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Breast Cancer Isn’t Pink, Pretty or Party-like – Period!

Well, we’ve almost made it through another Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How are you feeling about things at this point? I think I’ve observed less pink shenanigans this October, or maybe it’s just that I’m becoming better at tuning it out. Or maybe I’m just not shocked by pink outlandishness anymore. I’m not sure. I do know that the whole idea of shopping being so tied up with breast cancer in the first place is still so wrong. What’s even worse, is how breast cancer, some where along the line, turned into the party-like disease, or the disease where frivolous awareness campaigns have become accepted, encouraged even.

How and why did we allow this to happen?

How did shopping become so snarled up with breast cancer in the first place?

I suppose it’s just so darn easy to slap a pink ribbon onto whatever product you are selling. After all, who wouldn’t want to buy a pink blender or a doughnut topped off with pink frosting and sprinkles under the guise of helping women everywhere?

Isn’t this a win-win for everyone, merchant and consumer alike?

Therein lies the problem. It might be a win-win for the merchant and for the consumer. The merchant racks up more sales and positive PR and the consumer walks away from her favorite store feeling as if she has done something important for “the cause.”

But what about the real-life breast cancer patient, the one with the scars, medical bills, horrendous side-effects from treatment, lost income, lost relationships, lost body parts – what about her (and him)?

What does buying pink ribbon stuff really do for her or him?

Who knows?

This is why it is so important to “think before you pink”.

And how and why did breast cancer turn into some sort of weird party-like, pink sorority?

I think this bothers me even more than the shopping aspect these days. Why is it so acceptable, encouraged even, to dress up in sassy t-shirts or crazy costumes for ‘the cause’? Why are there so many silly campaigns encouraging women to take off their bras for a day (this one makes no sense at all), show their straps or whatever? Why are people encouraged to grab a feel, cop a feel, save ’em all? And on and on…

Why is the illusion perpetuated that breast cancer isn’t really all that bad? Or that you should at least have fun while pretending to be aware of it.

I mean come on, it looks way too fun doesn’t it?

Even the NFL is in on this “party”.

It’s just all gotten way out of hand. Too much pink. Too much distortion. Too much trivializing. Too much sexualizing. Too much down-playing. Too much misinformation. Too much hoopla. Too much outlandishness. Too much greed. Too much cover up. Just too much.

And what has there not been nearly enough of?

Reality.

There haven’t been enough stories about breast cancer reality, including those of the women and men who live with and too often die from metastatic breast cancer. Such stories aren’t quite as fun and party-like. Or what about the reality regarding too-many-to-count horrible, short and long-term physical and emotional scars and side effects from treatment so many of us live with on a daily basis?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pink. Or pretty. Or parties.

But breast cancer is none of these things; it’s still a horrible disease.

Breast cancer is not pink.

It is not pretty.

And it is not party-like.

Period.

And this true no matter what month it is.

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Have you noticed more, less or about the same amount of pink shenanigans this year during BCAM?

How or why do you think we allowed breast cancer to be turned into the pink, party-like disease and how do we change this?

Do you think any attention is a good thing?

 

It's not wrong, it's just not right enough.

 Image via Ronnie Hughes and Sarah Horton

19 thoughts on “Breast Cancer Isn’t Pink, Pretty or Party-like – Period!

  1. I find myself doubly cursed because 1. None of it applies to me, since I am Stage IV metastatic.
    2. Never in my life have I even liked pink. –

    1. Hang in there. When I had bc I found I was stronger than I thought. Get with a friend or family let them nurture you and take care of you. Yes you will have some crying spells but seek God with prayer to help you get thru. He can take away your cancer. He told away mine. I was suppose to have both breast removed but I got healed. Hang in there do not give up.

    2. I have the same issues Kate, plus I was pregnant with my daughter when I was first diagnosed. PINK was shoved into our lives!!!

    3. Kate, I don’t blame you for feeling more than annoyed by the crazy shenanigans of many BC awareness campaigns during October and all year long for that matter. Thank you for reading and sharing.

    4. I am sorry to hear that. I’m on my fourth diagnosis and, believe me, all this “sisterhood” does nothing for me either. Don’t you just want to walk (run) into one of these parties or “fun” runs and tell this to shove it? Why aren’t there ways to connect you with others that can help you through this time? Well (I’ll tell you), they are too busy having and spending on parties, runs — and anyone can slap a pink ribbon on something (there is no law against it!) — it’s not the fault of those people that have been suckin in thinking they are doing something good. Good would be coming to your house and helping you get a bath, food, walk your dog . . .

  2. Yes! I just don’t understand it all. I think most people who buy the pink stuff and put silly t-shirts on are really good intentioned. Unfortunately, they just don’t have any personal experience with the collateral damage of breast cancer. Well, some do, I guess. Maybe it’s easier to turn it into a party than deal with the emotional scars. Or maybe it’s a way to deal with the emotional scars. I try not to judge, especially other survivors. All this pink is just not for me. I don’t feel like partying or celebrating. In fact, these days, I feel like crawling into a hole and crying.

    1. Carrie, I think most people do have good intentions for sure. But still… And I’m sorry you feel like crawling into a hole and crying. Only til November I hope!

  3. Nancy, I used to do walks before and after my breast cancer diagnosis. I’ve felt differently during both times. For me it felt as if I was going through different stages of awareness, starting with not having to go through the experience or knowing someone personally who has been diagnosed, to losing a family member to the disease, to then being diagnosed myself. I think with cancer we just go as far as how directly involved we are with it, if that makes any sense. It takes a lot of effort to educate yourself and one must be interested. The problem with cancer is no one wants to know about it unless they necessarily have to. There’s a lot of Mktg. for the wrong things and society is easily hypnotized.

    I’ve avoided “pink” this Oct. so unless it’s in my face, I haven’t noticed it as much. I think society avoids reality so it becomes easier to look the other way or follow the crowd. People want hope too and that’s OK. I don’t think any attention is good, if it is the wrong one or one that misleads people. Too much of this can turn into a culture (or myths?) which can be difficult to change.

    1. Rebecca, You make a really good point about those stages of awareness. I agree with you about that. And then there is that whole marketing angle with breast cancer which got really out of hand. And your last sentence says it all. This does all matter, because this type of pink hoopla can, and has, turned into a kind of culture which is proving to be difficult to change indeed. Thank you for you insights.

  4. This may no be a useful observation but in research I’ve done on marketing, creativity and even the medical system’s outreach programs, the general ability to talk about hard subjects is being replaced by a politeness or consideration for feelings. In advertising, the feel-good message rises above all other persuasive strategies and the idea is to create pleasant associations that stick at least to the point-of-sale transaction.

    This logic may have transferred over into the cancer awareness effort and has devolved into betraying by making the awful too palatable? Personally, I don’t think we are mature enough as a society to understand anything more complex than shopping. We reduce things.

    1. Scott, I think your observation is an important one. Instead of reality, there does seem to be a tendency too often to resort to the “polite” or popular kind of advertising, marketing or whatever you want to call it. A perfect example of this are the new ads on TV these days put out by some big cancer centers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  5. You’ve taken the words right out of my mouth – thank you. I have been anti pinkness ever since my diagnosis 9 years ago and this culminated in me being interviewed for a local newspaper. I talked about how the cosmetics and junk food and confectionary companies were all making money out of selling pink crap that we should all be avoiding.
    Unfortunately I was misquoted in the article and the head of ‘pinkness’ charity’ was even quoted in the article replying to me in a way that made me look evil for having these opinions. The only good to come out of it was the bigges biscuit company in Australia stopped making their pink chocolate biscuits from that year. Pinkness hasn’t seemed to be as in your face in Oz in recent years but maybe as you say, I’ve got better at tuning out. I am just so pleased that today I’ve read yours and other articles like yours where finally others are sharing the same viewpoint as I have. I can finally be proud of that article with the tacky headline ‘Judy sees red over pink!’

    1. Judith, I’m actually not anti-pink at all. I still love pink, just maybe not so much in October. I’m sorry you had that bad experience with your article and that your thoughts were misquoted. It’s horrible when we speak about our differing opinions and viewpoints and are then said to be negative, ungrateful or even as you said in your case, evil. That is just not right. I’m glad you read my post too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about it.

  6. I’ll be the odd one out on this topic again. I’m a stage 3 breast dancer survivor and although I do agree there is a lot of silliness during the month of October, I personally don’t take it personally, if you know what I mean. I don’t really get offended and I don’t mind the party like atmosphere for people who are celebrating. If I’m a survivor and I feel this way, surely I’m not the only one? I am quite sure this view is shared by many survivors, not just myself. I. Fact, sometimes there is such a backlash to celebrating, and wearing pink, that I feel offended. There are other voices out there. We don’t all hate celebrations. So let’s leave a voice for these people, instead of always cutting us down? Because that gets awful tiring too, IMO. In fact, I get turned off blogs that seem to encourage bashing only. I can’t read it anymore.

    1. Lauren, I respect your viewpoints. I only ask for the same regarding how many of us feel. And I am certainly not opposed to celebrating, however, when breast cancer continues to be portrayed in such a trivializing manner, how can we ever expect to have the disease taken seriously and ultimately find that elusive cure? Thank you for sharing your opinion on this.

  7. Hi Nancy,

    How did we get into all this pink partying and merchandising? Good question. I wish I knew. Breast cancer seemed to morph into this big celebration of survivorship.

    Like you, I’ve noticed less pink hoopla this October. It was palpable. I was dreading the month, but then I realized I could go into stores and see only a few pink merchandising items. I didn’t feel overwhelmed as I have in the past. Maybe, and this is only a maybe, merchandisers are hearing the backlash against what they are doing. If the popular becomes unpopular, maybe they are slowing down….

    1. Beth, I really think I saw less this year, but as I mentioned, I might just be getting better at tuning it out. Plus, I’ve been quite distracted with my book. Then again, I did walk into a grocery store the other day and there was a whole display of pink this and pink that set up right in the entryway – before I even was in the store. But… I do hope some of the madness is slowing down. Maybe voices are being heard. I like to think so. Thank you for commenting.

  8. I was diagnosed the third time right when my now ex left and I was going through the divorce from hell. And, this disease was directly a result of the failed marriage. I was suddenly homeless, no health insurance — but everything around me (kids, etc.) still needed my attention. I called Susan G. Koman to ask for help. The lady on the other end acted shocked that I was contacting them and I got the “what would you have us do” comeback. I honestly do not know what I was thinking . . . I guess they might have steered me somewhere for help. All this money they take in and what? Where are the results except in fabulous parties, runs, get togethers, etc. I was so sick after they poisoned the shit out of me — unnecessarily. I have lived with recurrences and health problems that are debilitating due to this “cure.” With all that goes on — there really is no cure? If [breast] cancer were cured, the entire country (world?) would go into a depression. Think of it –everything from the hospitals (and those that build them) to the doctors to the janitors, to the people that make the food, floor tiles, linen service, (think of EVERYTHING involved), etc., etc., would be out of work. It will take a lot to take away this money-making scheme from the industry in general, and from everyone that benefits from “pink.”

    1. Suse, I am sorry to hear about all you have gone through and you aren’t the first person I’ve heard report about Komen’s lack of support when they were called upon for help. Your skepticism is understandable. Thank you for sharing.

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