get real about breast cancer

Sure, I appreciate all the money that's been raised in search of a cure. But I can't be the only one who dreads Breast Cancer Awareness Month and all things Pink.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Is a breast cancer vaccine possible? Quoting directly from the Lifetime TV website:

"Dr. Yvonne Paterson, a breast cancer survivor, is developing a possible vaccine that may put a stop to the disease that takes so many lives. The vaccine, Lovaxin B, would teach the immune system how to attack cancer cells and is currently in pre-clinical testing. While the vaccine is far from being ready for public distribution, Dr. Paterson is enthusiastic about the test results they have seen so far. "We found that we can stop the tumor from growing out to 100 days, at which time we stopped measuring since this is a long time for experiments of this type," said Dr. Paterson. The tumors stopped growing or went completely away."

Dr. Paterson is the founder of Advaxis, Inc., a biotechnology company, as well as a Professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania."

I'm not a scientist, so I don't have any idea whether or not this is feasible, but it sure is a nice dream.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

What's the connection between the women's health movement of the 1970s and the pink ribbons of today? Or what's the LACK of connection?

Without women fighting for choice in the 60s and 70s, we wouldn't have become empowered to demand choices in our treatments. The environment that began with a few women learning to examine their own cervix with their own plastic speculum contributed to a culture where women began to be able to speak openly about their breast cancer, without shame.

Women began to demand humane treatment in childbirth -- to have their partners with them while giving birth, to be able to discuss options for labor and make informed choices. To chose to take pain medication, or labor without. To not have an episiotomy if they believed research showed a better, safer way.

And now, we have choices in cancer treatment. We can be informed. We can choose chemo, or no chemo. But how many women are given accurate information about side effects before they make their choice? How many women are told (now that we know) that chemobrain can linger for at least a decade? Do women understand that their sexuality can be obliterated along with the estrogen in their bodies?

Can a woman chose to be unhappy and angry when she has breast cancer, or is that anger squelched on message boards where some believe that without a good attitude, you're doomed? What IS a good attitude? Is it being happy about your cancer and seeing it as a growth opportunity, or is it simply choosing the best treatment you can find, and putting one foot in front of the other?

Is it okay to say that there's nothing pink about breast cancer?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

When I was in treatment, I noticed a friend wearing a lovely, albeit beribboned, bracelet. Because I admired hers, she gave one to me. I wore it to chemo treatments and fingered the hearts, and they did help me strengthen my resolve to get through this ordeal.

I didn't realize at the time that the 2003 Brighton Breast Cancer Awareness bracelet would become a collectible! On ebay, this limited edition charm bracelet bearing the words "trust", "heal", "courage" on silver hearts now fetches up to $110 ("Buy It Now! $180"). As one seller says, "This is a perfect gift for a Birthday, Mother's Day, a Breast Cancer Survivor, or a Brighton Collector. This is a necessary set to add to any Brighton Collection! " Well! I'm glad cancer has provided someone with a few new collectibles! Perhaps if we lobby hard, McDonalds will make Breast Cancer Happy Meals, and include a whole series of Breast Cancer Barbies or Beanie Babies!

Collect them all, and then sell them to pay your mortgage when you exceed your sick days due to treatment.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

This mock-up of Cosmo magazine was one of a series of public service ads placed at bus benches in San Francisco. Now, THAT's Real Breast Cancer Awareness!

Friday, October 13, 2006

If I had another kind of cancer, I'd be jealous of the pink ribbons, wouldn't you?! Here's a suggestion for a testicular cancer mascot. Let's see this on a Campbell's soup can!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Yay! Breast Cancer Barbie as she should be, courtesy of the Young Survival Coalition. Details of note include surgical drains, lymphedema wrap, post-mastectomy surgical dressing and nearby toilet. Now THAT's a Barbie I can support. Wait! Where's her pink ribbon?!

Monday, October 09, 2006

We're relatively fortunate, as breast cancer patients, to have been diagnosed with such a "popular" disease. Thousands of people have been touched by cancer, and are looking for ways to help.

One such woman publishes a popular website for kindergarten teachers, On her Breast Cancer Awareness page, generously created for the month of October, there is a button linking to the Breast Cancer Site which states, "41,000 women will die this year from breast cancer. All could be saved through early detection through mammograms".

Would the Breast Cancer Site have us believe that if we got mammograms often enough, no one would die from breast cancer? People who care enough to raise funds so that all women can get mammograms surely wouldn't appreciate it if they realized they're being used to spread breast cancer myths as well as awareness.

How many women reading this blog had a clean mammogram just a month before their diagnosis? I guess Breast Cancer Site means EARLY detection. Daily mammograms, here we come.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lie for the Cure....

This ad, circa 2004, was placed in magazines by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It states:

"Breast cancer will be diagnosed in 1 out of 7 women in your lifetime. But now 97.5% will survive. Research makes the difference."

Um, 97.5%? Is it just possible that the reason I was fairly clueless about the possibility of death or disfigurement was because I'd been reading ads like these?

Artemis, an online breast cancer journal published by John Hopkins Breast Center, has some recent statistics. "In the early 1990s women diagnosed before age 50 had a 60 percent chance of surviving 10 years and a 50 percent chance of surviving 20 years. Those survival rates are predicted to increase by between 13 and 14 percent – to 73 and 64 percent, respectively – for women diagnosed during the first few years of this century."

Now, THAT is some fantastic news. But why would a power player like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation publish something so blatantly....well, being charitable, let's call it misleading. I contacted them. They explained that this statistic applied to women with Stage 0 breast cancer. I was dumbfounded. Women were being told that if they got breast cancer, their chance of dying was remote.

Do people give more money to a cause that they don't believe is hopeless? Is any money, procurred in any manner, better than none?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A lovely marketing whore friend of mine sent me an interesting article in Advertising Age about the decision at Campbell's to market their soup in pink awareness cans this month. I can't say often enough that I do, I do, I DO appreciate people fundraising to help fund breast cancer research. Campbell's is a corporation and they have a right to make a profit. It's just that when the Kroger supermarket chain has doubled their usual order of soup, 3.5 cents per can to Komen (who else?) seems like a very small price to pay for a tremendous boost to their corporate image.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Your sex life before cancer treatment.....

Your sex life after cancer treatment.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Women are posting around the web about this Komen fundraising product. Inquiring minds want to know....what stage WAS Barbie's cancer? Was it "just" radiation and a lumpectomy, or are those reconstructed breasts?

Q: Why isn't there a Breast Cancer Ken?
A: Because he left when Barbie got diagnosed!
(Apologies to the wonderful men who stood by our sides. And to the rest of you -- you know who you are.)