Pink is the New Black: Every Time I See It, I Wanna Cry

It’s October, my bitches, so you know what that means: The Pinkwashing of America is ON!

You’ll have your NFL players running around dressed like little ballerinas, your buckets ‘o fried pink chicken, your special makeup kits featuring all hues of the carcinogenic spectrum from toasty rose to burning fuchsia, your not so subtle display of what appear to be nipple cakes and buxom pink-sprinkled candy apples displayed under a banner of pink ribbon “courage” balloons at your local grocery store. Messages of hope and support will be printed inside your yogurt lids, and outside labels of soup cans will proudly wear pink ribbons like lady warriors. And of course you will be hit up countless times (or hit others up, depending) for sponsorship in walks for the “cure.”

You will drown in a sea of awareness, as the #2 killer of women will be found in more than 300,000 new victims, and breast cancer will claim more than 40,000 this year. (Source: American Cancer Society)

As a bonus just a couple of days before Boobtober took over, I participated in a “Pink Out” not for breast cancer, but for Planned Parenthood. So I was thinking pink even before its official month!

For the record, I absolutely deplore pink. I’ve always seen it is a weak color, thanks to its gender-specific expression of sugar, spice, and everything ultimately, thanks to modern marketing campaigns, not so nice. I’ve had moments of wanting to reclaim it as a hot, angry, punk rock pink, but then October rolls around and I remember how like Pepto-Bismol, the color makes me want to puke.

Or cry.

Or both.

In my four decades on this planet, I’ve seen way too many claimed way too early. One of my dearests died from a cancer “cure”– the radiation she received as a teen for non-Hodgkin lymphoma made her a near 100% candidate for breast cancer as an adult. A combo platter of the disease as it spread throughout her body was the ultimate culprit, although that predicted breast cancer was the first horrible step into a horrendous, several-year descent into darkness.

Others have survived, and I was just speaking with one of BBFs about how furious the push for awareness makes her. As someone who has a deep family history of breast cancer, she has always sought out superlative medical care — even prior to her own diagnosis.

“Mammograms are start, but MRI’s are the only way to know for sure. Everyone woman over the age of 40 needs an MRI!” she told me angrily.

Oh, baby — don’t you know that MRIs cost anywhere from $525.00 to $5,200.00, with a median cost of $2,611.00?

Mammograms, the widely accepted yet far less accurate mode of detection (but an excellent way to make a human panini out of desirable breast meat!) has a median cost of $243.00 — and that’s without insurance.

We can throw billions of marketing dollars at “awareness,” but when it comes to making early detection a priority — which is the surest path to survival — sorry girls, we’re fresh out of funding.

And some of the biggest Breast Cancer Awareness-driven charities are also the worst (Susan G. Komen, I’m talking to you!) when it comes to getting the dough where it’s supposed to go: working towards a cure and promoting prevention.

The markers Charity Navigator looks for when it comes to philanthropic goals include programs & services, financial health of the organization, accountability & transparency, and results reporting. It’s truly shocking to see how many supposed do-gooders are only doing good by themselves and not by the women they claim to be doing it all for.

I’m just saying Think Before You Pink. 

Because you know, pink fracking drills aren’t exactly the way to keep our planet healthy and our people, in turn, cancer-free. (Seriously, it’s not.)

Nor is giving women who are undergoing cancer treatment goodie bags filled makeup that sports ingredients that are linked to increased cancer risk (parabens, Teflon, and formaldehyde releasers). Which is why the Look Good, Feel Better® campaign in my opinion is a bust. (Pun intended!)

Seriously, Poison Isn’t Pretty.

All this racing around in circles, like so many areolas, makes me wonder about how close we truly are to a cure.

The answer doesn’t take much research: we’re so not there yet. Lest you despair, I’m happy to report here have been a few bright spots in the fight of late:

– There is a new drug called Palbociclib that the FDA approved a few months ago. When used in combination with letrozole, it extends the amount of time certain postmenopausal women will live without their cancer progressing.

– One of the factors that make curing breast cancer difficult is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Our varied DNA is what makes it complicated. And the very same DNA tells us who’s a good candidate for chemo… and who’s not. There’s a new test called The Oncotype DX that uses genetic tumor testing to determine whether or not a patient will respond to that toxic cocktail, which means that in the cases it’s not effective, it won’t be used. And the horrible cure that makes everyone horrendously sick doesn’t have to be blindly, or unnecessarily, administered.

– Other “good” news includes the fact that less aggressive chemo can be effective, bone-strengthening meds can keep cancer from spreading, and immunotherapy may be a viable treatment option for some incurable cancers.

I was also pretty jazzed to watch some notes from the edges of what is really possible on an episode of the HBO series, Vice, called “Killing Cancer.” There are some incredibly innovative doctors out there using immunotherapy and viral oncology to eradicate cancer. This work is in a very early stage, and the applications have thus far have only addressed other types of cancer (i.e., HIV is effective in fighting blood cancers like leukemia), but the promise is there.

So if you see me bandying about the word “awareness” this month, just know that I know everyone is fully aware of the devastating realities of breast cancer. There is not one person I’ve met that hasn’t been personally touched by this hideous epidemic — as the pink “courage” balloons in your local grocery store says, it’s mothers… daughters… sisters… friends… and maybe even ourselves. The things to “think pink” about and be aware of are the shameful abuses of the color pink, particularly in October, and especially as a tit-illating marketing tool used to raise commercial profits, period.

So raise a stink when someone asks you to think pink! And be aware that the war is hard, but women are strong, and together we can all work to make the pinkwash that is October someday soon fade to black.

breast cancer awarenessOctoberPinkPlanned Parenthood