Some of you may know that I participated in the Komen Race for the Cure yesterday in downtown Columbus. It is a big event with 40,000 people in attendance. Most of you know that I am not a fan of the Komen organization for many reasons. It mostly has to do with the allocation of funds for “awareness” instead of research into cures for disease and especially breast cancer that has spread and will kill, metastatic disease. The commercialization of a non-profit organization and distribution of “pink” merchandise is also offensive to me. I don’t like the pink, cheerful, celebration of a disease that can be devastatingly horrible and life changing but may just be a slow threat that needs to be treated. I have written on this subject before. Here
Be sure to check out think before you pink. Pinkwasher: (pink’-wah-sher) noun. A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.
Since doctors don’t know how to predict which cancers will kill yet they just treat all with the assumption that all will kill. My question then becomes what are we celebrating when we laud the survivors? Great job getting the kind of breast cancer that doesn’t kill you? For now? Cause its all a big question without a good answer. Sometimes people get cancer and it goes undetected and untreated for years. Sometimes people get cancer and it goes away with treatment. Sometimes the cancer spreads and the treatment holds it off for awhile but it’s too much and the person dies. We have very little control over this. So what makes a “survivor”? Is it enough to just not die from cancer? Going through something scary and physically taxing and then being able to run 3.1 miles? What do we do with the woman who has stage IV metastatic breast cancer? She’s not going to survive and this party is not for her. She hopes to have a few years left but it’s uncertain.
Komen’s goal is to raise awareness and detect these diseases before they get to this point. Some talk about early detection or “feel the boobies” and it’s cousin “save the tatas” but the fact is that early detection doesn’t save your precious twin girls. If the cancer is enough to be seen on a mammogram or felt during an exam then you still have cancer and you will be losing a good part of that boob or even a whole tata or two. The point is that maybe early detection could save your life. However, in spite of increased awareness and increased screening breast cancer deaths have not decreased. Read Here
Early detection and treatment is not an accurate measurement who will go on to have metastatic breast disease. Your survival attitude and will to live do not guarantee remission. Not all cancers are terrible though. Some are easy. My breast cancer was relatively easy and as it turned out I was not facing a real threat of death especially since I aggressively and possibly over-treated it. I don’t understand these survival celebrations for that reason. What are we celebrating? It’s like an exclusive club of smiling pink teary-eyed cheerleaders. We are the survivors! But some of us won’t survive and I don’t believe it has anything to do with our character or how much we prayed or didn’t pray or how hard we worked. “Fighting” cancer has been one of the most passive activities for me. Things happen to me and around me but all I could do was try to get up, try to eat and keep moving forward doing the next thing. I no longer worry about what ifs. There are too many to manage. I just do each day.
I know I’m in the minority with my anti-establishment attitude but I’ve never liked being inscribed into any kind of organization to which I do not fully identify. I do not glean empowerment from the affirmation and attention of crowds. People go to Komen for different reasons. I was in it for the walk downtown with friends and the swag. I truly do have an amazing support system of friends and family for whom I am extremely grateful. The friend that took me has been going through her own issues but has been a wonderful support. She encouraged me to allow her to push me in the wheelchair for the 5K run/walk and then once we got to the survivor lane another friend ran out to meet me and we walked to end together. It was sweet and I had a good day. I’ll just leave it at that.
I have been documenting with pictures all along but here is one side by side showing progress. The picture on the left is me at home but I remember how difficult it was to stand long enough to take my picture. I usually keep my “ugly” pictures hidden but I’m being brave enough today.