In order to bring about change, an advocate needs to educate *WHY* change is needed. This can be hard to do in a world of feel-good cause marketing.
We're all aware of the massive pink ribbon movement that beautifies breast cancer. The juggernaut of fund raising agencies using the pink ribbon is flooding social media with their ads asking people to donate in order to fulfill a "promise to end breast cancer." I often comment on those ads (if they're in my feed, then they are fair game), pointing out that only 18% of that organization's funds goes into research (that's using their own annual reports) and of that 18%, very little goes into metastatic research.
This exchange happened last week. I'm not about "naming and shaming," but I want to focus on a much bigger issue here.
Check out that response! "Disgusted" ... accusations of "bitterness and anger." "Let people do what makes them feel good." "Mind your own business" ... and get this ... "FIND YOUR OWN MONTH" ... and of course, the plea, "stop being angry."
Seriously? Those with metastatic breast cancer need to find their own month? Quite frankly, the entire month of October should be devoted to those with metastatic disease (You know ... the ONLY kind of breast cancer that KILLS!) and have one day to celebrate those who are cancer free. Yes, being cancer free is worth a huge party ... but not at the expense of those who are dying. For all those shouting out, "I'm a survivor," you must remember ... you are not cancer free because you did something right. Those who have metastatic disease are not dying because they did something wrong. Cancer free individuals are not being rewarded while metastatic individuals are being punished. It boils down to the fact that, after all this time, we still don't know enough about this disease and only research is going to help us learn more.
Why was the above response made? It's not unique. I know I've been told to stop being angry and to stop being "bitter." (I don't think I am bitter.) But why is Pink Army so offended when the Dying Army challenges the ocean of pink?
Peggy Orenstein wrote an outstanding article for the New York Times (April 25, 2013) entitled, "Our Feel Good War on Breast Cancer." Please ... click on the link and read it now. (It will open in another window.) It's quite long, but very well researched and gives one of the most comprehensive overviews of mammography, detection and treatment that you will find outside a medical journal.
Her closing paragraphs clearly catches why the sea of pink is offended.
"The idea that there could be one solution to breast cancer — screening, early detection, some universal cure — is certainly appealing. All of us — those who fear the disease, those who live with it, our friends and families, the corporations who swathe themselves in pink — wish it were true. Wearing a bracelet, sporting a ribbon, running a race or buying a pink blender expresses our hopes, and that feels good, even virtuous. But making a difference is more complicated than that.
"It has been four decades since the former first lady Betty Ford went public with her breast-cancer diagnosis, shattering the stigma of the disease. It has been three decades since the founding of Komen. Two decades since the introduction of the pink ribbon. Yet all that well-meaning awareness has ultimately made women less conscious of the facts: obscuring the limits of screening, conflating risk with disease, compromising our decisions about health care, celebrating “cancer survivors” who may have never required treating. And ultimately, it has come at the expense of those whose lives are most at risk."
It gets down to this ... 40,000 people in the United States alone die every single year from metastatic breast cancer. Every single day in the US, 110 die from this disease. Most of these deaths are women. It's time to send the message that simply being "aware" of breast cancer is not enough. It's time to send the message that shopping does not fund a cure. It's time to stop buying all the pink stuff that makes one "feel good," and it's time do something concrete for change.
Yes, it's time to get angry.