This has been an interesting and eventful month for me in my life with breast cancer. I have started my chemotherapy regimen and I have lost my hair. In between all of this, women have been marching, walking, running to raise awareness of breast cancer or to shine as survivors. Stores have been featuring the color pink in everything; bras, bags, hair accessories, lipsticks…you name it. News shows have been following news anchors to their first mammograms and putting it on television. It has been everywhere.
But here is my question. When does awareness become exploitation? There has been controversy over breast cancer awareness in the NFL, when there seems to be a problem with how players are treating the women in their lives. They are being forced to wear pink sneakers, pink gloves, sell pink things at the NFL stores…how much of this raises awareness and how much money goes toward research? Are they just trying to make a buck? Get more fans and viewers? What is the real incentive here?
What about the day when women were encouraged to spend the day without a bra? Set the tatas free! How exactly does this raise awareness about breast cancer. I’m sure intensions are good for some, but I still don’t get the connection. As a woman with only one tata (or a ta) it’s not about setting them free from the bondage of my bra. It’s about knowing what constitutes a healthy breast and knowing what that feels like. Going braless with nipples pointing doesn’t seem to get the message across that you need to know your body. It’s just showing off, in my opinion.
Some people have asked me if I have done the walks, watched the shows on tv, watched the documentaries, bought pink. No, no, no, no and no. Maybe it’s because I’m in the thick of it. I don’t have the time or the emotional capacity to deal with it all. But it all seems kind of yucky to me. Like somehow, we’ve forgotten what is important. Breast cancer awareness month has become like the Christmas of the cancer world. Things to buy, events to go to, shows to watch. For me, it’s lost it’s authenticity.
So, as a community, what do we do? What do we want to see? If we could recreate breast cancer awareness month, what would we want it to look like?
What I would like to see is that all clinics and insurance companies drop their requirements for referrals and make the process of obtaining a mammogram easy for women. You can make appointments over the phone or online. Women can donate funds for women in need to help pay for mammograms, ensuring that it is not a financial strain. Women write about their success and challenges in dealing with breast cancer and it is shared in offices all over the globe, so that no matter what you are going through, you know you are not alone.
I don’t need someone to wear pink in front of me to know I’m supported. I don’t care about the pink ribbon. I care that you are all taking control of your body and being proactive. That is how we kick cancer in the ass.
So, to end breast cancer awareness month, I make the same plea to you that I did at the beginning of the month. Touch yourself. Give yourself a self examination. I have info on this blog on how to do it or you can research it yourself. Schedule your first mammogram. If you are scared, go with a friend. But just do it. I hope that next year at this time I can announce that I’m cancer free. I hope that I hear from a bunch of you that through this blog you got the courage to get yourself checked. And despite the results, that you feel empowered that you have taken control of your life. Please make a pledge here to do this today.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions. I am one of your resources.