It's not even October yet, and I'm already dreading the upcoming pink-washing assault. Everywhere you go, you'll see pink merchandise in your grocery stores, clothing stores, television and football games. It's everywhere. Why? Breast cancer awareness is a money-making behemoth industry.
One of the many reasons I despise Breast Cancer Awareness month is the fact that all the pink ribbon T-shirts will be coming out of the closet. I will keep running into time and time again men and women wearing shirts telling us to save the ta-tas, save the boobies, save the hooters or save second base. I despise those sayings with a passion of a thousand fiery suns.
When it comes to breast cancer, screw saving the ta-tas, boobies or second base. The primary concern should be removing the cancer from the woman's body, and oftentimes that means a single or double mastectomy. You know -- not saving the breasts.
At my one-year check-up after the end of treatment (i.e., lumpectomy, chemo and radiation), I was informed that it looked like my cancer was attempting a comeback. I no longer had a choice whether or not to have a mastectomy. Every single one of my doctors was in agreement that a double mastectomy was the right decision for me.
After hearing each of them confirm that I should indeed have the surgery, I didn't look at them and say, "No, I don't accept your recommendations. You figure out a way to save my breasts. You hear me, doctor? Whatever it takes, and I mean whatever, you save my breasts!" Of course not. Breast cancer had me backed into a corner, and the only way out was a double mastectomy. I didn't want to have a double mastectomy (though who does?). It's a horrible situation to find yourself in -- to decide to surgically remove a body part, knowing very well it would leave you scarred. I felt I had no choice but to have this surgery, and it destroyed me.
Since I had a double-mastectomy, does that mean I somehow failed since mine weren't saved? Does that mean I am less of a woman, since I technically don't have breasts anymore? My body image after my double mastectomy has completely changed, and it hasn't been for the better. When I see "save the tatas" or "save the boobies," I am constantly reminded of what exists under my shirt -- scars, stretch marks and silicone.
These cutesy or provocative slogans offend me because they reduce women to a single body part -- our breasts. The body part that could very well mean our death if the cancer spreads from the breast to other organs (aka stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer). It gives the clear message that the focus should be on saving our ability to be sexually attractive to the opposite sex. Heaven forbid you lose the body part that makes others feel attracted to you, because if you lose your sexuality, you lose your worth.
If someone is reading this and thinking, Lighten up. If it raises awareness, then who cares how it's done?
Well, I care. This disease took my mother's life, and it has left me forever scarred. Why should I have to forfeit my dignity for the sake of awareness? Name me one other deadly disease where we ask those affected by it to just lighten up and have a sense of humor about something so awful. Heart disease is the number one killer of women. I haven't come across any T-shirts or cutesy slogans demeaning the seriousness of heart disease (which, of course, is a great thing and I hope continues to stay this way).
Breast cancer can take your breasts, your hair, your sex drive and/or your life. It's a deadly disease that claims approximately 40,000 lives each year, but time and time again, the focus is about saving our sexual desirability. F*ck that noise.
Also, why can't people say breasts? It's always boobs, ta-tas, jugs, hooters, rack, boobies, etc. Dear goodness, I had breast cancer -- I did not have boobie cancer. "What type of cancer did you have, Lara?" "I had stage-one boobie cancer." Lolwut? A family member close to The Boyfriend just died of prostate cancer. He didn't have wiener cancer. Seriously, can we discuss a disease with a sense of integrity and maturity?
When my mother was undergoing treatment for breast cancer in the early 1980s, it was a taboo subject. It wasn't something you talked about. Now, it's gone the complete opposite direction, and everybody talks about breast cancer. We no longer have to say something provocative to get people to talk about breast cancer -- that ship has long since sailed. Let's focus on research on preventing cancer and more importantly, improving and extending the lives of those with metastatic breast cancer.
For four years now, I've been waiting for someone to really explain to me how shirts like these increase awareness for breast cancer in the first place. To me, they just raise awareness to the fact that women have breasts. How is wearing a shirt that says "Save the Hooters" increasing awareness for anything? How does a men's shirt offering to check 'em for you fight the good fight? Oh, this one is my personal favorite -- a "funny" breast cancer awareness shirt for men. Yep -- breast cancer is a riot. I laughed all the way to the chemo ward.) Or how does a men's shirt telling us to Save Motorboating help a patient undergoing chemo? It doesn't, obviously, but it apparently challenges young men to try to think of the most offensive breast cancer awareness stunts, like this one.
One of the slogans I have never understood was "save second base." Why is it even appropriate to use a slang term for getting felt up, because that's what second base means, and use it for breast cancer awareness campaigns? "Let's save all the boobies so a woman can always get felt up!" After my double mastectomy, I have zero feeling in my chest, so second base has been crossed off for me. You know what, though? Screw second base -- hit a triple or just run home. There, problem solved.
The reality of it is that these campaigns are the result of folks wanting to make tons of money by selling T-shirts by vaguely saying money is going to a "good cause."
A November 26, 2012 Post-Tribune article reported that a marketing presentation from the for-profit company, Boobies Rock! (gross), put its "gross revenues for 2011 at about $1.1 million with net revenues of $400,000 and unspecified 'total commitments' at just over $250,000." The following year, a July 8, 2013 9News.com article stated that Adam Shryock, used "Boobies Rock! profits to buy a BMW, subscribe to online dating service friendfinder.com and even pay bar tabs and Molly Maids cleaning service bill." The article also reported that "some breast cancer charities supposedly 'partnered' with Boobies Rock! Received donations as small as $100."
Breast cancer isn't a joke, and what I and so many others have been through isn't funny. It's time we start taking a life-threatening disease seriously and showing respect and compassion to those who are currently going through or have been through treatment.