Things that make me go rage in the night

It’s not even October yet, and I’m already dreading the upcoming pink-washing assault. I despise with a passion of a thousand fiery suns the following phrases: save the ta-tas, save the boobies or save second base.  I am pretty sure if I ever saw someone wearing a t-shirt or some kind of apparel with those phrases on it, I might have a rage stroke.  That’d be it for me.  Dunzo.

Here lies Lara.  Her rage caused her to burst into flames.

When it comes to breast cancer, screw the ta-tas, boobies or second base.  The focus should be removing the cancer from the woman’s body, and oftentimes that means a single or double mastectomy.   You know – not saving the breasts.

After all of my doctors recommended to me at my one-year checkup to have a double mastectomy because it looked like my cancer was attempting a come-back, I didn’t look at them and say, “No, I don’t accept your recommendations.  You figure out a way to save my breasts.   You hear me, doctor?  Whatever it takes, and I mean whatever, you save my breasts!”

Hell no.  I gave them one shot when I had an initial lumpectomy, but that turned out to not be enough.  I didn’t want to have a double mastectomy (though who does?).  I sobbed the night before my surgery.  I asked my doctors repeatedly if this was the right decision to make.   It’s a shitty situation to find yourself in, to have to decide to surgically remove a body part.  I felt I had no choice but to have this surgery, and it destroyed me.  If it was between me and my breasts, then of course I’m going to pick my life.

Since I had a double-mastectomy, does that mean I failed?  Does that mean I am less than a woman since I technically don’t have breasts anymore, although I do have fake ones?  Where’s the “It’s Okay You had a Double Mastectomy” awareness campaign?   Where’s the “Free Side Hugs because you had a Double Mastectomy” campaign?   Someone needs to start a “It’s okay – you’re still beautiful after a Mastectomy” campaign.  I know, I know.  Not catchy enough.  Come on, Huffman.  Think!

These cutesy or provocative slogans are offensive to me because they reduce women to a single body part – our breasts.   The body part that could very well mean our death.   It gives the clear message that the focus should be on saving our ability to be sexually attractive to the opposite sex.  I did have a guy, some friend of a friend, ask me, “Did they save it all?” after I said that I was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

His question floored me, so of course I had to berate him for saying something so stupid and offensive. “Save it all?  You mean my breasts?  Wow…  Wow, congratulations.  You’re the first person to ask me something so incredibly offensive and just weird.”   The guy sputtered and left me alone, rightfully so.

If someone is reading this and thinking, “Lighten up.  If it raises awareness, then who cares how it’s done?”

Well, I care.  This disease took my mother’s life, and it has left me forever scarred.  Why should I have to forfeit my dignity for the sake of awareness?     Breast cancer can take your breasts, your hair, your sex drive and/or your life.  It’s a deadly disease that claims approximately 40,000 lives each year, but time and time again, the focus is about saving our sexual desirability.  Fuck that noise.

Seriously don’t mess with me.

Also, why can’t people say breasts?  It’s always boobs, ta-tas, jugs, hooters, rack, boobies, etc.   Dear goodness, I had breast cancer – I did not have boobie cancer.  “What type of cancer did you have, Lara?”  “I had stage-one boobie cancer.”  Lolwut?  A family member close to The Boyfriend just died of prostate cancer.  He didn’t have wiener cancer.   Seriously, can we discuss a disease with a sense of integrity and maturity?

For four years now, I’ve been waiting for someone to really explain to me how shirts like these increase awareness for breast cancer in the first place.  To me, they just raise awareness to the fact that women have breasts.

One of the slogans I have never understood was “save second base.”  Why is it even appropriate to use a slang term for getting felt up, because that’s what second base means, and use it for breast cancer awareness campaigns?  “Let’s save all the boobies so a woman can always get felt up!”  After my double mastectomy, I have zero feeling in my chest, so second base has been crossed off for me.  You know what, though?   Screw second base – hit a triple or just run home.    There, problem solved.

Besides, how is wearing a shirt that says “Save the Hooters” increasing awareness for anything?   How does a men’s shirt offering to check ‘em for you fight the good fight?  Oh, this one is my personal favorite – a “funny” breast cancer awareness shirt for men.  (Yeah, dude.  Breast cancer is a riot.  I laughed all the way to the chemo ward.)  Or how does a men’s shirt telling us to SAVE MOTORBOATING help a patient undergoing chemo?  It doesn’t, obviously, but it apparently challenges young men to try to think of the most offensive breast cancer awareness stunts, like this one.  You know, because boobs.

The reality of it is that these campaigns are the result of folks wanting to make tons of money by selling T-shirts by vaguely saying money is going to a “good cause.”

Trust_No_One_tagline

A November 26, 2012 Post-Tribune article reported that a marketing presentation from the for-profit company, Boobies Rock! (gross), put its “gross revenues for 2011 at about $1.1 million with net revenues of $400,000 and unspecified ‘total commitments’ at just over $250,000.”   The following year, a July 8, 2013 9News.com article stated that Adam Shryock, used “Boobies Rock! profits to buy a BMW, subscribe to online dating service friendfinder.com, and even pay bar tabs and Molly Maids cleaning service bill.”  The article also reported that “some breast cancer charities supposedly ‘partnered’ with Boobies Rock! Received donations as small as $100.”

Yeah.

Breast cancer isn’t a joke, and what I and so many others have been through isn’t funny.    It’s time we start taking a life-threatening disease seriously and showing respect and compassion to those who are currently going through or have been through treatment.

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What Does “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” meant to you?

Before we all know it, Pinktober is going to rear its ugly head once again, and everywhere you look will be pink ribbons – from the grocery store, to chain restaurants and maybe a part of your downtown running path is now covered in bras (that one made me want to set the bras on fire) – all for the sake of “awareness.”  I know I have gone on and on and on about breast cancer awareness month.  I think pretty much everyone who knows me or who is familiar with Get Up Swinging knows how I feel about this month.

Well, I wanted to ask other folks with cancer, any cancer, the question: “What does Breast Cancer Awareness Month mean to you?”  The responses mostly came from other women who have had breast cancer since that’s the disease I have, but there responses from others who have undergone treatment for cancers other than breast.

 

Here are responses from those who have metastatic breast cancer:

“Even before I was diagnosed with breast cancer I loathed October. No matter where you go there is a sea of pink, ribbons, t-shirts, key chains, etc. What started out as something good had morphed into a retail/marketing machine that line the pockets of those ‘bringing awareness.’  Now after living with Stage 4 breast cancer for the past year, I understand how serious this is. There isn’t a female on this planet that isn’t ‘aware’ – that doesn’t ‘feel their boobies.’  Every person diagnosed with breast cancer COULD develop metastatic disease. Early detection does not guarantee safety.  What will save more of the 40,000 people that will die from breast cancer each year is research.  And that means money for research – not awareness.  What Komen and the others give to research is sickening. Nancy Brinkman should be ashamed of what her memorial to her precious Suzy has become. More lives could benefit from research and the clinical trials that are born of research. Until we can change the perspective of the public at large this will be an ongoing disconnect and more people will die – like me.”

“Nothing,” and then: “I have metastatic breast cancer.  When I die, I will not have lost at all.  Another reason October grosses me out: battle metaphors.”

“I think my stance has only grown stronger since being diagnosed stage 4 in the last 12 months.  I have a really hard time going grocery shopping.  I’m already getting the stupid emails about playing secret games.  How does that raise awareness?  I’m trying to come up with something for [metastatic breast cancer] similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  We’ve just got to come up with something good.”  The same friend then said, “I still really just want to punch that Komen lady in the throat.  Do you think that will bring more awareness?  I bet it’d do more for mets than a pink frying pan.  (I’m totally kidding…. Sort of.)”

Here are the responses from those who had breast cancer, aka the people who we’re supposed to celebrate during this month (allegedly):

“Hell.”

“Enough awareness already.  Time to focus on research for those with mets.  I used to like pink.  Sometimes now I struggle with wearing it.  Oh, and it makes me want to throat punch people.”  It will shock y’all that wasn’t something I said, but damn, it’s something I truly feel.

“I cringe every October now.  SGK has created an atmosphere wherein people actually resent breast cancer charities – even the good ones. It makes me very sad.  I used to like pink, too.  Now it just makes my butt pucker.”

“Absolutely nothing.  It’s a disgusting marketing ploy.”

“It means companies profit off of a disease (mostly).”

“That I’m going to flip the fuck out the next time someone posts something about not wearing underwear or using their boobs to get out of a speeding ticket because they are playing a ‘fun’ breast cancer awareness game.   And October, the month that used to be my favorite, is now the month that I won’t be able to, even for a minute, forget I had breast cancer.”

“Well, it means breast cancer awareness for everyone else, but for me, that’s every month every day.”

 “Breast cancer is sadly something we’ve all heard of.  We’re all aware of it each October because it’s shoved down our throats.  I’m all for education of things like triple negative or IBC or mets, etc., but buying a pink frying pan isn’t going to do that either.  By the way, I don’t think that pink is a vile color; I do love it, but I hate all the negative bullshit that it stands for now.  Hopping off my soapbox now….”

“I guess the month is more personal to me.  I got THAT phone call from the breast surgeon on October 1, 2012 telling me my biopsy was malignant.  ‘Sorry for the phone call, but we need to act on this PDQ.’  So, two weeks later, I’m in surgery for seven hours, having a double mastectomy and tram flap.  I’m sick of pink.  I’m sick of Tamoxifen.   I hate cancer.”

“Most people are unaware or ignorant to anything until it happens to them or someone they love.  I feel like I’ve been under the breast cancer cloud since I was about 13 and my aunt, who was like my second mother, was diagnosed and had her mastectomy.  I don’t know if her struggle was a warning to me, so I’d catch mine earlier because she ignored hers for a while before she got checked. . . .  I try to see everything for the benefit it could or does have, but the little awareness ‘games’ piss me off because people think they are doing something when they really are not.  If the month gets more women to do self-exams, check up on something suspicious, get a physical, or donate time or money who would’ve never thought to do before, I pray that is the good that comes out of it.  It’s kind of a hard month, but so is every day once your life changes that little bomb of a seed has been planted in your mind and body.”

“I definitely feel the attention has to shift from awareness to cure.  I think we all are aware now. However, maybe any attention to the disease is good attention?   I will tell you though it pisses me right off when I see crap like … For breast cancer awareness I will be brave and post a picture of myself on Facebook without makeup…. Puuuuleeeze. Personally, those who post those self-serving pictures (oh girl, you’re gorgeous without make up, wish I could look half as great) did abso’f ing’lutely nothing to help my treatment go more smoothly – physically or mentally.  If they want to see the face of bravery, I suggest they take a field trip to the waiting room of the women’s cancer center and look at the beautiful faces there with their heads covered with baseball caps, scarves, wigs or nothing.  I encourage them to look into the eyes of those women, which might be brimming with tears because they were just given the news they did not want to hear, or tears of relief because they did.  Regardless of age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity or any other defining factor.  These women and their families and support systems have hearts full of hope.  So my hope is that October brings meaningful advances in the cure and prevention of breast cancer.”

“I don’t have a lot of attachment to it.  I went to a nice breast cancer fundraiser last night with all the pink bells and whistles for the cancer center that saved my life and had a good time and made some donations.  But, there was a lot of ‘stuff’ there, that had I been in the throes of treatment or diagnosis, would have absolutely pushed me over the edge.  So, I have awareness of the real deal!  I do feel that I’ve helped shape some fundraising events so that they don’t push those buttons for others by creating awareness myself.  I’m thinking it is a good month for me to keep being true about how it all is.  At the same time, I can stay positive about the whole thing because my doctors told me the money that is raised truly helps patients and research and I believe that.  Plus my mom with Alzheimer’s only likes to wear hot pink…which is pretty weird since my sister and I are both breast cancer survivors. She doesn’t consciously understand the significance. I think I will stay away from the pink cupcakes though; and I will definitely be remembering those we have lost who no longer can pink partake. . . .  I admit, I did buy my mom a pair of breast cancer awareness sneakers because they were hot pink.  I think like a penny supposedly goes to help somebody.  *snark*”

Responses from people who had cancer, but not breast cancer:

“Well, I don’t have that type of cancer, but to me, it means I expect to see women without cancer showing off their boobs and bras and women with cancer not feeling great about being flooded with images of boobs.”  When I read this response, I actually shouted “YES!” loudly at my desk.

“Blegh.  What about the other kinds of cancer?  Pinkification stinks.”  I agree.

“I wish oral CA had the same publicity as breast CA.”

If those with breast cancer are expressing disgust and resentment at the very month that is supposed to celebrate them, then changes need to be made.  We need to stop trivializing a deadly disease by wrapping it up in a pretty pink bow.  Men also get breast cancer, and I couldn’t even fathom how horrifying Pinktober would be to a man with breast cancer.  If a friend sends you an invite for the stupid annual Facebook game so many people mentioned above, respond with links from those with cancer as to why these games are offensive.

Most of the time people mean well, but I have come across so many people who want to use Pinktober as an excuse to have a girls’ night out and drink (dumb) or just say boobies or knockers or hooters.   We need to take breast cancer seriously, even if deals with a body part that can reduce grown adults into immature 10-year olds.

I asked Lori Marx-Rubiner, the president of Metavivor, how can anyone help a loved one going through breast cancer treatment, and here is her response:

What can people do?

Give of themselves – run errands: dry cleaner, market, carpool

Make a meal – check first abt dietary restrictions

Keep patient company during treatment

Come by with a good movie

Check in 6-7 days after treatment, when the attention has died down

 

If you don’t have a specific person in mind-

Volunteer at a treatment or support center

Organize a local fundraiser

Sign up for Army of Women

 

No time?

Send a gift card – Jamba Juice, bookstore, Netflix subscription, local restaurant that delivers

Donate to research or directly