Its almost like clock work. Every October, the world is flooded with pink ribbons as it seeks to remind us that its Breast Cancer Month. This is not comparable to any other campaign for any other type of disease.
It’s almost become a fashion item and while it was meant to create awareness about Breast Cancer and to create conversations, there is a movement claiming that it doesn’t happen. Thus it begs the question, beyond the good intentions which is probably to show sympathy, pink ribbons don’t tell the whole story about breast cancer.
Recently Tracie Marie, a breast cancer survivor, addressed the issue by challenging organisations which plan these elaborate campaigns to re-focus on patient care.
In Namibia, numerous events take place during the month of October such as a run, cupcake sales, Zumba parties and a very glamorous Ladies Breakfast event held in Swakopmund for the first time this year. So we ask, how does all of this help cancer patients ?
American cancer survivor Marie who had a double mastectomy wrote on her Facebook account that “While the majority of people believe that Breast Cancer is a pink ribbon, a pink Pom Pom, a pen with a pink ribbon, a tote with a pink ribbon, an encap at your local Walmart engaging you to be a ‘part of the cure,’. First, a hard reality, you are not being part of the cure, you’re just throwing your money away to propaganda, uniforms for NFL cheerleaders, and kiosk after kiosk with items from handbags to ziplock bags.”
Another issue she raises is the sexualisation of breast cancer. Having both your breasts removed is not a pretty thing and she questions the use of models with fake scars and the use of “beautiful bodies and breasts with the strap so perfectly dangling from her shoulder.”
The perhaps-not-so-pleasant truth about breast cancer is that women who had a mastectomy had at least one breast removed. A mastectomy is defined as a surgical operation to remove a breast. Unbeknown to many, there are five different types of operations described in medical journals. They are “simple” or total” mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy, radical mastectomy, partial mastectomy, and subcutaneous (nipple-sparing) mastectomy.
This means after this surgical procedure, women and men ( who are diagnosed with breast cancer) have a definitive scar. That scar causes depression, insomnia, rejection and partners struggle at times to adjust to the physical appearance of their once “fabulous” partner. What is also not so obvious is that not all women receive breast implants which restore their feminine appearance. Their breasts are literally amputated.
Namibian cancer survivor Patricia Pickering agreed with Marie by saying that she does not even attend the functions which are held in the name of cancer awareness because she is unsure of how patients are benefitting from it especially in the light of critical equipment not working as was recently reported at the State hospitals. ‘Marie is correct because this disease is life changing, it is emotionally intrusive and physically draining. There is nothing glamourous about it.”
Pickering continues “ I recently had to have an injection for my cell count and a single injection set me back N$ 6000. But fortunately I have medical aid, what about the person who doesn’t ?”
Breast Cancer Action is an international organisation and they recently coined the phrase “pinkwashing” which they compare with brainwashing. They ask people who wish to support cancer care, to interrogate themselves by asking the following questions before they make a donation:
1. Does any money from this purchase go to support breast cancer programs? How much ?
2. What organization will get the money? What will they do with the funds, and how do these programs turn the tide of the breast cancer epidemic?
3. Is there a “cap” on the amount the company will donate? Has this maximum donation already been met? Can you tell?
4. Does this purchase put you or someone you love at risk for exposure to toxins linked to breastcancer? What is the company doing to ensure that its products are not contributing to the breastcancer epidemic?
Think before you pink !