So, it’s only the first week of October and I’m already completely fed up with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This must be some sort of record. It is going to be a long month.
Really. Is there anyone out there who is not aware of breast cancer who is going to be made aware of it as a result of BCAM? Will they see the pink bottles of 24 Hour Energy or pink cans of Campbell’s soup or the new password in the Crown Room Club and suddenly realize there’s breast cancer in the world? Does the NFL really expect conversations like:
“Hey Jimmy Joe, what’s with the pink socks on our team? Did the equipment manager throw a red shirt in with them by mistake when washing them?”
“No Bobby Ray, the socks are for breast cancer awareness.”
“Yeah, it’s a disease that thefreedictionary.com says ‘is caused by the development of malignant cells in the breast. The malignant cells originate in the lining of the milk glands or ducts of the breast (ductal epithelium), defining this malignancy as a cancer.'”
“Wow Jimmy Joe, sounds important. I’m sure glad they’re wearing them pink socks so I could learn about breast cancer!”
Even worse is when some awareness events badly send the wrong message. A local hospital all of a sudden has a whole bunch of plastic pink flamingos in front of it. “How cool” you might think. “Neat to have so many of those pretty birds” you might say. “Nice to see so many of them.”
But in fact, it’s not nice to see so many of them. Each represents a breast cancer patient the hospital has had in the last 2 years. You should want to see fewer of them, not more. But they picked something cool like flamingos to represent the patients, really screwing up the message. (The library in Macon puts out a bunch colorful pinwheels once a year. Really pretty until you realize each represents a report of child abuse. So then you feel bad at liking all the pretty pinwheels. Shesssh.)
Cancer does suck. I’m coming up on 10 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 40 years ago and it was much worse then. Her treatment was so hard on her, she decided not to go through it again and died of cancer at age 60. I on the other hand was back at work the day after chemo. Lots of progress has been made, but not much as a result of pink inner tubes, I don’t think.
But let me tell you, as I was dealing with breast cancer 10 years during BCAM, all the pink sure didn’t make it easier on me. I was really looking forward to a weekend at Florida Tech since that seemed like a place that wouldn’t be overflowing with pink. I was wrong and still resent all the “Real Men Wear Pink” posters I had to deal with between my biopsy and getting the final diagnosis.
Yes, breast cancer is a problem. It killed over 41,000 in the US in 2013. But colon cancer killed over 52,000 and lung cancer killed over 156,000. Still, it’s not as sexy to go around with ribbons and soup cans and flamingos for colons. (They’d have to be brown, wouldn’t they?)
And lung cancer, well, that’s all the victim’s fault, right?
It’s gonna be a long month. I think I’d be happier (oh, let’s be honest, I know I’d be happier) if I thought all this pink was really doing something more than letting people give an extra dollar for a pink lemonade or ribbon shaped bagel and feel like they’ve done their part toward curing cancer.
So, if you care, please don’t just buy a pink ribbon (magnetic or fabric). Don’t buy a super special pink thing where they’ll give extra money to breast cancer. (The worst example of this that I know of is not breast cancer related. It’s SmileTrain’s association with Vertu cell phones–buy a $5,000 phone and they’ll give $250 to charity. Sheesh–why not buy a $1,000 phone and give $4,000 to charity? Well, then you won’t have a $5,000 cell phone.)
Give platelets. Knit a tit. Or a shawl or a cap. If you know someone dealing with cancer, take them dinner, even if she says she doesn’t need it–it really makes a difference (thanks Bob!) Or take them to chemo. Or watch their kids. Or just go out drinking for an evening and let her pretend everything is normal (thanks Fran and Ann and all my church ladies). Or send them a funny card (thanks Carol!). Or give money directly to some cancer charity or other or hospice for when it gets really bad.
At least I’m not alone in this…yay think before you pink!