This past Sunday was of course Mother’s Day. It was also the day earmarked for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. (I live close to the Twin Cities and lived there for many years, hence my interest). While watching the news Sunday night and observing the anchors beaming and smiling, I found myself feeling fidgety, uncomfortable and yes, even guilty because I was not feeling what I was supposed to be feeling. I was not feeling all warm, fuzzy and grateful. In fact, I was feeling quite the opposite.
The story was meant to be of the warm and fuzzy type, the kind of story that makes everyone watching feel good, it was Sunday evening after all. And not just any Sunday evening, Mother’s Day Sunday evening.
The news clips captured yet another sea of pink, another shining example of the success of the pink ribbon campaigns.
The event drew in 55,000 walkers, a new record, and 2.5 million dollars were raised. The anchors proudly stated this particular race has grown to be the second largest in the world, probably due to the Mother’s Day date as well as the location; again, it takes place at the Mall of America.
After you raced for the cure, you could undoubtedly go shop for more pink stuff at the mall, right? Boy, is this smart and effective cause marketing!
So why does this kind of event make me and many others so uncomfortable? Why does it make me feel like I am a “bad/ungrateful cancer survivor” for not feeling a debt of gratitude to the “wonderful” organization behind this glamorized pink event?
In a nut shell, because all of this walking/racing, all of this pink, all of this feel good effort has done little to actually change the facts.
The incidence of breast cancer has not gone down. In fact, the opposite is true. The number of deaths occurring daily from breast cancer has not been significantly reduced. Presently very little knowledge exists to determine which breast cancers will or will not metastasize. Metastatic breast cancer continues to be lethal, yet less than 10% of research dollars are spent on metastatic breast cancer research. It’s thought that roughly 155,000 women are living with MBC, but no one knows for sure because even this statistic is not accurately kept track of!
This lack of attention given to metastatic breast cancer boggles my mind, because it’s not the primary tumor in a woman’s (man’s) breast that kills. Metastatic breast cancer does.
Another thought that keeps popping into my mind when I watch these events being covered and listen to participants being interviewed is this: generally, the people being interviewed have known someone or lost a loved one to breast cancer. This means the person they lost probably died from metastatic stage IV breast cancer.
Somehow this connection is missed.
Perhaps it’s because no one talks much about metastatic breast cancer. It doesn’t fit in nicely with the prettier, pinker side of breast cancer awareness campaigns.
The primary focus continues to be if you find your cancer early, you will be cured, but of course this is not always the case. I’m not saying it isn’t good to find your cancer early, of course it is. But awareness and early detection are not the end all.
Early detection does not equal cure, and it certainly doesn’t equal prevention.
Still, we don’t seem able or willing to move beyond awareness/early detection campaigns and messaging.
Perhaps it’s because these campaigns are easier, prettier and way more profitable.
But is this how real success is measured?
So while I am grateful to Komen for at least sending some dollars toward research (under 20%), I am NOT satisfied, especially since Race For the Cure is their mantra. Research and cure go hand in hand.
In my mind, they need to rearrange their dollar allotments. They
need to must do better. They need to must be accountable.
Because they can attract 55,000 walkers on a Sunday morning in May. Because they are the juggernaut of breast cancer fund raising.
Did you know May is National Cancer Research month? Probably not. If you do, you are way ahead of most.
I didn’t realize it until I accidentally stumbled upon this little known piece of information. Why doesn’t this designation receive
more any, attention?
What about the other cancers? Where are their media-covered races?
I am grateful to those 55,000 walkers who came out the other day. They care. They should feel good about their efforts. They want to make a difference and they did, but in my mind, they have potential to do even more.
Think of the possibilities if 55,000 walkers at such events (along with the rest of us) looked deeper, asked more questions, demanded more answers, considered other options, stopped assuming and expected more.
Everyone would benefit. We might ultimately find that elusive cure we say we are racing for.
One last thought on Race for the Cure – to race means to hurry in competition in order to complete or finish something. Cure means to restore to health or wellness or get rid of an illness or disease.
So I have to ask, are we really racing for a cure and if so, what’s taking so long to cross that finish line and why aren’t we in more of a hurry to do so?
Can we really keep calling this a race for the cure?
I think not.
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