Breast cancer, Breast Cancer Action, Breast cancer research, Family, Health, Healthy choices, Inspiration

Don’t Pink for Me: “Poison Isn’t Pretty”

Breast Cancer Action campaign
Breast Cancer Action campaign


Every October, the autumn leaves turn golden, the sycamores lose their leaves, and the color PINK is everywhere.

After 30 years of breast cancer “awareness,” have we found a cure? No.

What we have found are three thousand more PINK products, many of which contain carcinogens found to negatively influence cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for surviving breast cancer. I’m indebted to all of those who have contributed time and money to BC research. I proudly wore “pink” the first two years, like some lucky talisman to help me in my travels down the pit of despair.

What gets to me is the commercialization and big corporations making a buck or ten off pink buckets of chicken, yogurt and toilet paper.

And it sure as hell doesn’t impress me when the NFL cheerleaders dress in pink shorts and rattle pink pom-poms. (According to Business Insider, only 8% of the money from NFL pink merchandise goes to the American Cancer Society).

Now look at this 2015 news:

Recently, some of our members living with breast cancer asked us to look into the cosmetics used in a program for cancer patients called Look Good, Feel Better®.

Look Good, Feel Better is run by the Personal Care Products Council, the largest national trade group for the cosmetics industry, and the American Cancer Society, the nation’s largest cancer charity. They hold free workshops that give beauty tips and complimentary makeup kits to women in cancer treatment—support that some women understandably value while facing a cancer diagnosis.

Look Good, Feel Better bagThe downside? Many of the products offered to women in Look Good, Feel Better kits contain chemicals linked to increased cancer risk, including parabens, Teflon, and formaldehyde releasers.

As if that’s not bad enough, some of the chemicals in Look Good, Feel Better products may actually interfere with breast cancer treatment. For example, methylparaben has been found to both increase breast cancer risk by mimicking the hormone estrogen and interfere with the common cancer drug Tamoxifen.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve tried really hard to keep free of toxins in my food, hygiene, and cleaning products. Shouldn’t a corporation seeking to help survivors do the same?

These corporations make big money off pink products. Where does it go? Some of it goes to the American Cancer Society, or other breast cancer organizations. Like the donations from the NFL, these organizations may receive less than 10% of your purchase.

According to Charity Navigator,

…only 71.2 percent of money the ACS receives goes towards its programs. Last time I checked, the program expenses number now sits at 60.6 percent.

Compare this to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation which, according to Charity Navigator, spends 91.9 percent of its funds towards program expenses and its services.

If corporations want to really help, they can give money to research and provide services for underserved communities and community health clinics.

Charity Navigator gives this advice:

So, how do you evaluate which cause-related marketing efforts are worth purchasing? Start by asking these questions: click this link.


Cause Marketing
Cause Marketing

If you’d like to help fund research look for those organizations with a mission to do research or focus on the root causes of the disease, like Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation or Breast Cancer Action

While you’re at it, sign a petition or two to encourage legislation which will help those with breast cancer and please use as few toxic chemicals as possible.

So now that I’m done, for the year, with this issue, I’d like to thank my friends and relatives who were there for me when I had breast cancer:

A listening ear, a hug, ice cream, a book, a joke, a phone call, a pretty card meant the world to me and kept me going. I’ll always remember your kindness.

Source: Tell These Pinkwashers: “Poison Isn’t Pretty”

Breast cancer, Cancer, Health

Cancer, 10 Years Later

kick forward


Yesterday, was Cancer Survivor’s Day. The day reminded me of my own experience with cancer.

The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation defines a survivor as “anyone living with a history of cancer–from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.”

June 8, 2005 is one of two dates I remember from my experience. The other is the date of my last chemotherapy, November 28, 2005. That is the date I considered myself cancer free.

The day I returned from my honeymoon, I had a message on the message machine. Two days later, on June 8th, I (and the now former husband) sat in my doctor’s office. She squirmed in her chair. After a slight sigh, her eyes traveled to my own. “I’m so sorry to tell you this, but you have breast cancer.”

After that her lips moved but I heard no sound. I became temporarily deaf. My brain tripped on the word cancer and didn’t get up for minutes.

A chair squeaked, my arm nudged, her voice again. I felt myself enveloped in a teary hug. Her tears, not mine.

There are few things like that word cancer to flip your world upside down. Initially, I thought the worse outcome; especially since all of my mother’s siblings died of cancer.

Suffering, death, fear of leaving my three young teenaged kids filled my mind. I know these feelings filled the minds of my children and loved one’s too.

Gradually, I found my life turned right side up, clicking up from the bottom, like I was in a giant Ferris wheel basket, swaying, until I reached the top, able to see the view again.

I didn’t fully enjoy the feeling though as fear of dropping down again, into an abyss, clouded the view. And drop I have, a few times, in the past 10 years.

I seemed to slide in and out of the stages of grief for two to three years. There were no timelines or completion dates, just anxiety and no anxiety; fear and no fear.

These feelings are reproduced, to a much lesser extent, whenever I go for a mammogram, MRI, or PET Scan.

Days turned into months which inched towards years until I felt my momentum again. I’m aware I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m blessed to have had family and some very good friends help me through my time with cancer.

Now, I’m looking forward to one of the commitments I made to myself. (This is one of my ‘to-do’s’ on my bucket list). On my 10th year of cancer free life, I’d get another tattoo to symbolize the anniversary.

A year after treatment finished, I went down to a tattoo professional who my daughter knew and had a tattoo inked over the porta-cath scars above my breast. The butterfly symbolizes transformation and rebirth, the dogwood blossoms endurance and mortality.

1 yr. anniversary tattoo
1 yr. anniversary tattoo

I don’t know what my 10 year anniversary symbol will be or where. What I do know is I will celebrate again and continue to hope for a cure.






Breast cancer, Cancer, Empowerment, Faith, Fear, Healing, Hope, poetry, Stories, Writing

Empowerment through Poetry



Lately thoughts of cancer have floated through my mind. The word is still with a lowercase ‘c’, but it’s there, in my daily life.

I’ve learned to not stuff disturbing thoughts down into my body or heart. They always pop up somewhere, like an evil jack in the box.

When I try to stuff the thoughts, the feelings associated with the word ‘cancer,’ morph into capital letters until the word is entirely in CAPS like it’s screaming out.

I remember a phrase I read from a book whose author I can’t remember:

Feelings are energies that can be moved and transformed.

When I first read that sentence I thought “Wow, that’s empowering.” I get to direct my feelings, move them around, and create something else.

I can stop the stories in my head and create a new story.

So I grab a piece of paper and write out my thoughts, examine them, and try to figure out if I’m feeling anger, grief, fear, or all three.

Many times it’s not necessary to find ‘the answer,’ only to feel the feelings and examine the threads that make the word stand up in my mind.

Sometimes I thread those words together until they become something else, something not scary or ominous.


Lowercase cancer

I remember when

cancer had me by the breast

the slash, poison, burn

 a bald toxic dump.

Nurtured by family

powered by faith

seeds of hope planted

until a garden grew

a wasteland no more.

Dare you to try again

been there and back

you will meet defeat

little c

because now I’m not afraid

to die, after I’ve lived

If poetry isn’t your thing, you can also examine or deal with negative feelings by practicing meditation, deep breathing, journaling, listening to your favorite music, drawing, or reading something inspirational.

The point is you can stop the negative feelings in your head and create a new story in your heart.

Make new stories this weekend.

Breast cancer, Chingonas, Grief, Hospice, Parenting, poetry, Wisdom

Hiding From Grief

Before I sat down at the keyboard this morning, my daughter swung open my bedroom door, crying. 

She had just received a text from her close friend that her mother died after a couple of weeks in hospice care. 

Her friends mother had breast cancer several years ago and it returned last year. Her mother was a little younger than I. Her remission was longer than mine.

I’m on a roller coaster of emotions: Sad that this young woman, my daughter’s age, has lost her mother, anxious because I’m seven years out of my own breast cancer diagnosis and the thought of its return not only looms in my face, but in my daughter’s because we know she is at higher risk for BC now. I wanted to yell:

We hugged until her sobs stopped. Her friend said she’d text again later. My daughter didn’t know if she should go over and see her friend or not, then went back to her room. I didn’t know either. 

My desire to do something to help left me unable to speak out loud. I think I was trying to hide my grief. So I do what I do, I write things out to find answers. 

The first question: Why do I feel anxious?  

The second: How can I help? 

 I began writing on the closest piece of paper. The sadness of hearing this news, coupled with the notice of my aunts impending death last week and my mother’s recent hospital stay, is the main reason I was anxious. My daughter’s grief this morning pushed me over the edge. A mother doesn’t want her children to hurt, kid children or YA children. 

After a few more minutes of writing I wanted to crawl back into bed and cry, but I didn’t. That’s not very chingona for me to start crying while my daughter is upset-I told myself. It was a fleeting thought because I didn’t make it to my bed, I sat in my chair and cried.The anxiety diminished.

My cell phone played its pinball noise. My boyfriend texted “Good Morning, what are you doing?” For once I said exactly what I was doing and why. After a few minutes he texted “I’ll pray for you.” That helped me-a lot.

My daughter came into my room and ask if I thought it’d be okay if she just showed up at her friends house. She noticed my reddened eyes and asked me what was going on. I confessed my reasons for crying which made her cry, “Don’t say that, don’t say ‘what if your cancer comes back.'” 

But I said what has been pent up inside me for a few days, cried again, and said to let me have my feelings. My daughter nodded her head, we hugged and cried some more. I told her it’s okay that she said what she said, I know she’s afraid too sometimes, it’s okay to cry and not know what to do. 

“I’m going to get dressed, go over to see her,” my daughter said, swiping at her tears. 

And then I knew the answer to the second question: How can I help? 

Sometimes the best thing to help someone is to just listen, hug them, hold their hand, acknowledge the pain, be with them, or let them know you’re thinking of them. 

Hiding grief catches up with you. Sometimes crying and not knowing what to do is the most chingona thing you can do at the time. Many times crying, writing, and feeling your feelings helps to end the roller coaster ride.  

Back Toward Light

This poem found me today and I it: 

There is a Sacredness in Tears.
They are the bearers of unspoken prayers, words, pain and hope.

They can reach out and touch hearts, and heal.

Don’t ever take any one’s tears for granted.
And don’t let anyone make you feel bad if you need to cry sometimes.
Feeling – is Healing.

Tears are “Raindrops” – from the Storms of the Soul.
And only You know what Storms you have walked through. ♥

~ Kiran Shaikh