I wish I had breast cancer.

I haven’t written in a while because, well, I didn’t think I had anything to write about.  Then, I read Nancy Brinker’s letter yesterday to The New York Times, in response to an article from October 30th.



Nancy, the founder and public face of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is apparently agog and aghast that there exist some breast cancer patients who take issue with the “pinkification” of the month of October.  (See my blogging friend, The Cancer Curmudgeon, who does a much better job than I ever could at tearing Nancy a new one.  And that’s saying something!)

Know what? There are some cancer patients, period, who disdain it.

Tell me: is there anyone who isn’t yet “aware” of breast cancer?

Almost two years ago, a pancreatic cancer group in the UK launched a campaign called “I wish I had breast cancer.”  It was designed to call attention to the abysmal survival rates for pancreatic cancer.  (That’s not my kind of cancer, BTW.)  Some deemed it offensive; I thought it was great and made perfect sense.  After all, breast cancer almost has an unfair advantage over all other cancers: it is so easily sexualized.  (So, we raise “awareness” of breast cancer by encouraging women to go bra-less for a day.  How shall we raise awareness of colon cancer? I know! Let’s all avoid using a toilet for a day!)

Let me be clear: I am not being hysterical over this.  The facts, as always, speak the loudest, if one is willing to hear them.  And, the facts indicate that Nancy & Co. have done a great job raising awareness.  How about the other two stated goals – raising money for research and finding a cure?  (By the way, finding “a” cure is a laughable goal.  Cancer isn’t one single thing. In fact, breast cancer isn’t even one single thing – there is at least a handful of varieties…)  It is well-argued that the efforts to achieve these two goals have been unmitigated failures.

So, what’s my point? How about we move past breast cancer and just talk about cancer?  From my badass stage 4 metastatic signet ring cell colon cancer to the funny-looking mole on your great aunt’s forehead.

I believe that we are closer than ever to beating cancer as a society, and I believe there are people alive today for whom cancer will be akin to polio.  It will happen.  But, for God’s sake, don’t pretend that a pink ribbon, a pink flight attendant’s uniform, a pink bucket of KFC, or a pink towel on an NFL uniform is actually doing anything other than making people feel good.


About Alan

F---ing Cancer since 2011.
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16 Responses to I wish I had breast cancer.

  1. brenda gruber says:

    I fully agree Alan. we must find a cure for cancer period! It will happen iyh one day! Good Shabbos send my love to Tammy!

  2. Ari / Wesley Hills says:

    brown ribbon?

  3. rosality says:

     Point well made. Shabbat Shalom!

  4. Beth Davide says:

    I 100% agree with you!!! Xoxo Beth

  5. Aww thanks Alan–so happy to be blogging buddies. I had to laugh when I read your post title–man oh man do I remember the fracas over that pancreatic cancer PSA. I wrote about it at the time (“Want Attention? Just Say Breast cancer). I’m still pretty cynical about how orgs will “use” breast cancer to get attention, and am STILL stunned by how many pink ribbon pushers are so stupidly blind to how obnoxious all the pink ribbon waving is! The mud-slinging on Brinker’s FB page is incredible, with her supporters just putting their hands over their ears, calling us ungrateful. I am beginning to realize gratitude is dangerous, in that people are so busy looking back at so-called achievements, they cannot look forward to new challenges. Sigh–that’s a whole post–I won’t clutter up your blog! In short, that is why I created my avatar you put in here–the anarchy symbol of a random pink ribbon (read–not Komen’s trademarked ribbon). We need to disrupt the status quo everyone has slipped into when discussing cancer–look to new horizons, as you say for ALL cancers. I am tired of symbols, I want solutions.

    • Alan says:

      My pleasure. Always happy to piggyback on someone else’s well-written piece! Keep it up!

    • I’m in. But then, my friend the Curmudgeon knows that. I was just interviewed for a lung cancer blog. I refer to breast cancer as a “bully cancer” — and if anyone doesn’t like that, too bad. I have skin in the game. I’m living blissfully one scan away from moving out of NED status, my mom is metastatic…. I’ll stop there. I wish I had any OTHER cancer because frankly, I’m not a bully — I’m a pretty decent person and I hate what is going on with this pink ribbon crap. It’s a disease, not a reason to shop.

      • Alan says:

        Thanks, AnneMarie, for your encouraging words. “It’s a disease, not a reason to shop.” I’ll have to co-opt that…

  6. thesmallc says:

    Alan, your perspective is a reasonable one. I understand the frustrations. I believe other cancers deserve attention as well. And yes, cancer is extremely complicated and it will take a lot of effort to even get close to finding a cure. The problem, as you stated, is that each type of cancer is its own disease and we need to target them differently. The other problem is that some cancers are more common than others — one reason why breast cancer gets so much attention — so only some get funding, except it isn’t enough for research. We need a lot more funding to research all cancers because I too believe all lives matter.

    P.S. “brown ribbon” – that was pretty funny.

  7. Josh Kuritzky says:

    Hi Alan,

    Thought you’d find this interesting: https://stronglang.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/fuckcancer/

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