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“Rumblings & Grumblings,” My Response to Ms. Brinker

When October ended, I thought I was putting pink commentary to bed, at least for a little while.

As it turns out, I’m guess I’m not quite ready to “tuck in the pink and turn out the lights.”

Recently the Sacramento Bee featured a response from Nancy Brinker, Susan G Komen for the Cure®’s founder and CEO, to the question, Do you think there can ever be too much pink?

Ms. Brinker was reacting to an earlier piece called “The Conversation:  Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red,” by Francesca Lyman, also featured in the Sacramento Bee. Clearly Ms. Brinker was on the defense in her response. She answered exactly how one might expect she would. She stayed true to her perfectly canned PR form by simplistically stating that, of course, there can never be too much pink. In fact, she wants more pink. She went on to say that nearly all people Komen recently surveyed agreed with her; seemingly implying disagreement is almost unthinkable.

Ms. Brinker took things a step further in her response and referred to the concerns of those (like me) who disagree with her as “grumblings.” Immediately a chain of reaction of sorts was set off in the blogosphere. Bloggers were offended. Bloggers were upset, even angry. Bloggers felt dismissed and brushed off. Some immediately challenged Ms. Brinker. Bringing up Goliath offered an excellent commentary as did new (to me) blogger Mommography. Check out these and other great posts.

Once again, I struggled as I contemplated taking on the big  “K.” Should I keep quiet or should I speak out? Does it really matter? Perhaps everyone has grown weary of “pink dialogue.” I know I have. And October is behind us, so it’s time to move on now, right?

If only we could. For those of us directly impacted by breast cancer, there is no moving on from breast cancer awareness month. We are acutely aware of breast cancer 365 days of the year.

So much for keeping quiet!

Like so many others, I found Ms. Brinker’s word choice to be condescending and patronizing. I found her word choice to be demeaning, belittling and perhaps even bordering on insulting.

Why?

In my opinion, it’s simply because the word “grumblings” has a negative connotation. No one wants to be labeled as a grumbler. No one even wants to be around a grumbler, at least not for very long.

By making such a dismissive reference, it seems to me Ms. Brinker would like all the annoying grumblers to just go away, or at least keep quiet. It seems she feels as if we are like that pesky, buzzing mosquito one cannot shoo or slap away.

But why does she wish to so casually dismiss the “grumblers?”

I can’t figure out why someone in Ms. Brinker’s leadership position doesn’t instead simply state she wants to listen to “grumblings,” that in fact, she is eager to listen to them.

Isn’t that what leaders do?

Wouldn’t that better serve everyone’s “agenda”?

Another question that keeps coming to mind is if “all things Komen” are so perfect and so “untouchable,” why does Ms. Brinker feel the need for all this defending?

Is it perhaps because the 98% five-year-survival rate statistic thrown around is often misused or even misrepresented?

Is it perhaps because some 40,000 women are still dying every year from breast cancer?

Is it perhaps because only 19-24% of Komen’s funds are allocated for research?

Is it perhaps because the faces of those living with metastatic breast cancer have almost been lost in the pink?

Is it perhaps because there hasn’t been quite as much progress as Komen claims there has been?

Maybe it’s not so surprising after all you are being so defensive, Ms. Brinker.

But back to the grumblings…

All we grumblers have ever wanted is genuine awareness. All we grumblers have ever wanted is to be listened to. All we grumblers have ever wanted is true discussion and an attempt from Komen and others to realize our discontent with pink really has nothing at all to do with a color.

In true discussion opinions are stated. In true discussion there is an equal amount of listening to the other side.

The latter still seems to be missing from your “discussions,” Ms. Brinker.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

And by the way, the “grumblers” aren’t going away anytime soon. In fact, we’re starting to unite!

                                                                                                 Accidental Amazon 

Have you ever been called a grumbler, if so, how did that make you feel?

Do you have a “grumbling” to share?

Shavawn Carlson

Wednesday 16th of November 2011

YOU GO GIRL!! I am a recently diagnosed breast cancer patient (August, 2011) and quite frankly I am sick of pink! My friends are very well intentioned however if I receive another "pink" anything reminding me I have breast cancer I am not sure what I am going to do. I do not need a reminder. I want this disease to stop afflicting women and men and I want to find a cure. So, take all the marketing funding allocated every year for "pink" stuff and find a damn cure!

Keep up the great work! So glad I found your site.

Shavawn Carlson, San Antonio, Texas

Nancy

Wednesday 16th of November 2011

Shavawn, First of all, I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis. How are you doing? I understand your frustrations and you are not alone. There is so much to be done and the pink blinders need to come off. As many others are starting to say too, there's nothing wrong with pink, it's just not enough. Thanks for your supportive comments and welcome! Hope to see you back soon!

ButDoctorIHatePink

Sunday 13th of November 2011

I was asked to write that article for the Bee, but unfortunately, (or, rather, fortunately) had liver resection surgery and was unable to do so. A fact which Brinker wouldn't care about since she's made it plain her organization does little for us metastatic patients.

Anyway, I read the controversy with interest. I really think less needs to be said about Komen and more needs to be said about Stand Up 2 Cancer. You want research - they got research. They are the real deal.

Nancy

Monday 14th of November 2011

Ann, I know. I hate Komen's failure to be more inclusive of those living with mets. It's one of my biggest gripes. I agree, Stand Up 2 Cancer sounds like a good organization to get behind; the real deal, I like that. Thanks for commenting Ann and I hope you are healing well.

Stacy Malkan

Friday 11th of November 2011

Oops, forgot to post my link about Elizabeth Thompson, here it is: http://notjustaprettyface.org/

Thanks!

Nancy

Friday 11th of November 2011

Stacy, Thanks for the link!

Stacy Malkan

Friday 11th of November 2011

Count me in as a grumbler too! A Grumbler for the Cause. While we wait for a cure, there's plenty we can do to reduce carcinogens, clean up the environment and reduce the risk of cancer. I think it's unconscionable that the world's largest breast cancer organization and America's richest charity is not willing to prioritize prevention. Ms. Brinker's comments are bad enough (paternalistic, you might say), but check out what SGK president Elizabeth Thompson had to say about how environmental links to cancer are based not on evidence but "beliefs and emotion." The leadership of Susan G. Komen is showing its true colors, and it's not a pretty picture.

Nancy

Friday 11th of November 2011

Stacy, OK you're in! Seriously though, you're right about the lack of prioritization of preventative measures/action. And the comment from Elizabeth Thompson saying environmental links to cancer being based on beliefs and emotion not evidence, is nothing less than irresponsible. Thank you for adding to this conversation.

Stacey

Friday 11th of November 2011

Nancy, such a great post! Thank you for linking to Bringing Up Goliath. I'm happy to be in such great company. Your explanation of the problem with Ms. Brinker's comment is so straight forward and right on target that it seems nearly impossible to side with Komen. We're not asking for anything more than what Ms. Brinker wanted when she began her quest to end breast cancer. How does one dismiss that as "grumbling?" I just don't get it. Thank you for the being the calm, rational voice next to what I consider my emotional one. I don't always get the facts in there in lieu of being pissed off. You're the teacher to my student post. Great job, as always.

Nancy

Friday 11th of November 2011

Stacey, Thank you for your comments; you're too kind. And you're more than welcome for the link. Your post got me going on this one. I don't understand Ms. Brinker's casual dismissal of those who question either. In fact, I would think she would welcome discussion along with the sharing of ideas and opinions. And thanks for calling me calm and rational, sounds better than grumbler any day!

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