Friday, July 10, 2015

Really? Please.

The sexualization of a horrible disease.  I’m not nearly the first person to address this and I sure won’t be the last, so please ding me for unoriginality. That’s OK.  On top of making light of breast cancer, the marketing forces behind “awareness” campaigns do another bizarre crime, and that’s infantilizing at the same time.  First association with the color pink?  Baby girls, and breast cancer.  Calling breasts boobies and tatas in the name of “raising awareness”? Please.  

On a lark (and because I’m too tired to leave the couch and do laundry or cook something) I googled testicular cancer.  Nowhere did I find a baby blue awareness campaign.  I found information. Period.  Signs, symptoms, risk factors, and how-to-do-self-exams, with absolutely, positively nothing cute, cheery, dismissive, or sexual, even when discussion turns to palpating the testicles! No "squeeze the sac!" or "knead the nuts!" or "balls are beautiful!" Can you imagine?  Testicular cancer, like all cancers, is serious. Regarding gynecologic cancers, when I googled gynecologic cancer awareness month I found, again, information.  There is a Foundation for Women’s Cancer that does promote awareness and raise funds with a bracelet and September is the month for awareness events, which have included a race.  Mostly the site had links to research, support, and information.  No mention of “protect the pussy!” or “save the baby holder!” or any other such nonsense I could sit here and brainstorm.

And yet, somehow breast cancer marketing (why is there marketing around cancer anyway, a dreaded and miserable disease?) has created a money-making machine selling stuff and feel-good events over reality and the research funding to actually search for a cure.  The latest in the constant spate of such “campaigns” is the Young Survival Coalition’s partnership with Spencer’s (a department store, I think?) to “promote” “awareness” and “raise funds for those we serve.”  Just wow.  Here is a response from Beth, who was in my advocacy training group and can say anything better than just about anyone. 

So why did this happen with breast cancer, a scourge and killer of women and men, at the world-wide annual rate of half a million or so?  Breast cancer is not “an easy cancer,” it is brutal.  My own experience has been one of loss after loss after loss.  Loss of confidence in my body.  Loss of cognitive function, loss of activities I loved, loss of the ability to work, loss of most of any sense of who I am anymore aside from a cancer patient, and yes, loss of my breasts, which involved a lot more pain and loss of mobility than anyone ever really tells you.  I could go on.  And, most importantly, loss of my life, which will happen much younger than I had hoped.  I know many others facing all of these losses and more.  While I hope I’ll be around to see my daughter graduate college, I know women hoping to see theirs start kindergarten.  These are not the milestones for which we planned and hoped. 

According to the World Health Organization about half a million people die annually of metastatic breast cancer.  In the U.S. the number has hovered in the 40,000 range for the last twenty years.  That is 108-110 people every single day. Though survival rates are climbing so is the number of diagnoses. The number of deaths has just stayed the same.  40,000 is the approximate number of deaths at the height of the AIDS crisis in the U.S. We’ve learned a lot from ACTUP about what it takes to change policies, at all levels of government and the private sector, on scientific research funding.  It just kills me though, that this job is in our hands to do.  We are struggling through treatments and their not-so-pink side effects and cancer and all that goes with it.  And yet, a bunch of metastatic patients/activists will be in Washington, DC on October 13 (Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day), dying in at the Capitol to demand funding go to actual research for an actual cure.  All over the country there will be smaller die-ins in smaller communites in support of the intrepid DC crew and in the hope of transforming the whole awareness paradigm community by community.  Here in Astoria feel free to support our die-in with your presence, support, social media shares, and donations to a group like Metavivor that actually awards 100% of its money to metastatic breast cancer research grants. 

The utter nonsense that is pastel colors and ribbons and tatas and boobies and “you’ll get a great boob job out of it” and huge-augmented-breasts-on-the internet-holding-soda-cans-between-them-in-the-name-of…-awareness? Has Just Got To Stop. Really.  Can we just be done with it all and get serious and actually, really work for a cure? 

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