Grumbling

Thank you, Nancy Brinker.  For more than you know.

For providing the inspiration I needed to get blogging again when all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and mourn the loss of my beautiful dog.  When the thought of writing about breast cancer was beyond me.
For igniting a spark among my tired, depleted emotions.
For reminding me why my blog exists.  Why quiet bloggers everywhere with something to say — matter.  We are not simply typing away in lonely, empty rooms for the sake of something to do.  Many of us were pushed into blogging by the sheer, ugly fact of having cancer or by the sad, frustration endured with the growing number of people we’ve lost to it.
In my case — both.
So, Nancy Brinker, when people who are “scared to death” as your sister was, or like you, have lost someone or are dealing with their own breast cancer, women and men whose dream it is to realize the eradication of breast cancer, have their questions equated to words of “grumblers” and their concerns tossed aside as some lint plucked from a fancy pink jacket, you inspire us to write.  For that is all we can do.  We, the Grumblers.  We can ban together as one and as my friend, Jody, says, “Roar.”


Because, here’s the thing.  No one is denying the good work Komen has done over the years.  Especially me.  I’ve personally seen the benefits of breast cancer awareness after my mother fought her disease in quiet secret and when I was diagnosed years later.  I could choose to keep my mouth closed and solider on, as she had or use my words to describe the reality of the disease; it’s various forms, it’s ability to return no matter one’s prognosis or treatment.  I was able to find empathetic support, because the disease was no longer in the shadows.
And that is a direct result of the pink movement bringing breast cancer education to the masses, making it acceptable to say it’s name, Breast Cancer, in most homes around the world, but not all, not yet.  
So, I actually agree with you when you say “There won’t be enough pink until the fight against this disease is won.”  People are still dying.  Everyday.  Nearly 40,000 people in the United States alone will die this year, and it’s not because someone didn’t wear a pink tee shirt.  It’s not because someone didn’t purchase enough pink Tic Tacs or donate to yet another fundraiser.  It may not be because someone didn’t get a mammogram early enough.
Forty thousand people will die because we don’t know how to prevent metastatic breast cancer.
Because, in simple terms, we don’t know how to prevent normal cells from becoming malignant.
Maybe, if the bulk of donated dollars were given to research, we’d be more hopeful, but that is not the case.  Not when Komen for the Cure appropriates approximately 19% to research, along with a myriad of other organizations raising money “for the cure,” but actually only raising enough to sell additional cute shirts and pink rubber bracelets adorned with catchy phrases.
What an opportunity you have, Nancy Brinker.  To stand up in front of the millions working so hard for the cause and announce Komen has fulfilled their goal of raising awareness, and while it won’t be forgotten, fewer dollars will be allocated.  Stand up and declare it’s time for Komen to refocus their efforts where it’s needed most — research, because without that, breast cancer will never be cured.
Komen has the power to fund the most promising work, the opportunity to further incredible advancements.  Komen can be on the cutting edge of the breast cancer cure.
And isn’t that really what you promised your sister so long ago?  Back, when you yourself were grumbling about the way the disease was handled.  How can you fulfill your promise to end breast cancer without prioritizing research?
Please don’t disrespect us for questioning the status quo.  In the end, we all want the same thing.  A clear path to a future without breast cancer.  One where awareness campaigns are gone for good.  


We heard you.  Do you hear us?


Let There Be Cheerleaders

For the past few days, I’ve been trying to write a post about Sunday, but it’s October and I’m distracted.  Everywhere I turn I’m overwhelmed with pinkertising while not even looking for it.  But, there it is.  In my mailbox, in my supermarket (chicken sausage, anyone?), at my gym and even in the dentist’s chair adorning the paper bib used to soak up spit.  I was informed by the hygienist, these bibs were specially purchased to help raise awareness.

Oh, it’s working.  I’m totally aware.

My brother asked if I’m anti-pink.  Not exactly.  Like so many these days, I’m against what “pink” has come to represent. The happy-go-lucky, early stage, still having fun, never sick, all is right in the world, let’s get coffee with perfect hair and makeup, cancer survivor.  My skin prickles at this unrealistic vision created by major marketing machines.

All is not well in the land of breast cancer.  For if it were, there would be no need for last Sunday.

It’s been nearly thirty years since Nancy Brinker founded the Susan G. Komen organization and began work to end breast cancer.  In those years, Komen and other cancer organizations succeeded in shining a light on what was once a shameful, embarrassing, deadly disease.  A disease, no one dared speak of louder than a whisper.

How far they’ve come.  I can’t step outside my door, or power up my computer without being assaulted by a litany of companies all promising to aid in the fight.  All promising their donated dollars will put a stop to it.

The thing is, it hasn’t worked.  Thirty years, no cure and more questions than answers.  The promise most of us grew up with, has yet to come true.  We’re still being told we have breast cancer.  It’s that failure in finding a cure which inspired thousands of people on Sunday to turn out for a small organization, named Support Connection.

The crowd didn’t show to raise money for research.

They weren’t walking for education and awareness.

It wasn’t about the cure.

Their purpose was to acknowledge the remnants of unfulfilled promises — The people left in cancer’s wake. Those of us actually living with breast or ovarian cancer.  The day was simply a way of ensuring this organization would continue to provide its free support, information, counseling and hope through stories and experiences of women who had lived it.

That kind of help is sadly, still desperately in need.

All these years without answers created the urgency for such a place.  As the reign of breast cancer lingers, Support Connection exists for the approximate 200,000 women who annually find themselves newly diagnosed.  It exists for those with advanced stages of breast cancer, which continues to occur since no one has discovered how to stop Stage I from becoming Stage IV.

Without a cure, we are left to fend for ourselves, but if we’re lucky, we’ll find the support needed to heal…needed to just face our day.

It was a beautiful Sunday.  Many participants walked together as teams.  Many brought dogs. Cheerleading squads and local high school bands performed along the path and at first, I couldn’t understand why they were cheering.

This wasn’t a race.  No one was awarded a prize for finishing first.  We were here for each other.  That’s why they were cheering.  For the thousands of us, everywhere, directly affected by society’s failure to eradicate this disease.  We’re still dealing with cancer, everyday.  We live with it, die with it and carry each other along the way.

Many walkers wore signs claiming “In honor of” or “In memory of” some loved one.  Many were walking to commemorate their own triumphs.  I didn’t pin on any signs in the name of those I’ve lost.  I also didn’t walk for myself.  I walked for all the ladies and men I’ve never met who will one day hear the words, “You have cancer” and need a  place to turn. Support Connection provides that and with the generosity of donors, will continue to freely give services until they are no longer needed.  When the promises of all the pink finally, hopefully, one day come to fruition and breast cancer becomes a thing of the past.

Sorry, Support Connection, your doors will have to close.  Fundraising walks will go by the wayside and your toll-free hotline will quietly shut down, but those cheerleaders… They’ll really have something to yell about.  What a welcome sight that will be.