If you’re a regular reader-commenter, you’ll probably recognize AmBam’s name. I’ve known her for nearly ten years (can you believe that, A?), during which she has always been a serious harpy. Y’all already know how we feel about the latest Facebook meme regarding breast cancer, but she recently wrote the following text in a Facebook Note and I asked her if I could share it with our readership.
I’ve made it known that I am not a fan of the recent “memes” that have claimed to be raising awareness about breast cancer but instead seem to be more about repressed women drawing naughty attention to themselves. You know, “hey ladies, tell us about your undies or phrase where you leave your handbag so it sounds like you’re talking about having sex and this (somehow? magically?) fights breast cancer.” I also understand that a lot of people took part in these phenomenons out of a sincere desire to do something, anything about this cause. If you fall into this group, I ask that you not get personally offended and bear with me through a little ranting for my main point.
In general, I admit, breast cancer is not one of my hot button topics. I spend a lot of time considering the state of women in this world and what issues can help better that situation. Breast cancer seems like a “women’s issue” that everyone can stand behind and thus seem to care about women without the risk of offending anyone (and usually, without doing anything at all). I feel that. While breast cancer was once an issue women didn’t know about, were embarrassed to talk about, and no research money was going into, those days are behind us. I do not believe there is anyone with access to Facebook who is somehow unaware of the existence of breast cancer. I believe much of the money spent in hopes of helping with breast cancer “research” either never gets anywhere near anyone doing research into breast cancer or is spent frivolously in a desperate attempt to give the illusion of progress. Progress has been made, of course, and we see this in the survival rates with early detection. But we also get a lot of BS info which comes from desperate number crunching in search of a pattern. This “data” is highly subjective to who is interpreting it and seems thrown out to simply placate the frenzied masses. One claim, for example, is that women who work night shifts are more likely to develop breast cancer than women who work during the day. Is it possible that a common thread of ethnic heritage runs through the working class population of the researched area and thus the genetics of that heritage are to blame and not the night shift? Are women working night shifts more likely to be working at factories or other workplaces where they are exposed to toxic chemicals? Or is breast cancer spread by goblins who mostly come out at night? Who knows? But when you’re taking in as much money as it seems would be made by all that pink plastic crap and pledge runs, you have to come up with something.
Everyone knows about breast cancer. Everyone knows of breast cancer’s existence. Everyone knows of breast cancer’s severity and possible consequences. Women still die from it. Women still die from breast cancer, not just after long battles with chemo, radiation, and surgery but suddenly, out of the blue, without knowing they had cancer until it was too late. Less than a year ago, my best friend’s mother, Missie Mattax, died of breast cancer. One day she got sick, very sick, and was being admitted to the hospital with a collapsed lung. After a couple of weeks of tests, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died three days later. This is the quintessential story that screams “early detection is key.” She was an educated woman who did not live under a rock in a remote desert. She owned a television, a car, and had access to the internet. Her daughter participated in the Race for the Cure on more than one occasion. There is no way she avoided the onslaught of the pink ribbon campaign. So how did she slip through the cracks? How did she not get the exam or the scan that could have diagnosed her when her life could still be saved?
This is not a unique story. I do not tell it to wag my finger at her or shame her memory, but rather to put a face on what I feel is an obvious flaw in all this “awareness raising.” We must assume that, despite her awareness of breast cancer, she was still missing the vital information about recommended tests and self exams. Perhaps she knew for a long time she was ill but, like many women, thought it couldn’t hurt her if she didn’t acknowledge it. You know, the “you don’t have cancer until the doctor tells you about it” mentality. Or she simply felt that it couldn’t happen to her. These are the cracks women fall through. And here we finally get to the main point I promised you. I want to start an awareness campaign, we can call it the Missie Campaign, that ACTUALLY RAISES AWARENESS. I’ve rambled too long and too verbosely to be fit for mass forwarding, so below, please find text I hope you will copy and spread the same way you did when you encouraged the wink-wink-nudge-nudge-lets-talk-about-titties campaigns.
The Missie Campaign: Spreading Facts Not Fear
- You described your bra to the world. Can you tell me the name of someone you know who has been affected by breast cancer so I know it doesn’t just happen to other people?
- You coyly told all of Facebook where you like it. Can you tell me where I can get actual information regarding breast cancer prevention, detection, or treatment?
- You have a pink ribbon sticker on the back of your car. Could you teach me, or direct me to someone who can teach me, how to do a proper Breast Self Exam?
- You dyed your hair pink to raise breast cancer awareness. Can you tell me how often a woman my age is supposed to get a mammogram?
- You purchased a pink water bottle that “benefits breast cancer.” Do you know how much of your money actually goes to breast cancer charities, or how these charities spend this money?
Everyone knows about breast cancer. Everyone knows of breast cancer’s existence. Everyone knows of breast cancer’s severity and possible consequences. Women still die from it. Women still die from breast cancer, not just after long battles with chemo, radiation, and surgery but suddenly, out of the blue, without knowing they had cancer until it was too late. These women either were not AWARE of breast cancer detection practices or they simply believed it could not happen to them.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This October, lets spread FACTS NOT FEAR. Instead of participating in internet games that accomplish nothing except acknowledging our fear of the boogey man known as breast cancer, use your status to memorialize someone you know who has been affected by breast cancer and tell your friends that it could happen to them. Once an hour or day or week, post a FACT about breast cancer in your status. Tell us how many new cases are found each year, or how often I should be performing self exams. Share information about organizations that help survivors pay their bills or get reconstructive surgery instead of organizations that fund shady research and useless “awareness” campaigns. Or simply post a link to an article, site, anything with actual FACTS about breast cancer…not just fear or giggling.
Don’t keep this a secret from the boys. Tell them. Tell everyone. That’s what raising AWARENESS is all about.
I know this is a little harder than just typing a color into your status. But that’s the thing about making a difference, it’s not easy or the difference wouldn’t need to be made. Here are some links you can share and use as resources for your daily facts.
This project is inspired by and dedicated to Miriam “Missie” Mattax, a beloved mother and teacher gone too soon.
You can “like” The Missie Campaign on Facebook. Spread the word.