Two more weeks to go.
In case you haven’t noticed, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
NFL players are wearing pink cleats. The White House has been bathed in rosy light. Every product suddenly has a pink iteration tugging at our heartstrings, a chance to shop in support of breast cancer awareness.
I actually have heard of breast cancer, thanks. I’m plenty aware.
What I don’t see – and the only thing I want to see now – are solutions: fewer women diagnosed and fewer women dying.
As The New York Times reported this year, truly radical ideas for diagnosing or treating the disease are often stalled, while powerful labs and researchers focused on the safer status quo keep winning the lion’s share of the funds raised by the perennially hopeful wearers of pink.
I want my money to make a damn difference. And for all the annual hoopla, I don’t see one.
My mother is a 17-year survivor, having had a mastectomy. I spend every day wondering when, or if, I’ll develop it and have not had the genetic test that would detect my greater odds of developing breast cancer. I did get my baseline mammogram at 35 and get one every year.
So far, so good.
The pinkness of this annual drama annoys me. Cancer isn’t cute or cuddly, something to tame and prettify with a new lipstick or lapel ribbon. No amount of feel-good marketing can alter the fact that women are dying daily of this disease and all the millions, if not billions, of dollars already raised and spent to cure them, hasn’t changed this.
Do we really, still, need to be made aware of this disease? What discernible, practical improvement in women’s lives does all this awareness create?
You either know that you have breast cancer, or you don’t – and thank God for that. And if you lack easy, affordable – or any – access to a physician or diagnostic tests, a pink ribbon isn’t of much use.
By now, I highly doubt that many middle or upper-income women in the U.S. still haven’t heard of breast cancer, or its symptoms, or where or how or when to get a mammogram. Women with less education, income or health insurance? When their survival rates start to skyrocket, you’ve got my cash.
No pink ribbon can change this:
Research hasn’t cured the disease, in all its forms.
Many women still have poor to no access to the medical care that can detect and treat breast cancer.
Insurance companies will fight tooth and claw for maximum profits on the backs – and breasts – of gravely ill women.
Thousands of us live in terror of finding a lump.