It's hard to get people to agree on anything. Two of the most famous English idioms say, "on the other hand," or "on the other side of the coin," thus illustrating that people don't agree. It's really hard to have such two divisive sides to the pink fence.
Yesterday, I linked to Peggy Orenstein's article, "Our Feel Good War on Breast Cancer," (April 25, 2013), and I quoted the following:
"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."
(If you haven't had a chance to read the article, please take the time to do so now.)
Wouldn't it be wonderful to be a part of something that could really make a difference? However, that means work ... hard work ... and many times, it means letting go of antiquated ideas. Sometimes, it means leaving the side of the fence that makes you comfortable (or virtuous) and climbing over to the other side that seems strange, foreign, uncomfortable ... or complicated.
In 2014, Pfizer conducted an extensive survey regarding metastatic breast cancer and the following information resulted:
"50% of those surveyed believe breast cancer progresses [becomes metastatic] because patients either did not take the right treatment or preventive measures."
I can almost understand the general public believing that, but one of the unfortunate truths of the Pink Ribbon Army is that many cancer "survivors" (those who show no evidence of disease) also believe this. They believe they are cancer free as a result of something they, the "survivor" have done right and the metastatic patient is metastatic because they have not done the same "right things."
This was never so obvious as it was yesterday in the comment section below a post about a young woman who was diagnosed de novo (from the beginning) with Stage IV disease. I tried to screen shot the conversation (see photo above), but it's rather small, so I'll paste it here:
September 21, 2015 at 9:29 am
"This indicates she has an aggressive form of the cancer. Don’t worry so much because breast cancer is not very aggressive usually and with diet and lifestyle modification it can be beaten!"
September 21, 2015 at 10:21 am
"Beth knows what she is talking about, Furious. She will be ok.."
Vickie Young Wen says:
September 21, 2015 at 1:22 pm
"Did I just read your comment correctly? Did you seriously just say that “because breast cancer is not very aggressive usually and with diet and lifestyle modification it can be beaten!”? I do hope you are being sarcastic. Diet and lifestyle modification is not a treatment option for any stage of breast cancer."
September 21, 2015 at 1:42 pm
"Are u kidding me? I am surviving for exactly 7 years with this common sense approach! Spread the word. Only 15% of cancer survivors change their diet after diagnosis according to an Aussie study!"
Vickie Young Wen says:
September 21, 2015 at 4:02 pm
"No, I’m not kidding you at all. If you are telling me that you treated your breast cancer with ONLY diet and lifestyle changes and that you are now cancer free, then I will challenge you to prove it. If you are telling me that you are cancer free and remain cancer free after conventional treatment and that you attribute your cancer free status to diet and lifestyle, then you are the exact person who blames a person for being metastatic. If this is your thought process, you are blaming the cancer patient. Please … educate yourself. It is not the fault of the patient that they became metastatic. While diet and lifestyle will reduce risk, they will NOT prevent breast cancer, nor will they prevent recurrence. Count yourself lucky."
I looked up this commenter's blog and discovered that like Suzanne Somers, she had surgical removal of breast cancer, but declined further treatments. She gives credit to "diet and lifestyle" changes for being cancer free. I do hope she remains that way for the rest of her days, but her smugness at being disease free is disconcerting. She's convinced that she is doing something right and she's convinced that breast cancer isn't very aggressive and that if all women did what she did, then they would have the same results of being cancer free.
Ignorance is appalling in any way, shape or form. Many who fully embrace the pink ribbon approach (and buy anything with a pink ribbon on it) feel the exact same way that the person above feels. There's an unspoken (often, spoken as well) idea of "I survived. I did cancer right. I deserve this ribbon and no one has the right to deny me of this. It is my reward."
No one denies the cancer-free patient anything. What those of us who will never be cancer free expect, though, is for the cancer-free to be fully educated on what it means to have metastatic disease. If the entire Pink Army stood up and demanded that their hard earned dollars go into research, then I imagine that we'd see some change pretty quickly.
But, it's easier to buy the latest Bradford Exchange pink ribbon product, or the latest pink Lokai bracelet, or the latest pink Rafaella jacket, because, after all, "I'm cancer free and I deserve it."