In a week, we will have the annual breast cancer walk in Binghamton, New York.
I can imagine what it will be like, based on past events.
It will have a large turnout. Crowds of women and men dressed in
pink, or in white shirts with the breast cancer symbol, or sporting pink
boas, will start out from Rec Park, and march through the streets of the West Side
of Binghamton. Perhaps it will be a beautiful fall day like yesterday was
(crisp and clear, beautiful blue skies). But I won't be part of the crowd. I will be on the sideline, fighting the conflicting emotions that always rise in my - excuse me, chest- when I
think of breast cancer.
Don't get me wrong. I was quite alive and well in the "bad days" of
breast cancer. I know some of what my mother in law went
through battling her two distinct breast cancers during the 1970's (more
on that a little later). So many people alive today do not know the
horrors of breast cancer back then - how women were given no support,
how women would be put under while a "frozen section" was run on their
tumor.. Women would not know, when they woke up, if they would awaken with their entire body intact or not. If they woke up minus a breast (no chance to think about it) well - cancer in those days
was something you fought privately, with little or no support.
My mother in law, to be blunt about it, was butchered by a well meaning
surgeon and has the scar to prove how men treated the removal of a
breast in the bad old days.
So what is my issue?
1. I think the "pink" campaign trivializes breast cancer. How many of
you are aware, for example, that there is no such monolith as "breast
cancer" but instead a whole spectrum of cancers affecting the breast?
My mother in law had two different types. One was a tumor. The other
manifested itself as a discharge. Her doctor "poo pooed" it but finally
an instinct told my mother in law that she had a problem and had to
seek help elsewhere. Well, even after the cancer diagnosis, it was
diagnosed incorrectly and fortunately Memorial Sloane Kettering made the
correct diagnosis (so correct treatment could be given). There is nothing cute or pink
about this killer.
2. Not everyone survives. And I truly think there is a tendency today
to "blame the victim": those with Stage IV, well, they didn't eat the
right foods, or they didn't exercise enough, or they didn't do their
self exam well enough, or they didn't get enough mammograms or...they
didn't fight hard enough. ??????? Some of this comes down to the old
American attitude: we don't want to face death. That isolates the
woman fighting cancer even more. I saw this happen to an aunt I
loved very much and I was a little too inexperienced (in my 20s) back then to
understand. Know what? I know I still don't understand as I've never faced cancer and a part
of me hopes I never have to understand.
There is no cure for breast cancer. You are in remission, or you are not.
3. Men can get breast cancer
too! I worry about my dear husband - with his family history-mother
had it twice, and four of her sisters had breast cancer also-is he at
risk? . So, women...did you know that men have breast tissue? I read a
statistic online saying that one out of every 100 breast cancers is
diagnosed in a man. And every one of those men is drowning in the pink
tsumani of misunderstanding.
Don't believe me? There is a high risk breast cancer clinic in Binghamton, and I've talked to my husband about calling them just to talk. So far, he won't, despite his family history. He is scared off (or so he says) by the sea of pink.
I recommend you read the story of a local man, Bob Riter.
4. I truly feel the pink tsunami of breast cancer funnels money from other cancers.
Maybe breast cancer gets the publicity because there is a test for it or
because of the past history I touched on above. Let's face it, there are no
reliable tests for many cancers. Let's see, how about another
dread women's cancer (and this is one only women get): ovarian
cancer? Women die every day from ovarian cancer. My former neighbor did. My late
neighbor, who was a middle school music teacher beloved in the community, left a 12 year daughter and a 6 year old son. Where are all
the ovarian cancer soups and cosmetics?
Or let's think about pancreatic cancer. This is the cancer "sword" dangling
over my head: I've lost an aunt, an uncle and a great uncle to this
killer that rarely gives a sign until it is too late. Or
stomach cancer? I lost an aunt to that.
A co worker's brother died of colon cancer. He was in his 20's. He isn't alone. Rates of colon cancer are increasing among young people, according to the New York Times.
My childhood best friend survived ovarian cancer, only to die, almost 35 years later, from non-small cell lung cancer. Exposure to 9/11 smoke may have contributed to her cancer.
I've rambled on enough, but I want to make one more plea.
Stop the pink. We need to fight cancer.
Cancer. Not one type of cancer. All cancer.
Day 7 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost