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“So Much to Be Done, The Writings of Breast Cancer Activist Barbara Brenner,” a Review & Giveaway!

Nearly six months ago (yikes!) I was asked to write a review for the new (at the time) book, So Much to Be Done:  The Writings of Breast Cancer Activist Barbara Brenner (edited by Barbara Sjoholm, introduction by Rachel Morello-Frosch, afterword by Anne Lamott, University of Minnesota Press)and I said yes because I am a fan of Brenner’s writing. Then life got busy, okay, I also forgot about it. A few weeks ago, I rediscovered my review copy. Since it’s now Breast Cancer Awareness Month, maybe I forgot for a reason. Because what better time than this could there be to review and give away a couple copies of this particular book? It’s a perfect way to close out another Pinktober.

Who was Barbara Brenner?

For those of you who don’t know, Barbara Brenner was an accomplished woman who wore many hats throughout her life, but perhaps she is most well known (at least in Breast Cancer Land) for being one of the powerhouses behind Breast Cancer Action, originally a small, grass-roots organization formed in San Francisco by women living with the disease.

As many of you know, BCAction has grown to be one of the most well-renowned national breast cancer advocacy/watchdog organizations around.


For starters, BCAction raised the level of questioning in regard to the “pinking” of breast cancer to a whole new level. One way it accomplished this was with its well-touted, “Think Before You Pink” campaign. The term “pinkwashing” was coined in this 2002 campaign, bringing much needed attention to companies (pinkwashers) that proclaim to care about women’s lives by making commitments to breast cancer awareness, but whose products themselves are linked to cancer. BCAction became the first organization to reject funding from companies profiting from or contributing to what it calls, the breast cancer epidemic. BCAction was also a major player in the lawsuit which ultimately landed in the Supreme Court. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled Myriad Genetics could not patent the human gene. I wrote about this here, here and here.

Think Before You Pink via BCAction

Barbara was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 at the age of 41 and found her way to BCAction. She later became the organization’s executive director, a position she held for more than fifteen years. In addition to her various roles at the organization, she penned a column  in the organization’s newsletter, The Source.

Through her column, readers were given a glimpse into Barbara’s intellect, wit, provocative questioning ability and sarcasm. Barbara was not hesitant to write about unpleasant truths, often offering sharp, critical analysis of shenanigans in breast cancer land while also demanding answers and accountability.

I first discovered Barbara’s writing after I started blogging in 2010. I remember reading her blog, Healthy Barbs, and let’s just say my eyes were opened on more than one occasion. She didn’t worry about stepping on toes and even went so far as to criticize groups such as the National Breast Cancer Coalition in her blog post titled, NBCC – the Promise, the Process and the Problems.

So Much to Be Done is a compilation of some of Barbara’s best writings during her tenure at BCAction and beyond. The book divides Barbara’s writings into two parts. Part 1 is called, Building a Movement 1995-2010 and Part II is called, Thoughts on Dying and Living, 2011-2013.  The writings from Part II are shall we say, a bit feistier. These pieces were written after Barbara had left BCAction, so she was freer to speak more candidly via her personal blog. One entry from Part II is titled, Gloves Off What the Fuck, Komen? Another is, Is October Over Yet? And another is called, Walk for Your Health, But It Won’t Help Anyone Else’s Much.

Even the titles are great, right?

And yes, as you might guess, Part II is my favorite.

So Much to Be Done is a must read for anyone interested in learning more about breast cancer activism. In fact, health activists of any sort have much to learn from Barbara Brenner.

Because as Barbara so succinctly suggested:

Being an activist is not for the faint of heart.

But my favorite quote of all from Barbara continues to be this one:

If breast cancer could be cured by shopping, it would be cured by now.

Amen to that.

In 2011 Barbara was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord). Barbara died from complications of this disease in 2013. She was 61 years old.

If you would like a chance to win a FREE copy of So Much to Be Done, leave a comment stating so by 5 pm CT on November 1st. Two winners will be announced shortly after.

Thank you in advance for participating!

Would you like to enter this giveaway and if so, why?

Have you read this book or any of Barbara Brenner’s writing?

Sign up for emails/newsletters from Nancy’s Point!

The WINNERS are – Bridgette and Beth! Congratulations! Thank you for participating, everybody!






Bridgette Garfield

Tuesday 1st of November 2016

I would like to be entered as I have never read anything Barbara Brenner. I'm a huge social media advocate for metastatic breast cancer and against all organizations that pinkwash. I think I would really enjoy this book. Thank you!

Janet Juarez

Monday 31st of October 2016

I would LOVE to receive a copy of "So Much To Be Done" by Barbara Brenner. I really enjoy reading about these Breast cancer situations, and they really inform Me about a lot of different aspects of this 'particular' time in our breast cancer person to another.

Much Love Always, from Sunshine Janet


Saturday 29th of October 2016

I want to be entered for a chance to win a free copy of Barbara's book. I have a lot of respect for people who invest their time and energy in making a difference. This particular one affects us all, so yes, would love to read her book. I am also interested in learning different advocacy strategies and approaches. I am not too familiar with Barbara Brenner’s writing but I like her position on this issue.

Thank you for this opportunity, Nancy! xoxo

Beth Gainer

Friday 28th of October 2016

Sounds like a great book. Count me in on the giveaway. The book seems clever, and I enjoy anything by Brenner.

Leslie Gotlieb

Thursday 27th of October 2016

I would love to win a copy of book! What a powerhouse Barbara was.

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