Really, I don’t even want to be writing this post.
One of the most heart-rending blog tasks I’ve had to do this past week is to re-categorize a few of the links to blogs on my blogroll, to reflect the fact that the women who write them have been diagnosed with mets since I first connected with them in the blogosphere. That stopped me in my tracks. And my list of bloggers with mets keeps getting longer.
It’s no wonder, then, that I’m so sick of the explosion of corporate merchandising known as ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’ — aka Pinktober — I resent even acknowledging its existence. But I’ll force myself to post some random observations, a few facts, and some links.
As usual, I will avoid shopping in certain places for the next month. The above collage is comprised almost entirely of photos I took myself on one particularly hideous October Saturday a few years ago, as I ventured forth to do a few errands. If anyone would care to tell me how selling pink Chia heads (yes, I really saw them; they are in the center of the above banner) has contributed to figuring out what causes breast cancer or how to cure breast cancer or how to prevent anyone from developing metastatic breast cancer and dying of breast cancer, do let me know. I’m always eager to advance my knowledge.
A casual friend of mine recently launched a small fundraising initiative with a friend of hers. They are selling tiny pink cat tchotchkes to raise money for our local breast health center and a local breast cancer support organization.
Our local breast health center is a pretty good place, all in all. Friends and colleagues and patients of mine have been treated there. The friend who launched this initiative was treated there. The center has had patient navigators for a few years now. The center welcomes patient feedback about their cancer experience and acts on that feedback. Their navigators bust their butts. One of them had breast cancer herself and I marvel at her energy. I believe very much in supporting local entities, and our breast health center is certainly one worth supporting.
However, I confess that the name of this fundraising initiative made me cringe. It’s called ‘Kitties for Titties.’ I don’t think this friend has read my blog, and if I run into her in the next month, I’m not quite sure what I will say if she asks me to buy a pink kitty. I may be a snarky bitch here on the blog, and I’m often snarkily bitchy WITH my friends. But I really try not to be snarkily bitchy TO my friends. Most of my friends feel the same way I do about Pinktober, but clearly not all. The ones who don’t represent a bit of a dilemma. On the plus side, I’m pretty sure that most, if not all, of the money raised, which is $4 per kitty, is being donated to the stated causes. Certainly no one is getting a six-figure administrative salary out of this endeavor, like certain other Pink Pushers I could name. But, well, they are pink kitties. Little chubby kitties. Sort of like ‘Hello Kitty’ kitties. When you see them, you’re supposed to think they’re cute. So, I’m not sure what the message is, really. Because, you know, I’ve always thought that breast cancer is way un-cute. And then there’s the titties part. One of the euphemisms for women’s breasts that I hate most is ‘tits’ or ‘titties.’ Not sure why. Maybe it’s because most of the times I’ve ever heard it used, it’s been uttered by asshat, objectifying slobs, fantasizing about snagging a quick lay.
I know, I know. What is my problem, huh? I mean, normally, I don’t object to trivializing a life-threatening disease, not to mention the women’s body parts affected by that disease. And surely it would be gauche to point out that a large percentage of women treated for breast cancer no longer have either one or both of their original ‘titties,’ because, well, they were more interested in saving their lives than keeping their diseased breasts. But, hey, that’s probably just me feeling like Grumpy Kat.
And then there’s the current kerfuffle playing out in Congress. Basically, the Republicans in the House of Representatives want to repeal the Affordable Care Act in exchange for passing a stopgap funding bill to raise the debt ceiling temporarily so that the U.S. can keep paying its bills. Meanwhile, some of the initial provisions of the ACA are in the process of being enacted, with lots of attendant hyperbole, hysteria and misinformation promulgated by those who oppose it.
So, in response to the naysayers, I would just like to point out a few things. The ACA abolishes the practice of denying health insurance to people with pre-existing conditions, and cancer, last time I checked, is regarded as a pre-existing condition. So, I’m all for ensuring that I and thousands of other American citizens can get and keep our health insurance. Also, people with metastatic breast cancer and no insurance can get Medicare coverage, even if they are not 65. Several diseases, including cancer, are included under the ‘compassionate allowance’ provision for Medicare coverage through the Social Security Administration, through which people with mets can also apply for disability income. It’s good to know that there is still some compassion left in Washington, D.C., despite Congressional evidence to the contrary.
Meanwhile, back in the land of the Pink Peril, there is still only one day in Pinktober set aside to acknowledge metastatic breast cancer. It’s October 13th, for those keeping score at home. That’s one day to acknowledge that, worldwide, about 458,000 women and men are still dying of MBC every year. One day. Pathetic.
Maybe it’s me being Grumpy Kat again, but this points to the central problem with Pinktober. It seems to me that the main reason why the public needs to be aware of breast cancer — or any cancer, for the matter — is because people die of it. But awareness of breast cancer is so last century at this point. What we need is cogent, accurate awareness about breast cancer, awareness about its causes; awareness about the continuing inadequacies of mammography, still the most prevalent screening tool used to detect it; awareness about the life-altering and lifelong collateral damage caused by getting treated for breast cancer; awareness about how and why it metastasizes and how to prevent it from doing so; awareness about the financial, physical and emotional toll that all cancer patients live with forever; awareness about what it means to live with metastatic breast cancer and to wonder how long your current treatment will continue to keep the beast at bay. None of this is cute, pink, fluffy, sexy, or ultimately even about losing our breasts.
By my criteria, most of what passes for breast cancer awareness during the month of October scarcely passes muster. Much of it is pure baloney, or worse, disseminates misleading statistics and woefully inaccurate information. Most of it is an industry, a corporate merchandising opportunity, that provides little tangible help to those who are dealing with breast cancer. And still, in the U.S., despite the fact that 30% of those diagnosed with breast cancer will develop metastases, only 2% of the millions raised for breast cancer research goes to researching metastatic breast cancer.
And that much-vaunted cure certain folks have promised? Nowhere in sight.
If I listed every pertinent link I could think of, I’d have an encyclopedia. So, here’s a few. Also, check out my blogroll if you want the unvarnished truth from those who live with mets.
Breast Cancer Action
Breast Cancer Consortium
Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer — A Global Survey
Metastatic Breast Cancer Network
METAvivor.org and METAvivor’s blog
National Cancer Institute Clinical Trials Search Tool