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.