What if people treated other cancers like they do breast cancer?

15 Sep

I’ve been recuperating at home the last week or so, healing up after my fourth and FINAL breast reconstruction surgery (just need to “dot the i’s” and I’m done, folks – high five!). Anyway, like any good invalid, I’ve spent most of my time watching Netflix, devouring books and reading social media posts from friends, colleagues and fellow cancer buddies.

I especially liked But Doctor I Hate Pink’s recent call-to-arms, Pinktober, Metastasized, a series of blog posts that takes on a few of the more inane “awareness” campaigns that have popped up so far.

As most women with breast cancer can tell you, the month of October is a huge pink clusterfuck. There are your Boob-A-Thons, your giant bouncing boob races, your Save The Ta-Ta’s wet T-shirt contests (because women who’ve been forced to have mastectomies love nothing more than having healthy normal breasts shoved in their faces). Stores sell everything from pink clogs to pink stun guns with a fraction of the profits going towards yet more “awareness” as opposed to research which could, hello, save women’s LIVES not just their boobs. Even the NFL, which has so clearly demonstrated its love of women in recent days, gets into the act with pink cleats and pom-poms. As I mentioned, a clusterfuck.

Follow the bouncing boob. More importantly, follow the money.

Follow the bouncing boob. More importantly, follow the money.

Particularly annoying are the wrong-headed campaigns encouraging women, including survivors and metavivors (women with metastasized breast cancer who are not exactly “surviving” this crap) to post cryptic and vaguely sexual status updates on Facebook (“I like it on the floor!”), don T-shirts adorned with vapid boob-related slogans or bedazzle their bras (provided they still have them) with lace and sequins, again all in the name of breast cancer awareness.

But Doctor I Hate Pink does a great job of taking on these egregious offenders in her posts (she’s also started a cool new #mycancerisnot4sale social media campaign to fight the pink profiteering). “After five years of being truly, horribly sick, I can tell you that [breast cancer] is not a cute, fun little disease that you can play with or have a party about,” she writes. “Breast Cancer is the most trivialized disease in history … Do they have a tighty whitey decorating party for anal cancer?  Let’s put a little brown glitter around the back end of the underwear, hey? Maybe some red sequins to show one of the signs that cancer lurks in that area? Yeah, let’s tell that cancer story through decoration.”

I love her feistiness and her humor and I especially love her point. You really don’t see other cancers – lung, liver, colon, bladder, prostate, anal, cervical, ovarian, etc. – being trivialized and/or sexualized in the same way that breast cancer has been over the last decade or so (although there is a rather interesting “put your cock in a sock” testicular cancer campaign currently rampaging through the interwebs).

What would it be like if other cancers were treated in the same ridiculous and demeaning fashion that some of these PR geniuses and clueless clods treat breast cancer? Read on to find out (with sincere apologies for those going through colon and testicular cancer). My edits are in italics. The rest is verbatim. As always, looking forward to your thoughts.

NATIONAL BRA (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) DAY promotion letter 

Testicles are so much more than just “the boys” or “gonads.” They’re fabulous. They make us feel sexy, whether we’re in our best outfit, lounging around in our favorite flannel PJs, or just bare butt naked (sic). This fall, we want to spread this sensation of beauty and testicle empowerment to testicular cancer patients and survivors, as well as men nationwide.

Many men who undergo orchidectomy aren’t adequately informed about reconstruction options and reimbursement.  In order to help raise awareness of these available options, we’re celebrating National TRA Day 2014 with a grassroots social media campaign using the hashtag #WHATSUNDERHERE.

Each participant receives a pair of boxer shorts with the #WHATSUNDERHERE hashtag on the front. In addition to the shorts, each kit comes with a set of cards with fun and thought-provoking sayings, such as: “Is Cancer Free,” “Looks Great Naked,” “Will Not Take Cancer Lying Down,” among others.

NATIONAL ‘NO BRA’ DAY – Facebook post from July 2011 

Colons are Fantastic… We all think so. And what better way to express the way we feel than to support a full day of colon freedom?? Humans are magnificent creatures, and so are their colons. Let us spend the day unleashing colons from their colon zoos.

Support breast cancer? Really? Does this hideous disease really need our SUPPORT?

Support breast cancer? Really? Does this hideous disease really need our SUPPORT?

People, free your colons for 24 hours by removing those dreadful (but at times oh-so-helpful) underpants. Our poop chutes should not be hidden! It is time that the world see what we were blessed with. Your colons might be colossal, adorable, miniature, full, jiggly, fancy, sensitive, glistening, bouncy, smooth, tender, still blossoming, rosy, plump, fun, silky, Jello-like, fierce, jolly, nice, naughty, cuddly… But the most used adjectives to describe your colons on this day should be joyous, wild, and spectacular.

Everyone can participate! If you don’t want to free your colon, then your job will be to support everyone else by rocking something brown. It can be a brown tie, brown boxers, brown socks, a brown Colon Cancer Awareness Ribbon, I ♥ Colons Bracelet…. If it is brown, it supports us. (Your support means quite a lot to us…)

**If wearing underpants on this day is absolutely necessary, you can definitely show your support by wearing something brown.**

Yay for colons!

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40 Responses to “What if people treated other cancers like they do breast cancer?”

  1. rosiebogie September 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    So glad that you are back to posting! You make me giggle with your words.

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied September 15, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

      Awwww, thanks so much Rosie. I am truly the world’s most sporadic blogger but then I’ve been a bit busy lately. Four recon surgeries in the last year and a half – plus a new job. It really helps to know people are reading me!

  2. thebreastlife September 16, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    Reblogged this on thebreastlife and commented:
    Great post about the way we treat breast cancer differently than other cancers, when it comes to raising awareness.

  3. Harry September 16, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    I’m a guy. I had stage III squamous cell carcinoma, base of tongue – diagnosed 12/2004. Since that wonderful experience, I have come to think that cancers in all their various fun forms, are epidemic. Several female friends with breast cancer, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, several guy friends with prostate cancer, lung cancer, bowel cancer, etc. I heard a woman on NPR a year or so ago holding forth about the fallacy of all the “pink” things that in her words were sucking money from research and funneling it to for-profit companies. You state the same thing and I agree with you both. Keep the information coming!

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied September 17, 2014 at 9:51 am #

      Thanks for the note, Harry. Always great to hear from other survivors on the site, especially men. Yes, it does seem like everyone you meet these days has been touched by cancer in some way. I don’t know if it’s just that we’re at the age when these kinds of health problems crop up, whether society has determined that it’s “OK” to talk about cancer now so more people are speaking up, whether we’re seeing the results of a decade or so of over-diagnoses or if there is indeed some kind of epidemic in the works. Whatever the case, I’m grateful I’ve been able to connect/communicate with so many other survivors via Twitter, FB, this blog, etc. I’ve always felt that knowledge is power, whether you’re sharing treatment tips (Claritin during chemo helps cut the joint pain!) or airing a bit of dirty pink laundry. Thanks again for stopping by and taking the time to write. And yes, I’ll try to keep the information – and the occasional bit of snark – coming! ; )

  4. Brandie September 18, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    So tacky, isn’t it?
    I just don’t get it.

  5. Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC) September 20, 2014 at 3:53 am #

    This is brilliant! Way to re-introduce yourself to the blogosphere 🙂

  6. CrazyAssCancer September 22, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    The color of ribbon for anal cancer is blue. I think, as I am a sufferer of anal cancer, that you should ask yourself this: What if people treated breast cancer like they treated all other cancers? Let me enlighten you.
    Answer: Poorly funded research, perhaps none. Very few clinical trials available – none available for recurrent or second line treatment. Stigma, applied where necessary. Blame. Your cancer is your fault. Silenced voices. Please don’t talk about your cancer, it makes me uncomfortable. Erase pink ribbons, Pinktober, save the boobies…all gone. All the ACS budget, over 80% of it…kiss it goodbye. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
    All cancers are not treated equally and while I understand your point you need to really think about what you are asking for. What I wouldn’t give for somebody to think my cancer is important. You want to put glitter on your underwear and save my ass? Do it! You want to sponsor a blue ribbon run and have so many actions the nation that it will raise raise millions…billions for research? Do it! Will the White House raise a giant blue ribbon between it’s glistening pillars in support for my cancer? Bring it on. All the donated services supporting my family? I would love that!
    You want to be me for a day and have a blue ribbon cancer with all the rights and benefits? Let’s trade. And while, as a woman, I can completely understand your point there is no way in hell as a fellow cancer sufferer you understand mine. There is no equity in cancer. Not even close…you can’t have it both ways, so if you had to choose which would you pick? Poor sexualized well funded well recognized breast cancer or the more respectable, stigmatized, underfunded anal cancer? I am offended by the lack of gratitude for all the pink ribbon with all it’s faults and misuses has done for you. How would I like it if somebody made a spectical of my cancer? I would like it just fine thank you…all rights and benefits included.

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied October 12, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply, CrazyAss. I suppose breast cancer patients/survivors do seem like a pack of ungrateful wretches whining and complaining about how annoying Pinktober is when “our” disease gets so much attention/financial support. Yes, there are inequities. Yes, BCAM has helped to reduce the stigma of BC — and in doing so, I believe, helped reduce the stigma for many other cancers. But things are getting very out of control at this point. Along with all the attention is blatant misinformation (screening cures cancer!) and trivialization and sexualization of a horrible disease (ta-ta cancer? at least you get a free boob job!). And along with the high profile fundraising, there are heinous examaples of pinkwashing (fracking for the Cure, anyone?) and pink profiteering. So much of the money seemingly raised for breast cancer research, support or awareness is actually going into somebody’s silk-lined pocket. I think these are legitimate complaints about a cause marketing gone awry that any cancer patient/survivor can understand, yes?

    • iamnotmakingup October 13, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      Dear CrazyAssCancer, I appreciate what you are saying and am glad you spoke up. As someone who has had breast cancer and finds the p$^k ribbons troubling, may I suggest that we needn’t compete over which is worse—lack of recognition and underfunding, or pink-washing and trivialization? In other words, I can imagine your point of view as being entirely congruent with what DoubleWhammied is saying. Up to you how you approach it, of course. For my part, I put it this way: the pink ribbon campaigns, ostensibly promoting “awareness,” cause much confusion and misinformation. Many think that catching it early or having frequent mammograms have helped in reducing breast cancer incidences and mortality, but my understanding—from doctors and researchers, though I am always happy to receive more information—is that breast cancer deaths have ***stayed the same*** for decades. And my heart breaks at what you say about the stigma; it may not seem it to you, but we suffer that too. Anyway, I think a lot of this is two sides of the same coin, benefiting neither those with breast cancer nor those with other cancers. I can speak only for myself, not for others, but please know that I, for one, do not want to compete and win a battle and hog all the funding. The organization Breast Cancer Action has also made this point.

      Finally, CrazyAssCancer, if you would like to share these thoughts in some fashion on my “Please Pay Attention to the Woman Behind the Ribbon,” which is intended to open up discussion in exactly this way, feel free to contact me at rosieuntied@pleasepayattentiontothewomanbehindtheribbon.com.

      I wish you well and I hope all of us can feel more kinship (unfortunately!) than discomfort at what is happening around the public discussion of *all* cancers, and more.

      —Rosie Untied

      • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied October 18, 2014 at 8:59 am #

        Thanks for your thoughtful note, Rosie. I totally agree — the last thing cancer peeps need to do is tussle and compete with each other. We’re all in this fucked up mess together.

      • CrazyAssCancer October 18, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

        Rosie,

        I’m not bitter or offended, just envious.

        She brought it up and I responded. The title infers that it might be “nice” to be treated like all other cancers. And then goes on to speak for me as an anal cancer pt that wouldn’t want my story told “through decoration”. Unless you own anal cancer how would you know? You wouldn’t. So I told what it’s like. I think it is difficult to understand. It would be like me, as a home owner, telling a homeless person that although I have home that it’s not really that great and that they don’t want one. Do you see? I think it is difficult to have it both ways. You can’t boast that you hate the sexualization of your cancer and then put on a silver necklace that resembles cleavage and say you draw strength from it and place it out on social media.

        I would love to be in touch! I will contact you soon!

        Michele

  7. Facing Cancer September 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    That was amazing. 🙂 OH my goodness, I enjoyed it. ~Catherine

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied October 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

      Thanks for the read (and the note), Catherine. Glad you got a chuckle from my little rant. ; )

  8. The Accidental Amazon October 4, 2014 at 5:54 am #

    Oh, you read my mind, girlfriend. I’ve thought similar thoughts many times. And, to CrazyAssCancer, it grieves me that other cancers are so neglected. Many of us get told it’s ‘our fault’ for having cancer. My cousin died of colon cancer. My uncle died of melanoma. Almost none of my patients with pancreatic cancer survive. And what is perhaps most galling of all, in the context of the subject, despite all this pink hoopla, the same number of women and men continue to die of breast cancer every year. So much for all the attention.

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied October 12, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

      Thanks for the read and the reply, Amazon. And thanks also for your excellent points re all of the “neglected” cancers out there. I always feel for lung cancer patients during October. “Their” month is November — and more women die of LC than BC (although BC is more common) – yet everyone is so fatigued from Pinktober, they don’t get nearly the coverage/support/attention. I’m praying that all of this will be moot very shortly. That new research and new treatments (immunotherapy, gene surgery, personalized treatments, etc.) will help us turn the corner on all of these horrible diseases. In the meantime, I think it’s good for cancer peeps to stand together and support each other as much as we can.

  9. Michael H Ballard (@ResilientMichae) October 10, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    Very nicely said. Very wisely said. As a 2X colorectal survivor I have made friendamies and enemies from the trivial junk said about that disease. I can only imagine how annoying it is to have the challenge and threat of breast cancer and have to be bombarded with those screwed up messages.

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied October 12, 2014 at 12:37 pm #

      Thanks for the read and the thoughtful reply, Michael. And congrats on kicking your CR cancer twice (awesome!) as well as kicking some of those so-called friends to the curb for trivializing your disease. I would never wish cancer on anyone, but it would be nice if some of these insensitive clods could stand in our shoes for just a day (especially if it’s a day when we’re having a scan, chemo infusion, blast of radiation or surgery). ; )

  10. FlatNFabulous October 11, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

    CrazyAssCancer – Please please know that I am not coming after you at all. There is one point I would like to share with you which actually kind of falls in line with your point. A year ago, a local oncologist shared that a mere 4% of funds raised for breast cancer goes to research and trying to find better treatments for those fighting metastatic breast cancer, the part that takes so many lives. I have read that in several decades, we are still losing 40,000 a year. All this money raised and so much of it to “Awareness” instead of research. I am at least hopeful that breakthroughs in the treatment of any cancer may lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of other cancers.

    On a separate note, I recently posted this:
    I imagine you have seen the “Set The TaTa’s Free Day – No Bra Day” that makes the rounds this time of year. For many of us it gets on our nerves. So yesterday it flashed up on my FB newsfeed, and I could just not resist posting the following comment. Have no idea if it made them laugh or pulled them up short and made them think, after all it is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In any case, I laughed:

    “I am Flat & Fabulous.. Did in fact, Set them free when they tried to kill me. No bra required.”

    Double Whammied – Thank you so much!! You will no doubt figure out from the name that we took different directions on this journey and yet we share so much.

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied October 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, Flat and Fabulous, and for your excellent points. Yes, too little of the money raised goes to metastatic breast cancer research. And far too much goes into the pink profiteers’ pockets. Hammering this point home is necessary. We have to educate people to “think before they pink” if they truly want to help eradicate breast cancer (I think this mindset is helpful re any fundraising for cancer/disease).

      Love your response to the Ta-Ta Freeing idiots (I am still floored by the insensitivity of those who think that’s doing ANYTHING beneficial for women who’ve lost their breasts). Also love that you are happy and at peace with your decision not to reconstruct.

    • CrazyAssCancer October 18, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      FlatNFab,

      Everyone is entitled to their thoughts and opinions. Metastatic breast cancer research is not well funded. Stage 4 any cancer is not curable and that makes me sad for us all. I am envious when I see all the treatments available for patients at all stages of breast cancer that may extend their lives when no new treatments are available for me and the initial protocol, which is brutal by the way, hasn’t changed in over 25 years. They are making it all up for me as we go along and there is little understanding of what makes my cancer tick. Most metastatic anal cancer victim’s voices are silence. Some by shame and most by death.

      Fight on!

  11. Andy October 12, 2014 at 12:37 am #

    This is certainly an interesting perspective. It still feels a little narcissistic to complain that this disease gets the amount of awareness that it does when so many other cancers are almost entirely neglected, but it’s a valid point.

    • Andy October 12, 2014 at 12:39 am #

      Which has totally been addressed already, LOL. You rule, CrazyAssCancer! 🙂

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied October 12, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

      Thanks for the notes, Andy. I don’t know that it’s exactly narcissistic to complain about some of these awareness campaigns (I do understand that others might think of BC patients/survivors as ungrateful), but I’m sure you agree that it’s worthwhile to educate people that breast cancer is not some fabulous pink glittery “journey”. And to call out those who would profit from our pain.

  12. iamnotmakingup October 13, 2014 at 8:57 am #

    Thanks a million for this! Very well done. I look forward (!) to future posts and will also be writing about some similar threads/tendencies in our writings about this topic.

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied October 18, 2014 at 8:59 am #

      Thanks for your kind word — and your great advocacy!

  13. alice jaggers January 14, 2015 at 9:55 pm #

    I’m now 63 and have often thought about this to hide my scares I got when I had a mastectomy at 20.this is great. Can some one please help me get in touch with p- ink I live in hemet ca. But I can’t afford the travel to colorado is there some were here to get this done. Please

  14. veritas February 20, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    a part of me is in complete agreement, and a part of me is with CrazyAssCancer – i similarly have a bum cancer (i’m putting the ‘rectal’ in colorectal), and i am frustrated by how most young women are taught how to check their breasts, but not how to check their poo. but the sexualisation of breast cancer – the ribbons, the pomp, the BOOBIES as focus – takes away from the reality of cancer being about a person, and not a sexy part of the body. it is demeaning, insulting, and trivialising.

    i’ve often joked about a brown ribbon campaign, or a check your poo! or, a ‘what’s your poo IQ’ – probably because, though awareness is a bit garbage, it does help with early detection if you do know how to look at your poops, or check your breasts, or look out for signs of other cancers that are treatable in their early stages. i am lucky in that colorectal cancer is well funded, due to the heavy load of people with it, and that the treatments don’t seem to be as horrific as they are with a lot of the other cancers; despite being in the stage IV gang, i’ve had a fairly pleasant 8 months where the symptoms of the cancer have gone away, and i’m healthier than i’ve been in a long time. but i too would like to see a big brown ribbon raised up high.

    hm. some research shows that the ribbon is, in fact, green. with a red apple on it. nothing says bum cancer like an apple, right?

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied February 21, 2015 at 10:56 am #

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Sky, and I’m in complete agreement re raising *real* awareness about all kinds of cancer. Sexing up cancer serves no one. But teaching people to look for early warning signs in their poop, in their boobs, between their legs, etc. can do real good. Love your “what’s your poop IQ?” idea. Also, love that your symptoms have subsided and that you’re feeling in the “pink” (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Cheers and thanks so much for stopping by.

  15. Emily Jensen March 5, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

    I like what you have to say here! Looking forward to reading more of you entries 🙂 Check out some thoughts of mine here if you’d like: flattopperpride.org

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied March 7, 2015 at 2:12 pm #

      Thanks Emily. I linked to your web site in my latest essay on cancer and body image. Feel free to check it out on FredHutch.org. Love what you’re doing. ; )

  16. marcy westerling March 13, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    I can only assume you are joking,”What if people treated other cancers like they do breast cancer?” And slightly rudely at that. Do you have any idea how the other 2000 forms of cancer are treated? Probably not because they tend to be ignored. I am dying of one of those others.Would I want all the silliness that accompanies breast cancer? NOPE. But I would take the research and support that silliness translates into dollars raised and education spread.

    Marcy Westerling
    http://livinglydying.com/

    • Michele Longabaugh March 15, 2015 at 5:37 am #

      That’s what I said! Thank you so much. I was feeling lonely on this reply thread….

    • CrazyAssCancer March 15, 2015 at 8:27 am #

      Right?! I was feeling somewhat alone out on this thread until you came along! my feelings validated.

      Michele

      • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied March 15, 2015 at 10:55 am #

        Michelle and Marcy, I’m glad I was able to bring you two together via my blog post. I know it didn’t resonate with you as it has with other breast cancer peeps who feel that funding for metastatic breast cancer (the kind that kills) is only a fraction of what it needs to be — so much still goes towards “awareness,” and not even effective awareness, like getting the word out that mamms don’t read cancer in dense breast tissue. But it’s great to hear from you both and to be reminded of the many other cancers out there cutting a swath through people’s lives and leaving them feeling isolated and alone. Wishing you all the best.

  17. hinsopa March 14, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    Right on point. I am a 2 x advanced ovarian cancer survivor and concerned we are at risk for this crap. Just what we do not need.
    I would really appreciate it if you’d add my blog to your list.
    Patsy
    http://www.canceremotions.wordpress.com

  18. TheSwede March 21, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

    I am a serous uterine cancer “whatever” – can’t say survivor, it’s going to kill me one of these days but I’m moving along in the meantime. I really found this post funny and a wonderful use of irony. The point, which seems to get lost in the sauce of comments, is that these promotions, events etc. are NOT contributing to research. They’re not even contributing to awareness. What they’re contributing to is a false sense of contribution, of “making a difference” while all that’s happening is that some fundraising corporation is getting a big cut. Breast cancer gets all of this (potentially unwanted) attention because of the volume of cases. Cancers with lower caseloads don’t have the potential to generate all this “buzz” — you’ll never see any of the rainbow of cancer colours getting this level of attention because it’s just not profitable. I’d rather have a million dollars of real research funding than a billion in pink (or teal, or purple, or blue…) balloons, pompoms, sneakers, or whatever. Who’s making all that crap? Who’s selling it? Think about it.

    • SingleShot/DoubleWhammied March 22, 2015 at 9:59 am #

      Thanks for the note, Swede, and I’m delighted that you get my point. The only thing that’s going to help any of us in the long run is more research. Cancer, complacency and that false sense of contribution are all pretty deadly.

  19. Going Greek September 3, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    😀

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Future Options – Ideas Most Welcome | livingly dying - March 13, 2015

    […] that cracked me up yesterday. A fairly credentialed writer and blogger wrote a piece called, What if people treated other cancers like they do breast cancer? I looked forward to a good read on funding unfairness. But instead it was a rant (honest and […]

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