Pink-tober

When I was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer in March, I asked you to help me by signing up for the Avon / Love Army of Women  and participating in research trials.  Last month, I again urged BlogHer readers to “join the Army of Women fighting breast cancer by signing up for emails about future studies, and participating in easy, online studies or studies in your hometown when something applies to you — and to blog about your decision, asking your readers to as well.”

Today, the first day of what some activists call “pink-tober,” I should be asking again.  I fully intended to write a strong, passionate post today about the importance of research in the long fight against all the malfunctions that we call cancer.  It is important.  You know that.  Research is the only thing that will help us understand what causes and what will treat cancer, in all its many forms.

But today, I’m too tired to hype it, cheerily proclaiming “October is breast cancer awareness month! Check yourself! Call your doctor! Schedule a mammogram (if you’re over 40 or have breast cancer risk factors, like family members who have been diagnosed)! ” as if it’s a happy month, a thing to celebrate.

And in all honesty?  Today I’m a little preoccupied.

I’m tired, and it’s almost time for the nap I need each afternoon, as my body fights the tiny cancer cells that surely lurk in my body, even after surgery and radiation.

My feet hurt, from the blisters on the bottom caused by the chemotherapy leaking out of my body, gram by gram. 

I’m too nauseated to nibble on pink candy, pink gum, and such, even if it’s “for the cause!” and wrapped in a cheery pink ribbon.

I’m too weak from the treatment to jog in cheery pink ribboned shoes or socks or pullovers or even the pink survivor t-shirts from all the races I’ve supported.

My lymphedema has flared up and my physical therapist has warned me against pushing even a pink vacuum, no matter where the proceeds go.

I’m so tired, and I need to relax, but tonight I dread turning on the tv and seeing the plethora of pinkness in this month’s ads.  Save yogurt lids.  Buy pink.  Click here.  Like that.  Buy something else, and someone, somewhere, will donate a dime, a dollar, something to “the cause” that is breast cancer research. 

Yes, donating is grand.  But please, think before you pink.  Know where the donations will go, and how much of each purchase actually makes it to research.  If the pink labeled cookies cost 50 cents more than the regular ones, and the company only donates 5 cents per box, stop, think, and send the 50 cents (or more) to the cancer society of your choice when you get home.  If the pink-labeled candy causes you to gain weight, stop, don’t buy it.  Go for a walk instead, and nosh on carrot sticks for snack, reducing risk of obesity-related cancers.  If the chicken place will donate a buck when you buy a bucket of fat- and grease-laden extra crispys, stop.  Eat a 5 oz piece of grilled chicken at home, and use the buck to support a friend in a race for the cure.  Write about your decisions, about how you’re deciding to choose you and work to prevent cancer in real ways, rather than blindly buying crap just because it has a pink ribbon and it makes you feel like you’re making a difference.  Instead, let’s decide to make a difference, and realize that there are many, many ways to make a difference in the fight against cancer. 

I’m sorry if this comes off as rant-y.  I’m a little preoccupied.  I’ve been up since 4 a.m. worried about whether I’ll be healthy enough to restart chemo on Monday.  Worried about whether the chemo is working.  Worried about this lump that appeared just above my scar last week, and which is getting steadily bigger. 

All I want is for cancer to go away, and for there to be no more need for the world to turn pink in October.

Edited to add: Unfortunately, wishing like this doesn’t make cancer go away.  Research does.  Please join the fight by signing up to participate in  research, whether you’re a survivor or not — research needs you.  I need you.  There aren’t enough people volunteering for studies, and we can’t wait any longer.  Join the Army of Women and make a difference in the lives of those who have cancer — and those who never want to get it.  Come back and let me know that you’ve signed up and/or written about this opportunity to help research, and I’ll do a round-up post and link to whatever you want.  Your blog, your business, your etsy shop, your political campaign.  Whatever.  I’ll do anything to move the research a little further, a little faster.  (My life depends on it.)

44 Responses to Pink-tober

  1. awesome post Susan! I plan to re-run the guest post that you did for me to remind people.

    I am saying extra prayers for you this week!

  2. tightropemum says:

    Susan – words escape me. You really hit the nail on the head and I thank you for it. Having said that, you are very much in my thoughts in these coming days, weeks and months as you battled on. My greatest appreciation for your previous email which must have used up your much depleted energy.

  3. We’ve always donated right to the source, right where the research was happening. Whether it is a local hospital’s cancer center or a family we know who needs something in the community. I’ve not been a fan of the pink products for exactly the reason you state. It seems insulting for a company to “offer” a donation of 5 cents per product when the proceeds they make from that product are 3x’s as much. It just feels slimy to me.

    • whymommy says:

      And yet I don’t want to discourage people from helping, because, really? IS the average supermarket shopper going to go home and send a check to ACS or thier favorite hospital?

      I don’t know. I see the value, I do. I just hate that companies are getting rich by making cancer trendy. And I resent them making their donations contingent on busy moms saving yogurt lids.

  4. October was always my favorite month in my life before IBC. Now it is still my favorite month (the weather! my daughter’s birthday! my anniversary! pumpkins!) but complicated (the anniversary of my diagnosis, so much pink). It often seems that when we are tired and “negative” as cancer patients other people are put off but I think you really used your fatigue, sadness, and fear to communicate a very important message. I’m thinking of you and all our sisters (brothers/mothers/children/etc).

    • whymommy says:

      Thank you, April. I hate to be grumpy, but I’m growing a little tired of being a shiny happy cancer patient … everything’s NOT fine. I hurt. My friends hurt. And we’re battling for our lives.

      I hope this doesn’t send people away, I do. But I also feel that it’s important to speak up when I can, while I can.

      Thanks for being here, and for using your words to tell your truth.

  5. marty says:

    Oh my heavens, YES. Thank you for saying this.

    Give straight to the cause. I could rant on with you, but you said it so well, I’ll refrain.

    This is exactly why I’m grumpy about pink-tober this year.

    • whymommy says:

      And then doesn’t it just feel awful? I want a cure. I NEED a cure. I want to do everything I can. I just want to be sure that all the energy and efforts and love go to actually make a difference.

      Thanks, friend.

  6. Wow, I am speachless and in awe. Susan, every word you have spoken is so very true and I couldn’t agree with you more. As a breast cancer survivor, I feel somewhat “exploited” by all of this pink stuff in stores. Don’t get me wrong, we need to raise money for research for the drugs to help us all try and win this battle that none of us have signed up for! And in a perfect world, there will be no more cancer.

    My prayers are with you…

  7. jodifur says:

    I thought today, as I was in the grocery store looking at all the breast cancer awareness products, why the backlash for breast cancer awareness month? Because I had heard of the backlash and had not heard why. Thank you for explaining think before you pink.

    And also, you are in my thoughts. Always.

  8. Katya_D says:

    I read your post above when someone retweeted it – what a moving piece, thankyou so much for writng it. It may seem a little trite to write this, but I wish you all the very best with your cancer battle/struggle/whatever you choose to call it. You seem like an amazing woman.

  9. Julie Pippert says:

    Your last paragraph is it. Exactly.

    You know, it’s become so wide, broad and prolific as to seem meaningless to me. It’s possible to be spread too thin.

    I need to think of the people not a carton of yogurt.

    If I could, I’d push your vacuum. I’d find a soothe for your feet. I’d figure out why and how.

    XO to you and your post so full of integrity — your truth to you — and honesty — your truth to us.

    It’s a lot more meaningful to me.

  10. Rima says:

    You’re still in my thoughts and prayers, Susan. I’m glad you wrote about this – sometimes I think the pink is getting so ubiquitous that people forget how serious an issue it is, and not all pretty fun and games.

  11. Karen says:

    We do our own “pink” thing – making, baking and getting together to support reasearch – The $1000 our small group donated last October will go a lot further than the few cents an item donated on our purchases at the supermarket

    Keeping you and all the other fighter in my prayers..

  12. jenn says:

    Susan. While watching the Ravens play the Steelers today, I was really bothered by the Steelers’ pink cleats and gear. Could not put my fingers on why but it really bothered me (thinking maybe its cuz we just hate the Steelers so much!) But now it comes to me: how much $$ must all that gear have cost? Good grief, put it elsewhere other than cleats and gear! Bothersome. Thanks for you post. And stay strong. You have so many people – perfect strangers like me – praying for you and your family every single day.

    • whymommy says:

      Thanks, Jenn. I like to think that we’re not strangers if we’re praying for the same things. And I know we’re both praying for healing.

      The pink football gear started out innocently enough – I even met the football player who became the face of the effort after he lost his mom to cancer, at an ACS rally on Capitol Hill. He was sweet to my little boys and gave them high-fives and hugs. I believe he meant well, as did the cancer organizations involved. But do they all really wear pink cleats and other gear now? I thought it was just a glove.

  13. Jenster says:

    Not ranty. Just real. I’ll give you an AMEN!

    • whymommy says:

      Thanks. It’s hard letting this part show sometimes, isn’t it? I’d love so much to be the perfect little cancer patient … but it’s not all shiny pink ribbons and bravery, is it?

      Readers — Jenster wrote a great post over at the motherswithcancer.com blog this weekend about pink-tober too. Check it out!

  14. Lynne says:

    Despite how crappy you feel, you found a deep resevoir of strength and wisdom that has touched a lot us. I hope you have a more comfortable week.

  15. […] that fight cancer. Why? Susan Neibur, a.k.a. Why Mommy, sums it up nicely over at Toddler Planet. She writes: If the pink labeled cookies cost 50 cents more than the regular ones, and the company only […]

  16. Jennifer a.k.a.@NowSeriouslyKid says:

    Thank you for your post. I agree with others, it’s not ranty, just about time someone said it. The business of raising money for cancer has always bothered me. If a business really wants to make a difference they would do it. Don’t use cancer as a self serving advertisement. It has to be frustrating to watch people trying to profit from this disease while you fight for your life.
    My prayers are with you.

  17. Nickie says:

    I don’t personally buy the pink stuff. I do all I can do to try and support funds for free mammograms and donations to research, but I know what I do is tiny in comparison to what is needed. Still, I do what I can… cancer is very close to me, personally.

    Capitalizing on cancer, like a lot of companies do that sell the stuff, is unfair and in many ways wrong. But, on the other hand… isn’t it better than nobody doing anything to raise money for research? Even if it is only 5 cents per… one million times 5 cents adds up. Multiply that by the countless items that are out there (the ones that truly send portions to cancer research) and before you know it, millions of dollars have been raise in one month out of 12. I can’t personally afford to donate what I wish I could donate, but I try. For some people, buying the pink stuff is the only way they can afford to get involved. And at least they are trying. Because they care.

    I do want to add that before everyone jumps all over the NFL for going pink, take a minute to find out why the players are wearing pink cleats or pink ribbons or pink wrist bands. Something as huge as the NFL going ‘pink’, these big manly-men wearing pink, is a good thing the way I see it. It shows they care. And caring is the first step in doing something. And they are sending a message– donate, support, help, do what you can. That is an important message.

    I turned my blog pink for October (or somewhat pink). I hope people don’t get mad at me for sporting my pink like they have so many others… but like I said, I am trying to do all I can to support research, with what little I have. If I can get one person to donate to ACS or Komen, then I feel as if I’ve done something.

  18. Niksmom says:

    Sending huge (very gentle) hugs and prayers your way.

  19. justenjoyhim says:

    I did sign up . . . but then found that none of the studies is really for someone like me.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t think what they’re doing is great. I’ll have to write about it in my blog (maybe tomorrow) so it’s not all bitter-bitter stuff lately. *sigh*

    Love to you.

  20. I was reading a story today in North & South magazine (a NZ current affairs magazine) about how here in New Zealand ‘pinking’ is much more regulated and circumspect than in the States. I still think its over-commercialised here so understand why you guys have ‘think before you pink’. As I said in my MWC post I also support the fact that the BC charities here are moving away from calling October breast cancer awareness month and call it breast cancer action month – I feel I can support that more than just an ‘awareness’ campaign

  21. NYFriend says:

    I hear ya on the pink crap. It makes me upset too. I don’t feel you were being grumpy!!

    I hope you feel better soon and the lump causes you no trouble.

    I don’t know how relevant this is, but I’ve heard that our bodies purge toxins through our feet (they also can absorb a lot through them too).

    Big hugs.

  22. Steph says:

    A powerful post, thank you. I’m sorry for all that you and your family are going through.

  23. “I just hate that companies are getting rich by making cancer trendy.” — that’s exactly how I feel.

    Thinking of you so often! I’ll do another push for my friends/family to join Army of Women (I’ve been on since you first told us about it!). xoxo

  24. […] much of the proceeds from that pink product actually benefit breast cancer awareness/testing/research? Here’s a pitch that arrived in my […]

  25. Allez says:

    You said it better than I ever could. October is exhausting. Hugs to you and many many good thoughts for your next round of treatment.

  26. Katie says:

    Great post! I have to say that I am disappointed in BlogHer for partnering with Komen and KFC with their Buckets for a Cure. Come visit my blog when you have a chance – uneasypink.com.

  27. […] their successful breast cancer journeys so that when people like ‘justenjoyhim’ and ‘whymommy’ try to say something different they are shot down as being cranky or ungrateful when in reality […]

  28. […] about their successful breast cancer journeys so that when people like ‘justenjoyhim’ and ‘whymommy’ try to say something different they are shot down as being cranky or ungrateful when in reality […]

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