Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pink Sisters, I Feel Your Pain

Did you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? If not, you must live under a rock! We are constantly reminded of this by the sea of pink surrounding us. Some of us call it Pinktober because of the pink obsessiveness; I have even heard breast cancer patients call it "Puketober."

While the other cancer communities (like my melanoma community) drool at the amount of awareness and recognition all this pinkness brings to breast cancer, many in their community believe that the pink campaign is excessive and not delivering the right message. A giant case of be careful what you wish for ...

And I get it. All the pink ribbons have not given the breast cancer patients a cure; they have not given advanced stage breast cancer patients much in the way of hope. Don't get me wrong. Awareness is great, but I think there is a saturation point ... and in my opinion, it has been breached!

As I discussed in my blog "Pinktober," businesses are profiting from Pinktober more than breast cancer patients ... and there is definitely something wrong with that picture. But it goes further than that. There are campaigns to save the boobies, save the hooters, save the ta-tas ... but what about saving the men and women who have breast cancer.  Sexualizing a cancer will not cure it.

Unfortunately the breast cancer community is struggling with playful pink as their awareness color and brand as well as all the fun and games supposedly created for awareness. Decorating bras might be a fun thing to do, but probably not a great reminder to those who no longer have a need for bras. We all know, or at least we should, that there is nothing fun or playful or party-like about any cancer. It trivializes those fighting for their lives and disrespects those whose lives have been lost ... and it sure doesn't cure cancer!

This video points out how out of control Pinktober has become:

In the melanoma community, we understand too well what the breast cancer community is feeling as far as having their cancer trivialized. We have heard way too many times -- "Melanoma? Oh, that's just skin cancer. Cut it out and you'll be fine." And perhaps you remember back a couple years when the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) tried to turn melanoma's awareness color of black to orange. Black was too depressing, they thought ... NEWSFLASH, melanoma IS depressing! They wanted something more bright and cheerful and attention-getting (like the sun that caused many of the cases of melanoma???).

For Melanoma Monday, a day reserved not only for spreading awareness but also for honoring melanoma warriors and remembering our fallen, the AAD encouraged dermatologists and their staff to wear orange and throw parties, with orange cupcakes, confetti, and streamers. Can you imagine being given a life-threatening melanoma diagnosis in the midst of such a party or by a doctor blowing orange party favors?

So, I understand what it is like to have a cancer presented as less evil than it really is, especially one that has severely impacted your life and broken your heart. The marketing people who come up with these ideas of fun and playful awareness obviously have never held a loved one with cancer in their arms while they took their last breath. Their approach is thoughtless and insensitive and, sadly, ... it doesn't cure the cancer!!

Many in the breast cancer community and beyond will be grateful to see November push out Pinktober because it has gone too far! The need for breast cancer awareness has passed, and the pink ribbon has now ventured into commercialization. And to make matters even worse, breast cancer patients feel their cancer is being trivialized and sexualized. The pink has gone amuck ... and does all this really help in the search for the cure?

 Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pinktober: The New October

It's October, and Fall is in the air in many areas of the country (although it is still Summer in my neck of the woods, Texas). Autumn is starting to strut its color palette of the turning leaves: golds, oranges, reds, browns. Mother Nature is showing off her breath-taking display ... but it is being obscured by pinkwashing. Cool, feminine, and flirty pink has become a man-made intrusion into the warm, rich colors of Fall.
This used to be October ...

and now it looks like this ...
and this!!

This explosion of pink has actually taken over the month of October, all in the name of breast cancer awareness. It has gotten so in-your-face obnoxious that October is now called "Pinktober" by many both in and out of the breast cancer community. But more on that later ...

First join me as I ponder over the timing of this pinkness. It is interesting to me that the color pink, a very Spring-ish pastel color, is so prevalent in the Fall. Wonder what the thinking was on that? Isn't it curious that a cancer using pink as its awareness color doesn't have March or April as its special awareness month? Do you think the fact that football is a Fall sport and perhaps needed to
be spiced up with lots of pink accessories was part of the decision-making on that? If the powers-that-be wanted October as their awareness month, why didn't they select a typical Fall color ... like orange? Marketing companies get paid big bucks to figure out these things ... but the logic just isn't there for me. Not that any of this matters; it is just one of those things rattling around in my brain looking for answers. Thanks for indulging me!

Now getting back to Pinktober, it is no secret that I am not a fan. But please don't just call me a hater and dismiss me. I don't hate breasts (I actually have a couple of those myself); I don't hate pink (it was my daughter Jaime's favorite color but not so much mine) ... but I DO hate cancer (and melanoma, the cancer that killed my Jaime, in particular)! I DO support breast cancer awareness and research. I was one of the founding members of the Susan G. Komen chapter in our county about 30 years ago. I have lost too many friends and family members to this disease, and I actually, because of a pre-breast cancer condition diagnosed earlier this year, have my own breast cancer surgeon whom I visit often.

But enough is enough already with the pink!! Pink is everywhere ... from trash cans to PF Chang horse statues ... even drill bits used for fracking. Pink ribbons adorn almost every product on store shelves. You don't have to look hard in the Hunt for the PINK OCTOBER! If you love pink, you are in pink cotton-candy heaven. But for some of us, it just makes us feel like we are drowning in a sea of Pepto-Bismal!

Is this crazy pinkness doing its job to raise breast cancer awareness? Better question: Is there anyone out there who already isn't aware of breast cancer? And an even better question: How many lives are being saved by this awareness campaign? Is it raising funding for research? Possibly, but not near what it should be. Most likely it is raising money for the businesses that advertise the pinkness. Pink has become a commercial honey pot!

Buying your drink in a pink cup may make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but that is probably all it will do. My guess is that businesses are jumping on the pink bandwagon to capture your business and not because of their strong desire to cure breast cancer. Unfortunately, most consumers are not aware that there are no regulations on which products can advertise with the pink ribbon ... even products not remotely connected to cancer or that contain chemicals that research has shown possibly cause breast cancer. Now in defense of cat litter, read my blog From Litterbox to Laboratory!

And what about all the other cancers, many you have probably not even heard of? What about awareness and research funding for those? Shouldn't we be concerned about ALL cancers ... about finding a cure for ALL cancers and not just the pink one?

Today I saw an ad for Swarovski crystals, stating that for this month a donation would be given to a breast cancer foundation based on all pink crystals sold. Before Jaime died, she designed and created awareness bracelets for all cancers using Swarovski crystals. I have continued to make them in her honor so I am aware of the different colors used for different cancers. I have never seen donations made for buying gold crystals for childhood cancer in September or black crystals for melanoma in May, etc. ... just pink in October.

My point? There are more colors than pink, and there are more cancers than breast cancer. Everyone is so fixated on breasts ... but what about colons, lungs, livers, thyroids, brains, skin? Last I checked there is no cure for any of these cancers once they have reached an advanced stage. As a melanoma advocate, I admit to being biased and even a bit (okay, a lot!) jealous of all the attention and funding that breast cancer gets, but recently, to be quite honest, the pinkness has become overwhelming and its results questionable.

And why the focus on breasts instead of on the lives of those who have the
breasts? Decorating bras may be fun, but it must be hurtful to those who no longer have a need for bras. But that is another blog for another day ...

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)