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BCAM — The damage that’s been done trying to “make ugly pretty”

How much damage has been done “trying to make ugly pretty” during Breast Cancer Awareness Month over the past 30+ years?

Here we are heading into yet another Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It sure seems to roll around fast, right?

Advocacy work of many through the years has brought about changes to BCAM, or I’d like to think it has anyway. But clearly, there hasn’t been enough change nor has there been enough progress in changing the outcome that matters most — reducing the number of deaths each year from metastatic breast cancer. I mean, isn’t that the ultimate goal — or shouldn’t it be?

If we figure out metastatic breast cancer, it’ll help every stage. It’ll hopefully even help to one day prevent breast cancer.

You might want to read, Metastatic Breast Cancer, Let’s Talk About It.

It’s like we’ve got the research/advocacy thing upside-down, inside-out, backwards, twisted — take your pick. We spend the least amount of dollars on MBC advocacy and research. Not that awareness, education, early detection, prevention and all the other stuff doesn’t matter; of course, it does. But the balance has been way out of whack for years.

Do you ever wonder if we might’ve made more progress had we not spent so much time “trying to make ugly pretty” every BCAM?

I do.

And breast cancer is ugly. It’s not pretty. It’s not pink. It’s not a pink ribbon. And, it is not an excuse to make, buy, sell, or eat pink stuff.

You might want to read, Breast cancer Isn’t Pink, Pretty or Party-like, Period!

Breast cancer is trauma. Regardless of type or stage. It’s ugly. It’s the opposite of pretty.

Smiling women dressed in pink, sometimes wearing pink boxing gloves, running in races, giving speeches about how they beat cancer (of this they seem quite certain), proclaiming positivity solves everything (again, of this they seem quite certain too) — these are the images we’ve so often been bombarded with for decades whenever we visited the local mall in fall or opened the October issue of our favorite magazine.

Sure, those images were/are supposed to inspire.

But did they?

Do they?

I can only speak for myself, but such images have never left me feeling particularly inspired. In fact, more often they’ve had the opposite effect.

My thoughts tend to go more into the realm of, what’s wrong with me? Why don’t I feel brave, courageous, like I’ve kicked cancer’s ass or anything remotely close to beautiful?

And what about the men who get breast cancer?

Making ugly pretty certainly hasn’t helped to increase awareness about male breast cancer. Pretty in pink, pink ribbons — they’re PINK! That kinda says right there how much value’s been placed on blue, men and male breast cancer, does it not?

Those pretty in pink tactics don’t seem to have served the cause all that well either, or at least, not well enough. unless, of course, your cause is more about marketing, selling stuff and lining your own pockets than it is about breast cancer anything.

I can’t help but wonder if we had been more frank about the ugly side of breast cancer all these years — if we had not worked so hard and for so long to make ugly pretty, we might’ve been further along today in the quest for that elusive cure and ultimately, if more lives might’ve been saved.

The damage that’s been done trying to make ugly pretty every BCAM isn’t really measurable.

Or is it?

Roughly 44,000 precious lives are expected to be lost to MBC in 2021, an annual number that hasn’t shifted in the right direction for years.

When you look at it that way, maybe the damage that’s been done, and is still being done, is measurable after all.

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What sort of damage, if any, do YOU think has been done trying to make ugly pretty all these years?

How do we change this?

Do you think I’m I completely off base with this one?

How much damage has been done trying to "make ugly pretty"? #breastcancerawarenessmonth #pinkribbons #Pinktober #pinkwashing #breastcancer #advocacy

My memoir — no sugarcoating — guaranteed.


Tuesday 12th of October 2021

I opened an email last year from a dog products company and it said everything with pink was on sale. No mention of breast cancer awareness, not even in fine print. No mention of donating anything, even when I clicked to look for it on their website. They were literally just doing a sale on pink dog collars, leashes and harnesses in October.


Thursday 14th of October 2021

Lindsay, A pink sale that accomplished nothing regarding breast cancer. Pretty typical. Just another way to profit from pink. I guess at least they didn't mention breast cancer or pretend they were supporting the cause.


Thursday 7th of October 2021

I agree with you that Pinktober is an offensive diminution of breast cancer treatment.

I think another commenter is right that Evelyn Lauder started this nonsense at cosmetics counters.

She also founded and funded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This organization funds vanguard research such as the recent TailorX study that identified who can safely forego chemotherapy based on Oncotype DX score. This year it will give $47.5M to 250 top researchers. That’s productive.

However, BCRF is a prime purveyor of Pinktober merchandise. It has a Shop Pink store. Ridiculous items such as a pink bucket.

This one is good as 100% of the proceeds go to BCRF.

Also, onions and broccoli rabe, but that only nets $150K.

Brillo pads give $0.05 per box.

Is all that really necessary? Does it really yield more than $3-4M? I don’t know.

If you want to know more about the amazing research, BCRF has an amazing podcast.

Just don’t click on the Shop Pink store if you want to avoid being triggered.

Some good deeds and some of questionable value.


Friday 8th of October 2021

S, Your advice to not click on the Shop Pink store was good. Unfortunately, I did click. I've been asking for years now, why is breast cancer the shopping disease anyway?

Linda C Boberg

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

I've decided that this month causes Breast Cancer Harassment - an overload on all things about BC.


Friday 8th of October 2021

Linda, Yep. Overload is right. Except on the stuff that matters most.

Beth Humbel

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

Hi Nancy, I agree with you on the subject of pinktober in all it's marketing glory. It seems like a good idea, and maybe was originally, especially if it can help promote early detection. But as young survivor myself I am consistently shocked at how many women skip mammograms and how draconian treatment still is. All this money and all these deaths; it does make one wonder why there is not more advancement in treatment, prevention or a cure. And survivors know we don't "kick cancers ass", it kicks ours and if we are left standing, we hope and pray it doesn't come back for round two. I am glad to have your slightly un-positive opinions to read because fake positivity reeks. Thank you!


Friday 8th of October 2021

Beth, Well said. Sometimes people forget that mammograms don't prevent cancer; they attempt to detect it. I've never felt like I've kicked cancer's ass, rather it's more as you said, the other way around. Thank you for taking time to comment.

Elaine M Heebner

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

Thank you, thank you thank you! I just was invited to a "Pink Party" for BC Awareness Month. I stayed home. An online conference was offered. The only presentation that was worth my time was done by a colleague of my lymphedema therapist. She didn't tell me anything I didn't know but just by having a presentation on lymphedema was heartening. Maybe some woman will be spared what I went through. They sent out packages containing flyers telling me that the "Key to Breast Cancer is Early detection" Excuse me? By the time anyone gets this flyer, we have had a lumpectomy or mastectomy. I did self examination and mammograms. There were no typical symptoms of breast cancer. There was a "gratitude journal" in the package, filled with platitudes about the "journey I'm on". The only journey I'm taking is one to Portugal or Madeira as soon as I can figure out how to carry luggage and the pneumatic pump for the lymphedema. Going to cancer treatment and endless physical therapy sessions from complications of radiation, is not my idea of a journey. I get the original purpose of "pink". At a time when breast cancer wasn't spoken about, the Lauder family (of Estee Lauder) got the pink ribbon out on every cosmetic counter in the country. In this way they got the issue of breast cancer on the table. But give me a break. Don't label me pink. And my heart goes out to men who have breast cancer. It is so good to know you and others are out there who understand.


Friday 8th of October 2021

Elaine, I don't blame you for opting out of that Pink Party. And your comment about your journey to Portugal or Madeira gave me a chuckle. Thank you for reading and sharing your insights. Hope you're doing well.


Wednesday 6th of October 2021

@Elaine M Heebner, bravo! Well said. Pink is my favorite color, but I hate October pink. I have no desire to join anything, wear anything, or do anything that involves pink. My breast cancer was personal, very traumatizing, and ugly. My doctor called it the “good kind of cancer”. I have been left with lymphedema (the gift that keeps on giving). The good thing— I made it through with God’s love and the wonderful support of my family and good friends. I am currently NED.

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