The Double Edged Sword of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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(Image from  Consensys )

I am very grateful for all of the positive outcomes of the pink ribbon campaign. For example, I know I’m not alone. Additionally, when I discuss my diagnosis, generally people aren’t acting as though they are super uncomfortable. The pink ribbon sticker in the back of a car brought me to tears when I saw it one day as I driving to a medical appointment for breast cancer. I was so sorry that someone else may have had to endure the same treatments I did, and I also felt a kinship.

I had tremendous mixed feelings last year as I walked around Salem Health and was confronted with life sized cut outs of women that had meassages about breast cancer. Many of these were statistics about factors that people do not have control over. While I think information is generally a helpful thing, these troubled me. (They disappeared at the end of October, so they were part of an awareness campaign.)

I have some problems with the pink tide that rises in October. It seems like a marketing bonanza for many companies, which feels exploitative. Consumers may assume that buying a product with a pink ribbon means a donation will be made toward a breast cancer organization, but that’s not always true.  Another example is from several years ago, there were popular pink wrist bands touting “I love boobies”, which the boys in my class could point to and claim to support breast cancer awareness. I’m still dubious.

My final comment (for today) is that I want to avoid being reduced to a pink ribbon or a single issue, which I fear can happen when bumper sticker politics take over a complex issue.

 

8 thoughts on “The Double Edged Sword of Breast Cancer Awareness Month”

  1. I totally agree. On one hand these theme months bring awareness to an important cause. However, it is strongly used as a marketing tool. “A portion of the proceeds will go to breast cancer research…” What portion? One percent, ten percent, half? What group will it be donated to? I personally don’t want to be incentivized to donate to a charity through a pen, a t-shirt or a water bottle but because I believe where my money goes is useful.

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    1. You make good points! I am with you about buying things just to support a cause. I’d much rather just donate. (I probably have enough things- except for fabric and patterns- lol.)

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  2. Your thoughts on awareness are so important. Thank you for not only speaking out, but I think you are also a beacon of hope to so many. My grandmother had breast cancer in the mid 1940s, a time when it was a death sentence. Her doctor took very radical steps, a complete radical mastectomy, as well as a hysterectomy. I cannot begin to imagine what she went through. The reward for me was that she was there for me. I don’t know what my life would have been like without her. She was truly a pioneer. But, on the other hand, she had a very close friend who had been diagnosed at the same time, and died. Her doctor did not do the radical surgery that my grandmother had. And who knows if would have worked for her. She always felt bad that her friend died and she lived. My grandmother died at 88 and with no cancer.

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    1. Yes, I’m so grateful that the research has progressed and the treatments are much more targeted and useful. And I’m so glad that your grandmother was there for you. The body generally heals from the traumas of surgery, but it’s not so fun!

      I have my final immunotherapy treatment on 10/18 and then “just” five years of hormone therapy (a daily pill). I can’t wait to have my port removed. I think I’ll throw a party!

      As always, thank you for your kind comments. ❤

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  3. My stepmom and maternal had breast cancer, had the surgery and treatments, and survived. It’s scary when to have been “touched” by breast cancer in loved ones, and I understand your ambivalence toward the various pink campaigns. They certainly can dilute an issue, I hope this will not be the case with breast cancer. And I do hope any raised funds are directed as they should be.
    I’ll be following along with blog as your treatment progresses and sending you the very best wishes!

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  4. I think the awareness campaigns have outcomes that far outreach simple “awareness.” They’ve led directly to new laws which have given breast cancer patients access to all sorts of options, including far more complete insurance coverage for treatments than they had before, as well as an increase in monies for breast cancer research. Anything that pushes research forward on this disease and that gives breast cancer patients a voice in their treatments and future is a good — not a bad — thing.

    I also have no problem with the corporate sponsorship of various “pink” activities. It is a necessary component of focusing public interest, and thus making concrete gains in treatment and care for breast cancer patients.

    No one wants their life to be defined by an illness they might have. But, at the same time, I think many of us want to make a positive contribution to those who walk this way after us. The extent to which we act on behalf of other breast cancer patients and survivors is our choice, as is how we are defined.

    That’s because we ultimately define ourselves by how we live and what we do. Nothing that is said by someone else will be stronger than that in the long run.

    The question of whether or not this disease defines us is not a matter of pink ribbons. It’s whether or not we can get well enough to have the opportunity to go on with lives after breast cancer, and, given that, if we do go on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rebecca- thank you for your heartfelt and thoughtful comments. I completely agree that I’d like to leave a positive contribution, and thank you for reminding me that’s a powerful goal.

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