It’s October and we all know what that means. Pink! From ribbons, to kitchen appliances, workout wear to M & M’s (ah, the irony…), we are bombarded with creating awareness of breast cancer (like there’s one woman unaware of it), promoting mammograms and raising money for the Cure. For more than 25 years, we have been marketed the idea that if we just run one more race; write one more check; buy one more pink ribbon adorned tee shirt, they’ll find the elusive cure they dangle in front of all women.
Did you know that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was created by a drug company (currently known as Astra Zeneca), who not coincidentally produces breast cancer treatment drugs?
As women, we need to stand together and ask the question that no one wants asked (certainly no one at Susan G. Komen for the Cure). With all the money raised, why are we no closer to this Cure? The statistics tell the truth. This year, more than 192,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, accounting for more than one in four cancers diagnosed. And while it’s true that from 1997 to 2006, there has been a steady decline in breast cancer deaths (1.9 percent a year), breast cancer rates have remained the same since 2003. A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer sometime in her life is a little less than 1 in 8.
With all the races, walks, climbs, crusades, relief funds, white water rafting events (yes, you heard me…) and even recycling for the Cure, you’d think we’d have raised enough money to actually, well, cure breast cancer.
Yes, we have created improved treatments, more targeted therapies, better screening, better ways for a woman to detect her cancer early. But no one is really talking about preventing this plague in the first place! Not one discussion during October places the focus squarely on the lifestyle choices a woman can make to radically reduce her risk…not catch it early, but actually dodge the bullet!
Now before you get your pink panties in a twist, this is not an indictment of all the strong, courageous women who have been diagnosed; who have suffered through devastating treatments; that have walked or run in support of their own strength and survival or the strength and survival of another woman. Okay? I have been through my own struggle with cancer, so I know from whence I speak, as the saying goes. I love these women and their strength.
This is about organizations and corporations who prey on women when they are at their most vulnerable, when they’re sick, frightened, about to lose a symbol of their womanhood. And we fall for it.
People get in a snit when you talk to them about changing their lives and eating food that supports health and wellness. What about their favorite things? What favorite things? Heart disease, stroke, obesity and cancer? Those favorite things? The fact that people get so defensive about the eating habits that make us weak, fat and sick is astonishing to me. Healthy eating creates vitality, well-being, strong immune function, glowing skin and hair, robust bodies. The fact that we can denigrate that and elevate the habits that create the very illnesses that require the founding of all the runs, walks and other awareness-raising events in the parade of the sick is at the root of what is rotting our society.
Here’s something you should know before you pin on your next pink ribbon. The history of this little symbol began in the early 90’s with Charlotte Haley, a woman who made peach ribbons to create awareness that of the National Cancer Institute’s $1.8 billion budget only 5% went to the prevention of breast cancer. When she refused to sell her idea for ribbons to corporations because she thought they would turn the idea ‘too commercial,’ they simply stole it and changed the color to the comforting, soothing pink that is everything that breast cancer is not. And women are encouraged to shop, drive, dress and cook in solidarity with their sisters in disease.
Over 100 million dollars are raised each year for breast cancer research. That’s big business. The corporations, organizations and industries that benefit from all these research dollars diminish or mask the extent of the problem, fail to protect women’s health and divert attention from the importance of finding the causes of breast cancer and having real discussions about how to prevent it.
But then again, I guess we wouldn’t need all those walks, runs, recycling projects, white water rafting and other fund raisers if we really got to the bottom of this and found the Cure.
Image Source: Nomadic Lass/Flickr