Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Embracing the Pink
For a long time I was not part of the pink ribbon club. I have blogged about the big pink marketing machine known as breast cancer awareness, whether it comes in the form of a month or as a surprise attack throughout the year. I have shared how I struggle with the marketing aspect and that I find the month uncomfortable at times. Many of you did too and I was right there with you, even though I am indeed part of the breast cancer community. Do you understand? I. was. right. there. with. you.

This year, I tried to find peace, a middle ground so to speak. I learned about all the advances that breast cancer research lends to other cancer treatments including lung cancer, head and neck cancers, and others. This helped me to realize that the fifty cents from M&Ms resounded throughout the entire cancer community. Not such a bad deal when you consider how those fifty cents add up over time and across many vendors.

Since October I have read one too many pieces about how other cancers are slighted because they don’t get the same attention, how lung cancer is actually the number one killer among women and should get more attention, and blah blah blah, wine, wine, cry. Well now, all of my anti-pink friends who I am lovingly calling the bitchers and moaners in the blogospere, you have pushed me over the edge. Let’s examine the facts:

1. First, we are a nation obsessed with breasts. No, let me restate that. We are an international people obsessed with breasts. There is nothing sexy about lungs. Nothing sexy about your pancreas either. No one (except perhaps your doctor) will judge you or promote you or ask you out to dinner based on the appearance of your liver. Who wouldn’t want to save the breasts? Hell, I still wish I could have saved my own. There is even a line of t-shirts dedicated to the cause.

2. This is serious (any time I use stats I’m serious). According to the National Lung Cancer Partnership, 82,000 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year and 68,510 will die from the disease. Yes, the mortality rate is deplorable; however, according to the Komen Foundation, 212,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 and 40,970 will die from this disease. While the mortality rate is lower, the rate of diagnosis is two and half times greater. And guess what? The mortality rate was MUCH higher when we weren’t raising funds for research, treatment, and early detection.

Put these two items together and what does it mean? There are a whole lot more breast cancer survivors out there to raise awareness and be the squeaky wheel. And while yes, we are alive to tell our stories, we have also been through hell. In the seventies and early eighties, mastectomy was the only way to go and everything was removed down to the chest wall muscle. Women were left visibly deformed and ravaged with no insurance benefits for reconstruction. Many of us know the lifelong side-effects of chemo, but in the early days of chemo the patients suffered even greater. Through research and clinical trials we have become smarter. Lumpectomies are performed when possible and chemo and radiation are limited in duration to what is known to be effective.

We have taken these experiences and brought them to light and the corporate community responded to our pleas for help. Sure, it helps them too, but it helps us all. If contributing to breast cancer awareness were not profitable for the vendor, it would not continue to occur. Whether you embrace the pink or not, somebody is out there buying up the Campbell’s Soup faster than you can schedule your annual mammogram.

Next time you are complaining about breast cancer awareness, remember that when you or someone you know is being treated for ovarian cancer or head & neck cancer that the drugs that are being administered were developed to fight breast cancer and through research found to be effective for other cancers as well. Next time you complain about the color pink remember that research for breast cancer resonates through the entire cancer community. Next time you complain about the barrage of products on the store shelves, remember that one of those 212,000 women diagnosed could be you or your mother or your sister or your wife. Next time you complain about how your cancer doesn’t get the same attention as my cancer, remember that all cancers are our cancers and any contribution we make to one effects us all.

And next time you complain about any of this, remember that you made me cross over to the pink side.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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