Army of Women, Breast Cancer Action, Breast Cancer Fund, Breast cancer research, Chingonas, Dr. Susan Love, Health, HOW Study, October Breast Cancer Awareness, Un-Pink

How To Go Beyond Pink

I view Breast Cancer awareness from a UN-PINK perspective.This post may irritate a few people, but I’m going to go all chingona on this issue, which is near and dear to my own breasts.
from my collection-by Yrenia Ortiz

Last week I shared with you why I couldn’t look at Pepto-Bismol bottles without cringing. This is not from an ungratefulness for the work of Susan B. Komen of any of the several BC awareness campaigns. 

Fifteen years ago that’s what we needed. It got us from unawareness to marketing of the PINK.

The majority of the funding goes to science aimed at treating the disease once a woman has it rather than finding ways to keep her from getting it in the first place.  Article.

Undoubtedly, awareness campaigns and subsequent dollars for making chemo medicines saved thousands of lives, mine included. But what about now, in 2012? How do we go beyond PINK?

How do we change this statistic*?: 

In the 1970’s, lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the US was…1 in 10In the 2000’s the lifetime risk is 1 in 8. 

Maybe we can put aside the PINK for just a few minutes and go all out chingona for: 

Breast Cancer Action

1. WHY: isn’t donating money enough?  Did you know that breast cancer could be caused by a virus? Yes, read about it. We need research to find the cause, thus the cure. The organization “Think Before You Pink” wants you to be informed on where your donations go and how much.

 2. HOW: The majority of women who get breast cancer have none of the known clinical risk factors. This means we don’t know what causes breast cancer or how to prevent it. The Health of Women ( HOW) is a first-of-its-kind international online study for women and men with and without a history of breast cancer.

3. WHAT: can I do?  Partner with research scientists to move breast cancer beyond a cure. Army of Women is doing just that. I joined 2 years ago-it’s totally volunteer. It takes very little time, as few as three hours a year to a couple of hours a month. If someone needs low cost/free services direct them here.

4. WHERE: can my donations/actions make a significant difference? Donate for research for a CURE. Add your name, for stronger regulation and independent research, to this petition. 

5. WHEN:  can you  advocate for a cure? Any day of any month, not only in October. You don’t have to walk 60 miles in a sponsored event (but you can if you want-my sister, the exercise chingona, did). Encourage others to advocate and get educated. Show action by:

  • Participate in a study, 
  • sign a petition, 
  • shop for products where the majority of the money goes to research, 
  • educate yourself on high risk factors, 
  • get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, 
  • find out what chemicals are in your food/cosmetics/home 
Please understand that this post is my way of letting out my feelings about my own breast cancer journey, one that almost 7 years later, I am still on. (don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to still be around to walk the journey). But, it’s one that I’m reminded of every time I take my tiny white anti-estrogen pill. 

I want to grow older with my siblings and my loved ones. I want to see my kids get married, have grandchildren. Too many people are getting this disease, people who didn’t have ‘high risk’ factors, women as young as 28, friends, acquaintances...women are still dying. 

Be that person who takes action. Go all out chingona on this issue.

*National Cancer Institute

Breast cancer, Health, October Breast Cancer Awareness, Pink Ribbons, Strong Women, Wisdom

Why Pink Makes Me Cringe

It’s not Pink, the singer, that stirs up ambivalent feelings in my soul, it’s the color pink linked to October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s all the pink stuff beyond the commemorative ribbons. It’s pink deodorant containers, buckets of chicken, yogurt lids, pens, bottles, garden tools, and such. I can’t even look at Pepto-Bismol bottles anymore.

Before sticks and stones are thrown my way, please hear me out.  The end of next month marks the 7thyear from the last chemo session I had. That’s the date I considered myself cancer free. 

There was an eighth session scheduled in mid-December for chemo but I was so friggin’ tired of being tired, having pain, throwing up, (fill in any adjective for miserable) that I skipped it. I wanted to make tamales with my family, as I had since I was a child, and I wanted to celebrate Christmas in my living room, not from my bed. 

So I said “F-K It,” I’m not doing this anymore.

I still don’t know whether I based my decision on fatigue or it was a grasp at self-determination. Maybe it was both. Probably. I do remember feeling particularly powerless at that time. There are the ambivalent feelings of life and death, hair and no hair, sorrow and hope, regrets and plans, hell days and heaven days. Load these into a blender, push the button, and you might get a sense of how I felt.
gettyimages K.Tanier
Pink products and words “Breast Cancer” remind me of this time in my life. This is where my ambivalence comes from; this is when I cringe.

I’m not ungrateful for my life, or breast cancer research, or awareness of breast cancer

because I am and so are my three children, but it’s all that dang PINK everywhere in October, when the autumn colors of golden, bronze, pumpkin, and burgundy naturally abounds.

PINK is in my supermarket, the drug store, magazines, T.V., clothing stores, pet stores, bakery, and on my toilet paper wrap. (Now wasn’t that bolded PINK just a little annoying?) That’s what I see in October, flutters of PINK everywhere. ANNOYING.

Breast cancer sucks. Marketing breast cancer double sucks.

My ambivalence also has to do with the fact that in my small world and community I keep encountering numerous cases of breast cancer in women ranging from 28 to 70 years of age. I’m sure you’ve heard of many people battling the disease within your circle of family/friends/acquaintances. 

How can this be after years of research, millions of dollars, and awareness campaigns? Have we been operating on lies? 

I am not saying that we should stop donating to campaigns of our choice (especially my favorite Dr. Susan Love’s research for the cause of breast cancer, thus the cure). 

Au contraire. I’m still going to do my annual Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society. I’m still going to talk with women who are going through BC treatment- if they ask. I’m going to don my khaki hat with the pink ribbon (the one I wore for 6 months on my baldhead) and the black and pink one my sister traded for her own hat on a bus in London.

I will continue to advocate for people to be aware of how to minimize their risk to cancer and find affordable health care. I’m going to do those things and hope you show support by doing these things too. 

I’m just one survivor/thriver trying to communicate my feelings. Maybe a day will come, soon I hope, when Pink no longer stirs up my stuff and becomes just another color, as the lyrics in this video so aptly describes. 


                                                    I can hope. 

UPDATE: Jennifer (down there in the comment section) referred me to a site where I met fella sisters who are sick of marketing the “Pink.” Check out Think Before You Pink. They bring up valid points: 

As we head into November’s election, we urge everyone concerned about breast cancer to demand representatives from every state support the 2012 Breast Cancer Action Mandate for Government Action. We need to move beyond “awareness” and pink ribbons to demand candidates and elected officials take real action on breast cancer, by initiating and supporting independent research and strong regulation to turn the tide on this epidemic. 

Thank you for listening. 

Health, Hope, October Breast Cancer Awareness, Relay for Life

I Walk In Hope

Graphic by Digital Product©

Yesterday was inspirational, hopeful, and overwhelming at times. My young cousin organized a Relay For Life  team, named Walk to Remember, for the annual American Cancer Society. We walked for her Grandma Della who was my aunt. Both my uncles died from cancer too. I’m the only one who has survived and next month is my sixth year of being cancer free.

Our “Walk to Remember” logo, created by my son, is a beautiful reminder of my aunt. Her  favorite color was purple. We  underwent chemo around the same time, after her cancer returned. Once she told me,”It’s okay that I go, I’ve lived a long time, but you’re too young, you can’t go yet, you have to fight.”

I remembered her words when I looked up at the HOPE banner swaying against the light gray sky. I stared for a few seconds reflecting on it. Then I took my place for the Survivors Lap and somehow ended up with the large RFL “Survivors/Sobrevivientes” banner along with four others. That’s what happens when you get to the party early, I guess.

Camarillo, CA RFL

So I’m in the front and about 200 other survivors are behind the five of us. “I Won’t Let Go,” by Rascal Flats played as we took our lap around the high school track. People on the sidelines cheered, snapped pictures, held up photos of their lost loved ones. The woman next to me started sniffling, then crying, the banner slowly slipping from her hand as she wiped away tears. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I keep crying,” she said. “It’s okay, we can cry, go ahead,” I replied.

We kept walking and I heard more sniffling, from either side of me, my eyes misted too. I was glad I wore sunglasses and a baseball cap. Decorated “luminarias” dotted the inside perimeter of the track. We passed a couple of hundred, each with “In Memory Of…” “Beloved…” or “I Miss You…” surrounding a photo of their loved one…men, women, children.

When we rounded the track I could see the HOPE balloons floating in an arch. Throughout the day and night our team walked, round and round, collecting ‘lap beads.’ My sister did five miles, I did four, the adults walked, the teens and the little kids walked. Various groups walked, schools, cub scouts, little league teams, women and men with strollers, people in wheelchairs and with canes. Around eleven at night, a large group of the teenagers, dressed in Homecoming dresses and tuxes came onto the track, a few girls without their heels and some limping. I felt overwhelmed again. Sometimes we think young people don’t care and then we see otherwise.

Camarillo RFL

Six years next month. I’m doing well, my kids are healthy, I’m blessed in so many ways. When my mom and I left that evening I remembered that  I have a whole lot of time ahead to walk and live in hope.

Army of Women, Breast Health, Breast Self Exam, Forgiveness, Health, October Breast Cancer Awareness, Pink Ribbons, Self Care, Strong Women

Taking care of ‘The Girls’ and Our self

During October, you will see  television commercials, magazine ads, and food stuffs advertising  Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sometimes I see these and get a little frustrated. I mean it’s a good thing that there is so much awareness being given to Breast Cancer, but as a survivor (6 years) I get overwhelmed by all the hoopla. 


No, I don’t want to wear pink ribbons, bracelets, t-shirts, hats, or nail polish. I don’t want pink  kitchen appliances, emery boards and toilet paper wrap.  I see the pink everywhere. It’s hard to explain why this irritates me. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just me. Am I the only one feeling the glare of the media attention.

I mean I do want Dr. Susan Love or any other scientist to find the cause and cure for breast cancer, in my lifetime, and I donate and participate in Dr. Susan Love’s Army of Women, so it’s not that I don’t believe in awareness.  I guess it’s the reminders everywhere. The threat of cancer returning, the ominous pink cloud that may descend on one of my sisters or daughter or nieces. Whatever the reason, it’s something I live  with and maybe as more years go by I’ll be okay with the October spotlight. 

A different kind of ‘hoopla’ is this article, written by Dr. Christine Northrup and posted on her current newsletter. It’s not the typical ‘do your monthly self exams,’ but offers a perspective on how we can care for our breasts and body.  It’s the attitude that is important. It goes beyond awareness of breast cancer to a personal attitude about our bodies, it’s about self care, but also self love. 

“Our task as women is to learn, minute by minute, to respect ourselves and our bodies. Whether our breasts are small or large, perky or droopy, whether we have implants or lumps, or have had a mastectomy, all of “the girls” are wonderful. Our breasts are a source of nourishment and pleasure for both ourselves and others, and should be seen as such!
You can improve your breast health almost immediately with these self-care practices:
  • When you touch your breasts, do so with respect and caring. Be grateful they are part of your body. That means if you do a monthly breast self-exam, do NOT do it with a search-and-destroy mentality. This isn’t a military exercise whose purpose is finding and killing an enemy!Instead thank your breasts, chest, and heart area for being a part of your body as you lovingly touch these parts of yourself. Pay special attention to the area up under the armpit where all the lymph nodes are. Massaging this area will assist in ridding your body of toxins, while increasing blood flow and life energy!
  • Open yourself to receiving help, nourishment, and compassion from self and others. When you experience events that cause you sorrow, resentment, or pain, allow yourself to quite literally get these feelings off your chest by experiencing your emotions fully, grieving, and then letting go. “Make a clean breast of it.”
  • Minimize the time you wear your bra every day. Don’t wear a bra to bed. The lymph channels around your breasts and in your armpits need to flow freely. Tight bras shut off this lymph flow, making it much harder for your body to detoxify breast tissue.
  • Sweat it out. Regular exercise is medicine for your breasts. It helps detoxify your body and also helps decrease the amount of estrogen that affects your breasts. Women who exercise regularly have a 30 percent decreased risk for breast cancer.
  • Eat a low-glycemic diet. High blood sugar, which occurs when you eat a high-glycemic diet instead, results in high insulin levels. A high-glycemic diet is a well-documented risk factor for breast disease.
  • Many holistically oriented healthcare practitioners utilize hormone profiles (which can be done by Genova Diagnostics) that measure how well you are metabolizing estrogen—and into what kind of end products. Some metabolites of estrogen are harmful to breast tissue and some aren’t.
  • Supplement! Take a comprehensive multivitamin/mineral supplement that is rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, E, B-complex, D, beta-carotene is a must. (This means at least four pills per day.) Antioxidants help the cells in your breasts fight cellular inflammation, which can be a precursor to breast cancer.Get plenty of vitamin D. Studies show that women with optimal levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of breast cancer. Your vitamin D level should be at least 40 ng/ml. If it’s not, talk with your doctor and come up with the best strategy for raising your levels of this important nutrient. Be prepared to take up to 50,000 IUs per week until your levels are high enough and then 1,000–5,000 IUs per day after that.
Finally, give yourself the gift of forgiveness. Imagine that your Higher Power, or spiritual self, is standing right in front of you. And she is the very embodiment of love and compassion. She reaches out, touches your head, and says, “I now forgive you for all the times you ate too much ice cream, got angry with your children, or didn’t clean up. I forgive you for not keeping a promise to yourself or someone else. I forgive you for being human and for not being able to make everyone happy. I forgive you for ever doubting your worth. I forgive you for having needs and for needing other people to love you. I forgive you for trying to hide your pain behind a brave and stoic face.”

This forgiveness extends to what you have or haven’t done for your health in the past. If you wish you had done things differently, that’s OK! Every day is a new day, and the perfect day to start practicing prevention.”