stepped down – she is still listed as the CEO of SGK and – apparently right around the time she was reportedly going to step down as CEO – she instead gave herself a 64% raise – way to keep up with inflation, Nancy.

According to the Dallas Morning News: “The nonprofit’s latest 990 IRS filing shows that Brinker, founder and CEO, made $684,717 in fiscal 2012, a 64 percent jump from her $417,000 salary from April 2010 to March 2011.”

I wrote a letter in 2011 (that I also posted on my blog) asking the Susan G. Komen Foundation to leave me alone (I was tired of being hit up for money and tired of being misled). I think given the recent news of Nancy’s 64% raise that this earlier post is relevant. Here it is again: SGK: Please Leave Me Alone

I should note that since that post, Susan G. Komen’s “marketing” department contacted me via email on multiple occasions – apparently my blog post version of my letter to them got some traffic and so they felt the need to respond (even though my attempts to reach them over 100 times – yes, really…I called over 100 times – were ignored).

They never responded to my letter until the blog version of it started getting some traction and traffic (retweets and comments on a blog can get some attention and apparently it got SGK’s marketing department’s attention). While they finally responded, their response was not to deal with any of the real issues I raised, but instead to dissuade me from writing anything negative about them. In fact, the person who contacted me from Susan G. Komen told me that it was “her job to be ‘in the know’ about what was being said about Komen” . . . wow. She went on to tell me that it was essentially her job to deal with people like me.

It all seemed incredibly disingenuous to me. And, even a bit creepy. I felt a little like I was being stalked. And, truth be told (and I am ashamed to admit this) it did dissuade me from speaking out against SGK. I felt intimidated. I felt harassed. And, I just didn’t want to deal with any more direct contact from them. (Keep in mind, they sought me out and emailed me at my personal email associated with this blog – not an email I have ever given to them).

I have attended SGK’s race for the cure. The event is something that many breast cancer survivor’s enjoy. I can appreciate that. There is a “Survivor Ceremony” and many survivors, I am sure receive something positive from the event. My problem with it is that it feels like a huge fraud. I don’t just mean the fact that the money SGK brings in each year – all in the name of a “race for a cure” – is mostly spent on things other than researching a cure (in 2010 Komen put less than 19% of the 389 million dollars it raised in the name of a cure towards actual research) . . . it is also the phoniness of it all – the tunnel vision and the false portrayal that everything is fine, that we are doing enough about breast cancer, that women are surviving because of us (Komen) and aren’t we (Komen) great.

The fraud that I witnessed (in addition to what I outlined in my letter back in 2011) was the parading around of women who have had breast cancer and now speak as though it was some little blip in their lives – that now everything is perfect and all the while Komen seemingly takes credit for these survivor stories. It feels like a cover up. It stinks, no wreaks, of false promise and false hope. And, worse, it makes people complacent because they are lead to believe that Komen is really fighting for a cure when clearly the numbers do not add up to that.

It feels like Komen uses these women to further their spin that early detection will save lives; that mammograms will save lives. The truth is that some people get cancer and some people don’t. The truth is that some people get it and get better and some people don’t. The truth is that early detection or not, no one knows why some people’s cancer’s recur. Early detection is not a cure. But, Komen sells the idea that it is a cure – and all this really tells me (along with their failure to put even 20 percent of the millions they raise towards research) is that they have given up on searching for a cure . . . and certainly there is no “race for a cure” . . . not that I can see.

I really want to believe that Brinker started the Susan G. Komen Foundation with the real goal of ending breast cancer. But, the constant spin about early detection being essentially a cure is not only misleading, it means that SGK is content with the status quo. They are satisfied with things as they are . . . despite Nancy’s claims that she is not . . . actions speak far louder than words.

The reality is that if SGK wasn’t absolutely okay with things the way they are (okay with my friends dying, okay with not understanding why some women who are diagnosed with breast cancer survive and never have a recurrence while others – also diagnosed early – at some later point end up with metastatic breast cancer), then they would put real money towards research; they would actually race for a cure and they would fund research for the most underfunded area of breast cancer: metastatic breast cancer – the kind that kills.

I am tired of seeing my friends suffer, tired of losing friends to this disease, fearful of losing more friends to this disease . . . and I am also tired of being fearful of a recurrence. This is the side of breast cancer that Komen not only seems to ignore, but they seem to simply sweep right under the rug.

This little rant of mine is for Rachel Morro who died of metastatic breast cancer and for my friends currently dealing with metastatic breast cancer. Something has to be done. Just think, if even half of the the money that had been given to SGK in 2010 had been put towards research (instead of Rachel Morro of Cancer Culture Chronicles calculation of only 19% or Reuters calculation of only 14%) then nearly 200 million dollars could have gone to breast cancer research in just one year alone. Now that could really be something.

Komen raises millions of dollars each year in the name of a cure. In doing so, they are essentially siphoning funds away from breast cancer research. How can I say this? Well, apparently at least 80% of the nearly 400 million dollars Komen raised in 2010 went to something other than research. I highly doubt that donors expected 80 cents of every dollar they donated to go to something other than research for a cure. So, if that money had not gone to Komen, then it could have gone directly to actual research – it could have gone directly to what those making donations likely expected it to go to – to research for a cure. Research is what will lead to a cure – not mammograms, not awareness, not pink porta-potties and pink golf carts, not pink anything.

I am not against pink. I am just against the double talk and deception. You simply can not claim to be racing for a cure if you are spending less than 20% of the millions of dollars you take in – in the name of “ending breast cancer forever” – on research.

I expect to hear from SGK’s marketing department very soon . . .

Pinktober Blues . . .

29 Oct
Cover of "Promise Me: How a Sister's Love...

So Nancy is calling this a "global movement" to "end breast cancer"? I don't think 19% to research is going to do it. I have no problem with money going to education or even to awareness, but, stop claiming you are "ending breast cancer", stop claiming you are "racing for a cure" because at your snail pace of 19% you are NOT.

This month has been rough in many ways. Partly it is because it is Pinktober. And partly it is because I just have not felt well. I have had a headache for 6 weeks now. That is nothing compared to what some of my friends have to endure. So, I feel weird even mentioning it. But, with those headaches I have the ever present fear of a recurrence. That is the lot for those of us who are lucky enough to be NED (no evidence of disease) . . . aches and pains take on a whole new possibility.

My headaches are getting under control a bit and I have actually had some breaks from it as well as just a lower intensity. So that is definitely an improvement.

I wonder though if my headaches are from Pinktober. I am serious. I really think it is . . . if not Pinktober, then Komen.

You see, it is difficult to be surrounded in a sea of pink, to be constantly asked if you want to make a donation “to breast cancer” whenever you are in a check out stand at a grocery store. It is difficult when you know that all of this pink hoopla results in very little of the purchase price going towards research, towards a cure. And, sometimes none of it goes to research, sometimes it simply goes to “awareness”. Well, that means it goes towards pink packaging.

I AM truly suffering from pink fatigue. I have been angry and depressed about it.

Please understand that if I thought any of this sea of pink would improve survival rates for breast cancer I would feel very differently about it. But, in all the years that Komen has been taking money in the name of “racing for a cure” the survival rates for breast cancer are largely unchanged. Those of us who are diagnosed with aggressive forms of breast cancer (even when detected early) do not have a great prognosis of long term survival. Overall survival rates are pretty much the same as twenty years ago. Early detection is NOT a cure.

So I am angry. I am angry that Komen, an organization whose mission is to “end breast cancer forever” only spends about 19% of the nearly 400 million they raise each year on research.

And, this year Komen has sunk to a new low with “Promise Me”, a perfume commissioned by Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Komen’s Promise Me contains chemicals not listed in the ingredients that are regulated as toxic and hazardous. But, because the FDA does not regulate perfume, there is no requirement to list these chemicals on the label. And, of the approximately $60 purchase price, only $1.31 goes to research . . . this after subjecting anyone who wears it to chemicals that are known to cause disease. Pretty sick, right?

So, when I stand in line at the grocery store and the clerk innocently asks me if I want to donate “for the cure” I literally feel queasy. For some reason I see myself lying on a table going through the surgery I had to remove both of my breasts . . . I actually picture that in my head. I donated those parts of my body for breast cancer, for survival, so that I could have the chance to still be here today. That is what I think about when I am asked to donate for “the cure”.

I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for the RESEARCH that lead to Herceptin . . . without that drug I would surely be dead. I am so, incredibly grateful.

But, we can have more than Herceptin, we could have a cure. So, while I am grateful I am also very angry. Angry that an organization like Komen who raises the lion’s share of money in the name of a cure only donates 19% of that money to research.

I am angry that good people, with the best of intentions are taken advantage of, are lead to believe that they are really making a difference when they buy something that has a Komen ribbon on it.

I am angry.

I am sad that I have friends who will not survive cancer because we are wasting our time with pink hoopla instead of real money for real cures. And I fear that I too will succumb one day to this disease . . . that there will not be a cure in time.

Some of you know that I play standup bass and sing. I am in a small blues band. Tonight I was asked to fill in for a bass player in another band because that bass player’s mother passed away today . . . from cancer.

I immediately agreed to fill in. I’ve never sat in with this band before, but, hopefully I will be able to keep up with them.

I wonder if some day someone will be calling for a bass player to fill in for me . . .