Hey everyone, guess what?
I’m going to yell this as loud as I can, and maybe run a few walk-a-thons and Races for the Cure, and throw millions of pink balloons, ribbons, and baseball caps in the mix to get you excited . We’ll have our favorite NFL football players dress in pink socks and shoes instead of their team colors. We’ll wrap awareness ribbons around our greasy buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, high fructose syrup laden bottles of Pepsi, and our sugar-high Snickers bars. It’s a big national party, in fact.
Because we really, really, REALLY want to make sure that you are AWARE of breast cancer.
Are you aware of it?
Lord help us, we’ve been devoting an entire month to awareness of breast cancer for close to 30 years now. If you are not aware, you are from another planet.
But where has all this “awareness” really gotten us over the past three decades? Breast cancer is currently the second leading cause of death in North American women, right behind heart disease. Despite all of our modern cancer detection and treatment methods, and the billions of dollars raised and spent in the name of research, the percentage of women dying from breast cancer hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last thirty years.
So it seems to me that an awareness of a different kind is in order. I’m devoting all my blog articles this month to this new awareness, because I wonder if you’re aware that:
- Breast Cancer Awareness efforts have less to do with producing a cure or preventing women from getting cancer in the first place than they do with huge profits for the pharmaceutical and mammogram industries that have corrupted this movement. Profiting from this disease doesn’t stop there, either, as thousands of companies that contribute to the awareness movement also contribute directly to the epidemic through their carcinogenic products, while others simply make money off the pink products millions of us will buy this month.
- The main push behind this awareness month is to get more women to be screened through mammograms. However, mammograms are less effective than you’ve been led to believe in the early detection of cancer, and much less effective than self-exams (which don’t cost a penny). Not only that, but there is growing evidence that mammograms are dangerous, especially to premenopausal women, both because of the breast compression process and the radiation emitted during the procedure.
- Despite the American Cancer Society’s statements to the contrary, prevention measures are possible – both in terms of the things we should avoid, and the things we should do. And there are very critical things that survivors can do to take them from the level of “cancer survivor” to that of “thriver.” These things are important for us as women, but they are even more valuable the earlier in life we take these steps for our daughters.
This month is “celebrated” by millions of well-intentioned individuals, including many who are survivors themselves, and many more who have lost loved ones to this devastating disease. The problem is, instead of the focus being on the environmental, lifestyle and nutritional causes of the disease that can really make some headway in beating breast (and other kinds of) cancer for good, we have our attention pointed exclusively in the direction of mammograms, biopsies, radiation and chemotherapy. Corporate interests are at stake, and so the benefits of all these procedures have been exaggerated to the public, while the risks and dangers have been downplayed. These are the topics I will cover over the next three weeks in my blog posts.
But there’s always been something else about this month that’s bothered me… something that came into very clear focus for me when I saw the trailer for a movie called Pink Ribbons, Inc. Why is this disease in particular – breast cancer – something we address in such a light-hearted way… like it’s a party, like it’s cute, like it’s something to celebrate? I know the celebration is ostensibly for those who have survived, but I don’t get the party atmosphere and never have.
There is nothing cute about breast cancer.
Worse still, breast cancer goes beyond being trivialized to being sexualized, and very few seem to mind. The first time I saw the term, “Saving the Tatas,” I was frankly appalled. Then I saw a slogan about “Saving the Boobies.” There’s even a t-shirt out there that, believe it or not, sports the phrase, “Saving Second Base.”
We aren’t talking about sex here. We’re talking about disease and death. I don’t see any parties being thrown for men with prostate or testicular cancer, or blue t-shirts touting the need to save anyone’s balls.
And we never will. Because our society much more quickly accepts the sexualization of women, even to the point of using a deadly disease to do it, than it ever will accept the same for men.
And the worst part about this is that as long as we trivialize this disease, make it cute, even make it sexual, taking it seriously and finding a cure will be that much more difficult.
I love dearly the women I know who’ve been through this awful disease, and I grieve for the women I know who’ve lost their lives to it. Forgive me if I don’t come to the party, refuse to wear the cute pink ribbons, or opt out of running in a race that simply won’t do much to spare others from suffering the same. It’s precisely because I honor those women that I won’t trivialize them or their experiences.
Instead, I choose to write – and hopefully, shed some light.