Pinktober

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OK, y’all, I have to get up on my soapbox for a minute. My apologies.

It’s October again. That means the pinkpalooza of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in full swing. Everything from pink candy to cosmetics to exercise equipment will be hitting the shelves of stores across the country under the guise of doing something good to help combat breast cancer.

But here’s the thing: Most of that stuff does absolutely nothing but generate profits for the company that produces it. Slapping a pink ribbon on something doesn’t make it worthwhile–it makes it a gimmick.

Fortunately, there are some companies raising actual funds for breast cancer research and support. Bustle published a very good list recently. I also noticed this past weekend that Loft is asking customers to donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, in addition to donating 60 percent of proceeds from a line of jewelry to the nonprofit.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the return of all those stupid viral things on social media, asking people to simply post a heart on their profile or the color of their bra or whatever for “breast cancer awareness.” This does NOTHING to raise awareness for breast cancer. This helps NO ONE. In fact, it trivializes something very serious into a juvenile game. I mean, do you see men posting emojis and their underwear color to raise awareness for prostate cancer? No. So please, I beg of you, stop sharing this pointless crap.

If you really want to share something on social media that can be helpful in raising awareness, this image is an excellent choice. It illustrates how many different ways symptoms of breast cancer can manifest. A lump isn’t the only sign, and it’s important to be aware of all the other possible symptoms.

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Finally, if you plan to mark this month by donating to a breast cancer charity, first of all, let me applaud you and say thank you. Secondly, let me point you in the direction of charities that do real good for the breast cancer community, and who have been proven to allocate the majority of their donations to research/support of breast cancer patients/survivors.

One of those groups is METAvivor, which raises awareness and funds for metastatic breast cancer patients and research. Here’s the thing: Early detection is great, but it’s no guarantee that a woman won’t die of this disease. Breast cancer is a wily beast, and when it metastasizes (i.e. spreads to other parts of the body and becomes Stage IV), that is when people die. And the sad fact is, there is an appalling lack of funding going into metastatic research/support. METAvivor works to remedy that problem, and they are definitely worth your support.

The Young Survival Coalition is another great group, particularly for young patients/survivors like me. They provide resources and tools for young women facing this disease. Living Beyond Breast Cancer is another great group that offers a wealth of support to patients and survivors.

And, of course, The American Cancer Society is always a good choice for supporting research to end this horrible disease for all.

There are others out there, but my best advice to you is to do your homework before you donate. Make sure the organization allocates the majority of your donation to its mission. And make sure the products you purchase are actually funding something, and not just a marketing ploy.

All that said, I’m glad people want to help and be aware. And I hope that everyone takes the opportunity this month to check themselves to make sure nothing looks or feels strange or different. I discovered my own cancer by feeling a lump, so doing self-checks matter. Be vigilant, be aware, and be thoughtful.

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Have a Heart

 

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It’s that time again. Well-meaning people are sending messages on Facebook urging their friends to post hearts or their bra color or whatever else in honor of “breast cancer awareness.”

Here’s one I’ve already had sent to me twice this week:

Hello, can you put a on your wall, without comment, only a heart, then send this message to your female contacts. After putting one on the wall of the person who sent you this message. If anyone asks why you have so many hearts on your wall do not answer. It is for women only to remember its the week of breast cancer prevention! Check your boobies!! Hold your finger down on the message and hit forward.

Oh, there is so much wrong here. For starters, there is no such thing as “the week of breast cancer prevention.” If there was a such week, trust, my ass would’ve been doing whatever possible to “prevent” the hell I’ve been through these past six months.

Second, how on earth is posting a heart on my wall doing anything productive? It even says you’re not supposed to explain it when people ask, so you’re not raising awareness. You’re basically vaguebooking for no good reason.

Third, men get breast cancer, too. Like metastatic breast cancer, male breast cancer is pretty much ignored. And it happens to many men and deserves just as much attention and support as occurrences in women. So, yeah, until this cancer is “for women only,” awareness shouldn’t be.

Fourth–and this is just a personal one for me–reminding me to “check your boobies” really isn’t necessary at this point, considering I’m a month-and-a-half out from a bilateral mastectomy.

If you really want to help raise awareness and/or support those fighting/survivors of breast cancer, there are far more productive things you can do on social media:

  • Remind your friends to do monthly self-exams, perhaps posting a link to a how-to, such as this one from Breastcancer.org.
  • Share information about metastatic (or Stage IV) breast cancer, which is widely ignored by the media and public at large because, frankly, it’s really sad and scary and usually doesn’t end with a rah-rah survivor story. It’s also one of the least-researched forms of cancer. But the fact is, this is the reality of many women, and even those of us with lesser diagnoses will always face the specter of this beast. Here’s a site with some general info.
  • If you can, give. But when you do, be careful about where you give. Some of the most popular breast cancer charities–*cough*Komen*cough*–have issues with where funds go, and how they pretty much ignore the Stage IV community (who need the support and funds the most). Some solid groups doing real good for women fighting this awful disease include METAvivor (which supports Stage IV research and patients), the American Cancer Society (which supports research for all cancers) and the Young Survival Coalition. Also, look into giving to your local cancer center to help women in your own community.

I know people mean well and come from a good place, but rather than being so quick to click and share, stop to think about what you’re sharing, and whether or not it’s actually accomplishing anything. Social media is a powerful tool for raising awareness about issues, and if we all used it thoughtfully, there’s no telling the good we could do.