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.