[Reposted on October 13, 2012, for Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. One day. That's all MBC gets out of this entire pink circus known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pitiful.]
February 6, 2012: This morning, I found out that my dear, darling friend, snark and ‘bitchblogger’ sister, Rachel Cheetham Moro, died of breast cancer. Many of us first got to know her through her blog Cancer Culture Chronicles. Then, in April of 2011, I had the great joy of meeting her, along with several other of our blog sisters, in person, at the NBCC Conference in Washington, D.C. We got a chance to be ‘real,’ to laugh, to scheme, to tell our collective truth about this miserable disease together. We were friends now in real life as well as in virtual life. It was a friendship that deepened immeasurably over the last year.
Just before I wrote this on Saturday, 2/4, Rach had been in the hospital for a week, in ICU, mostly unconscious, in pain and having seizures from what would turn out to be brain mets. By the time I started it, her family & friends were all waiting to hear for sure the results of tests, but she was conscious again and about to be moved to a regular room. In anxiety and helplessness and outrage and loving concern for her Saturday morning, I wrote this post.
You may visit her blog to leave messages at this link: Rachel Cheetham Moro 1970-2012. We will never forget you, Rach. Never.
I wasn’t going to write a post today. Yeah, it’s World Cancer Day. Yeah, we all heard yesterday that Komen retracted its decision to defund Planned Parenthood. And yeah, the long-awaited documentary film, Pink Ribbons, Inc., about the rampant pink-washing of breast cancer, is going to be distributed in the U.S. It’s a remarkable confluence of events. So it’s certainly not like there’s nothing to blog about.
But I’m tired of cancer. And today, I’m particularly distraught about cancer, because a young woman who is very dear to me is in the hospital. Again. Because of breast cancer. And her friends and family are all waiting to hear whether her mets have spread.
And I think about this remarkable confluence of events, and Komen, and pink-washing, and why we even have to have a World Cancer Day, and it sickens me.
Because my friend was diagnosed in her thirties. Because another friend, who was also diagnosed with breast cancer in her thirties, was turned down by Komen for a small grant to help women get screening mammograms before they’re forty. Because Komen told her that “Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s current screening guidelines are not in line with what your organization promotes,” because their guidelines recommend screening mammograms starting at age forty. Because Susan G. Komen herself was diagnosed with and died of breast cancer in her thirties. Because when another young woman I know tried to get financial assistance from Komen to help her with her breast cancer, Komen failed to help. Because Komen still pushes mammograms as the be-all-and-end-all of ‘prevention,’ when most of us know they have serious limitations, that they don’t even find breast cancer sometimes, especially in young women and women with dense breast tissue. You know. Women like Susan G. Komen.
Because Nancy Brinker happens to be one of the most publicly ill-informed breast cancer spokespersons on the planet. Because Komen has not made metastatic breast cancer, the kind that killed Susan G. Komen, a priority. Because, in fact, Komen spends only 19% of their considerable budget to find that much-vaunted cure they’re supposed to be all about. Because only 2% of all cancer research dollars are spent directly on metastatic cancer. Because only one day in Pinktober is set aside for awareness of metastatic breast cancer.
Because I’m utterly disgusted at this hypocrisy. And I’ve got news for all the folks who finally saw the light about Komen and decided in the last few days to stop supporting them: Komen didn’t deserve your support in the first place, and they haven’t deserved it for a long time now.
So, maybe we should actually be grateful that Komen let its pink, plastic, carcinogenic, over-merchandised mask slip this week and showed their true face. Because it woke a lot of people up, to the insidious speciousness of politics, to the callousness of charities that seem to care more about corporate sponsorship than they do about corporate integrity, to the large holes in our so-called social safety net. And I am truly glad for that awakening. But guess what? As Jody Schoger said in her post yesterday, “…what has changed for women at risk for cancer? Nothing. Poverty is still a carcinogen. Women who are poor are still poor. Their cancers are still detected at later stages when the disease is much more difficult to treat.”
This mess, this perversion of breast cancer awareness, didn’t just happen this week. It’s been going on for decades. And I’m sick of it. Because it needs to change, before more of us die, before we all drown in pink ribbons instead of saving ourselves with genuine enlightenment and solutions. Because it’s just the tip of the pink iceberg.
A link from the Centers for Disease Control about their Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program for underserved women. Not the whole answer, but one of them.