breast cancer awareness, really? Part I

i love boobies
save the ta-tas
squeeze a breast
tell me again
these phrases do what?
raise awareness
for breast cancer?

i propose
we redefine
breast cancer awareness
this will take some time, some work
in the meantime
i propose
every sale of merchandise
include factual
along with the
titillating messages

something like
breast cancer is not curable
it kills 40,000 people
every year
155,000 people
are living with—no, dying at a slow and
agonizing pace
while cancer defiantly ravages
their bones, lungs, liver and brain

chemotherapy and other
treatments temporarily
hold cancer back
sometimes a long while
sometimes not at all
leaving us
to wonder whether these are
the final steps of our journey

artwork or photos
depicting a breast
or lung or spine
invaded by malignant
or tattered after
surgery or radiation
photos of our good days
on chemo with our
withered black nails
and peeling skin

what? you can’t sell that?
you’d rather gloss over
the details and assert
cancer is sexy
so people can anesthetize
themselves with
soothing pink images
and some organizations
can pretend to sell awareness
when all it really amounts to
is slick packaging
of a deadly reality
to make money for
new campaigns to
raise awareness

5 6 7 8
© 2004–2011 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.


3 responses to “breast cancer awareness, really? Part I

  1. Donna, I am so on this page with you! Pink October makes me retch. I think we should declare October Face the Facts month, and not be quiet until that happens! I posted on Everyday Health about this:

    I plan to be obnoxious about this pinkwashing crap until it ends.

    Love, Elizabeth

  2. I have to admit that I LIKE the ‘pink’ movement. I believe that it has brought awareness of breast cancer to many who otherwise would never have given it a thought (or a dollar). I for one am grateful for the feeling of camaraderie and inclusion that the movement fosters. I think it would be fair to say that the only good thing to come of my breast cancer is the feeling of belonging to a group of people who are sharing the same (to one degree or another) life changing situation. Of course breast cancer is ugly. And it kills. That’s a fact.

    But I believe that being positive and banding together to support each other is much more effective than flaunting the very worst that may be to come. I don’t see where grossing people out with graphic pictures (and I have plenty!) of scars, open sores and/or infections will make people any more willing to give than will inviting them join a movement that hopes to make a positive difference in the lives of those to follow.

  3. I’m with you, sister…

    And Nancy, I understand your position… unfortunately the experience of stage 1 gals is VERY different from that of stage 4 gals. Not only in the physical and mental experience, but also in the experience – or in our case, the lack of experience – of inclusion and support. You are a symbol of hope, proof that it is possible to go on to a normal life again; we are the monsters under the bed, proof that an unfair universe can torture you and then kill you, and there is little you can do about it.

    Often other breast cancer patients act as though we are contagious, and edge away from us; even people who care for us abandon us out of fear, guilt, confusion, discomfort. I’ve had people ask me how I’m doing and then literally turn their backs on me before I can answer. They don’t want to deal with it, and that means they don’t want to deal with me.

    Lots of money goes to ‘education’ (about scanning, not about the realities mentioned above) and to programs to build hope for ‘survivors’ – very little goes to innovative studies on treatments for those of us who have gone beyond the original tumor, or practical help for those of us who are in it for the long (or tragically short) haul, whose emotional and practical needs are significantly different from our stage 1 sisters. BIG difference, and we don’t get much attention, even though our need is at least as great (and certainly more urgent/time sensitive).

    I suspect there is some middle ground between grossing out people with graphics of open sores, and Pinkwashing. Which is, I think, what Donna is saying. If we educate people about the less positive, pinkwashed side of breast cancer, maybe they can be more compassionate, inclusive, and supportive. The infections and the sores and the bald heads may not be pretty – but we still have much to give to the world, and we have value, and we need to be seen and loved and included just as much as our luckier sisters.

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