October is a month that’s always been near and dear to my heart. There are some special anniversaries to start the month, my two daughters were born on the 3rd and the 11th, my only god-daughter on the 24th. I met the love of my life at a Columbus Day party held by friends. And of course it’s the last truly beautiful month of the year with all the incredible reds and yellows and oranges against a clear, vibrantly blue sky that’s unique to the season.
It’s also the month that’s become inexorably linked with an incredibly devastating disease… breast cancer. When it comes to cancer, I can speak as both a patient and family member/friend to those who battle on, unsure but undaunted. I know the fear the mere word “cancer” can strike in the heart, I’ve waited the long, anxious days for the results of a biopsy on which everything rested. I’ve googled and researched and waited on specialists. I’ve seen first hand how our oh-so-advanced “treatment” works by ravaging the body (not to mention day-to-day life) of the patient in a constant attempt to stay one step ahead of disease… to beat it back, and beat it back again. It’s a suffering as intense and all-consuming as anything you might imagine.
Cancer, whether of the breast or another body system, has been called the emperor of all maladies, and it is most assuredly that.
Which is why it hits especially hard to witness the level of pinkwashing that comes along with the beautiful reds and golds of this beautiful month. Nothing, not even the toughest of the tough, pro football players, are immune. Too many companies seem to be slapping pink on anything and everything to sell to women rather than offer any kind of genuine support to the cause. Fortunate then that more and more of us are starting to wonder if all the pretty pink ribbons and pastel t-shirt clad walkers, runners and bikers are really doing all that much.
Making money off the suffering of cancer (or any disease for that matter) patients and their families in the name of research surely is a crime equal to murder in the eyes of man and God. It’s a slap in the face to every patient, health care provider, dedicated researcher and family member who’s ever dealt with the disease. Never mind the well-meaning people who buy thinking they are doing something, however small, to help a worthy cause. Nothing is more despicable.
A disquieting example of pinkwashing comes from the stink (sorry!) raised by the perfume commissioned by breast cancer fundraising giant Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Known as Promise Me, the new product has been found in independent testing to contain toxic chemicals that aren’t listed in the ingredients… a questionable offering from an organization that claims to be dedicated to women’s health.
Interesting too that Komen requires a minimum of funds raised before you can participate in one of their events. No money. No working toward the cure. No support. No chance to honor a patient struggling or a woman lost.
It’s hard to deny that a rather robust industry has grown up around breast cancer fundraising. All the soft, girlie, pastel pinkness is, according to some, working to keep women from getting as angry as we should be and demanding more support for research, better treatment options for a cancer that predominantly affects females.
Can’t help thinking there’s something to that last part.
If you’re wondering what you can do, your willingness to purchase (and spread the word) has more power than you think. Use it. Learn more about this disease and how you can protect yourself and the women in your life. Demand a second (even third) opinion. Be your own advocate.
And understand just how much money from those pink clad products actually goes to this cause. Ask:
- How much from each purchase goes to breast cancer?
- What’s the maximum the company will donate?
- What might you, as the shopper, have to do to be sure donation is made?
- What organization gets the money?
- What does the company do to be sure the product doesn’t have ingredients linked to breast cancer?
You might also check out the consumer education program of grass-roots advocacy organization Breast Cancer Action (BCA) known as Think Before You Pink. You can even send a letter directly to Komen with your thoughts about the perfume and pinkwashing.
Say nothing and nothing changes. Speak up and we have a chance.