walk for a cure

A Pink Ribbon Culture: Pinkwashing

My grandmother had breast cancer. She had a mastectomy and I can still vividly see the empty space in her clothing.

I was nineteen when I had a lump removed from my breast. I remember the day I felt the hard mass. I was eighteen and it was a cool November evening. It was a daily bedtime ritual for me to check for any unusual lumps. I remember the panic rise in my throat. Any chances of a good night’s sleep were just sabotaged by the thoughts that were running through my brain.

My mom took me to the doctor that week and since she is in the medical field, I was taken to the best physician on the subject. I was checked and he concluded that it was nothing to worry about. I knew my body. I have always been very aware of it and my gut instinct told me something was not right.

I insisted on a biopsy. It was benign, thank goodness, but I still wanted it removed; solely for my peace of mind. My surgery was scheduled a month after the biopsy. It was supposed to be a quick procedure and they were not expecting to find what they found when they opened me up. It had grown from the size of the tip of my thumb to the size of a softball. I had an aggressive fibroadenoma. Needless to say, I wasn’t administered the correct amount of anesthesia and I woke up in the middle of the surgery.

“Doctor, she’s awake… ” …and fade back to black. That was not a pleasant experience.

Yearly mammograms were expected of me post surgery especially because I had a family history. I haven’t had one yet for reasons that I will talk about in another post, but fear being the main culprit. Fear of them finding something.

All of that being said, I was a big Pink Ribbon supporter. Emphasis on the WAS. When an opportunity presented itself, I contributed to the breast cancer advocacy movement. That was up until I met my friend Angela. She is the mother of three young, beautiful girls, an Emmy award winning makeup artist and a two-time breast cancer survivor. Our conversations at work lifted the “pink haze” that clouded my view and gave me an authentic perspective. I have seen the scars on her body, a daily reminder of the worst year of her life. But you would never guess that she had this ugly disease. She is a ray of sunshine and I always find it a pleasure to bask in her strength and endurance.

Angela and I

Angela and I

Coming soon to the blog – she will share her experience with us and the monstrous face of breast cancer. Her view of all this Pink Ribbon “awareness” will make you reevaluate your standpoint on the matter. What also fueled many of our conversations was her decision to opt out of chemotherapy and choose a natural approach to treatment. Using food as medicine was a common thread between us.

We are all aware of this cancer but do we really know what it is? I think it is also important for us to see the faces of those who have or have had this cancer. We should not only be aware but we need to know WHAT it is.

Pink heralds that October is here. Pink ribbons everywhere, football players wearing pink garb, hundreds of people coming together to Walk or Run For a Cure, people sporting bracelets with the slogan “I (heart) Boobies.” I noticed though that Breast Cancer Awareness Month has extended itself to more than just October, making it more of a Breast Cancer Awareness season. And as of late, I feel like the Pink Ribbon has become more of a brand, just like the swoosh of Nike or McDonald’s golden arches.

If given a choice, people would rather give their money to a good cause. But have you ever thought about where the money actually goes and how much goes to the actual research? There have been campaigns from big corporations whose contribution was a penny for every purchase. A penny? Really? Wouldn’t it be easier to just write a check or donate directly to the organization?

I started to dig deeper into this thing called “pinkwashing”. There is a great documentary on YouTube called “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” that I highly recommend.

Also, as people are becoming more aware of what is happening to our food supply, companies are using marketing strategies that tug at our heart strings to help increase sales on the very products that cause cancer. So they make the product pink or they slap a Pink Ribbon on the packaging. There is a great article about this on the Huffington Post called “Think Before You Pink: Stop the Distraction.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karuna-jaggar/think-before-you-pink-sto_b_5910696.html

In the 1940s, a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer was 1 in 22. In 2011, it is 1 in 8. The risk factor? Being a woman. But this disease does not discriminate. We have yet to find a cure because we have yet been able to pinpoint the cause. There are so many factors that contribute to this disease. So what is the best course of action? Because I believe we need to start DOING MORE THAN JUST THINKING PINK.

Your thoughts?