Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pink Ribbon Culture: It's decorative breast cancer season, motherfuckers!!!

File:Pink Ribbon chocolates.jpg
Pink Ribbon Culture:
It's decorative breast cancer season, motherfuckers!!!

It's October, guys!!!  What does that mean?  Let's wear some tiny pink t-shirt, get us some pink ribbon pedicures and get out there and raise awareness!

I can't speak for everyone out there who has breast cancer, but "breast cancer awareness month" is starting to feel a little like "Capitalism in Pink" month.  Much like rabid eight-year old girls grabbing the last Elsa nightgown, women are crrrrazy for breast cancer merchandise.  Cutesy tees, pink ribbon mugs, cupcakes in pink ribbon theme.  Now, a good friend or relative wearing a pink ribbon or related gear to support a loved one who has or has survived cancer is great.  It has the specific purpose of making that individual feel as supported as possible while they are going through something not so fun.

For example: I feel very supported when my friend makes me a red velvet boob cake.  I do not when I see a barely legal topless girl coquettishly covering her breasts with pink ribbons.  Is this really support?  Or is it to sell magazines, clothes, and tickets?  As awesome as it is to see a bunch of football players in pink, I would love to see where this money goes, because it seems to all go into raising "awareness," a good idea in theory but has turned into a useless buzzword that robs you of a dollar in change at the grocery store.

Awareness.  

Okay, I get the idea.  But, unless the idea is to raise awareness in developing nations, um...I think we've got it.  Lumps bad.  Cancer bad.  Get screened.  I don't know any people that are thinking "Hmmmmm, I wish I knew more about what breast cancer means."  I DO know a lot of people asking how close we are to a cure.

As a breast cancer survivor, I am both flattered and annoyed when I am inundated with breast cancer awareness imagery.  It's sort of the same kind of flattered as when people tell you you are in a "battle" with cancer and you wonder if they get that it's not like you have a choice.  As much as I'd like to imagine myself as Arwyn from Lord of the Rings magically casting a river of water horses on the Ringwraiths that is cancer, it's mostly a couch and hospital bed type battle.  Similarly, with awareness, I thought at first that it was remarkable how many companies and sports teams were getting on the breast cancer cure train.

But, wait.  It's not for a cure.  It's for awareness.  And awareness won't take away the weakness during chemo, the lost jobs due to missed work, or the constant fear of recurrence.  And the companies and teams aren't really supporting us.  They are supporting PINK.  Unfortunately, pink isn't a person, a cure, or a doctor.  It's just stuff.

Now that it's October, I find myself in the intolerable dilemma that is whether or not to donate money when they ask me everywhere I go.  Part of me wants to--what if it goes to research, which will help me and the nice people I know who have been saddled with this insufferable d-bag of a disease?  Part of me wants to tell the cashier: "Actually I am donating to support breast cancer survival--by keeping this dollar just in case I get it again."  Too mean?  I end up donating whenever I hear the word CURE and not the work AWARENESS.  Because, I'm aware.  Trust me.

A big problem with all of this smothering awareness is how keenly certain I am that only a minuscule amount of the profits are going into research.  My cancer, for example, is hormone receptor positive.  This means an excess of something like estrogen can fuel tumors in any of my reproductive organs.  When I ask doctors, they often say they are still pretty much in the dark about how hormones affect the body.  In my personal case, I suffered from anxiety for 15+ years.  When I was diagnosed with cancer and put on a drug that blocked my estrogen, my anxiety and depression all but disappeared within months.  I'm no expert, but it seems like people should be really looking into this.  But the research isn't sexy, right?  The research isn't a topless nineteen year-old.

So, speaking as a breast cancer survivor, three years counting, please cut this shit out.  If you are giving your time and money to find a cure, great.  If you don a sassy shirt or a pink ribbon to show your support FOR A PERSON WITH CANCER, even more great.  If you HAVE cancer, totally get that shirt that says: "Yes they're fake; my real ones tried to kill me."  Go nuts.  But don't flirt with guys in a revealing pink Niners jersey at Levi Stadium and think you're doing something for cancer.  

And, to the companies out there that claim to be selflessly raising awareness about my condition: enjoy rolling in your piles of pink money.  I bet it's TOTALLY raising awareness.