Sunday, September 09, 2007

Breast Cancer™

October is still three weeks away, but the ramp-up to Breast Cancer Awareness Month has already begun.

I was in a Bed Bath & Beyond store last week and walked past a whole display of pink-tinted kitchenware.

Next month's issues of women's magazines are hitting the newsstands, their covers trumpeting breast-cancer features.

And my mail, both real and virtual, is sprinkled with invitations to benefits and other events.

Of course I support anything that brings us closer to a cure, to earlier diagnoses, to better treatments, to greater understanding and more sensitivity.

But I must confess that a part of me has trouble with the marketing juggernaut that breast cancer has become.

As much as Coke or McDonald's or Nike or Apple, breast cancer is a brand.

It has a logo.

It has spokespeople.

It has merchandise.

It has sponsored events.

It has celebrity endorsements.

It has a trademark color.

It has one of the best P.R. machines around.

It has a designated month.

Not a day.

Not a week.

A month.

It doesn't have a jingle—yet—but it does have an anthem in Melissa Etheridge's "I Run for Life."

It even has a postage stamp.

I know that a lot of good—in the form of funding and awareness and increased screening—comes from all of this, and I am truly grateful for that.

But I am also dismayed at the fact that we live in such a consumer culture that our idea of fighting a disease is buying pink M&Ms®, or pink lipstick, or a pink blender, or one of dozens of other pink products that nobody needs but that somebody finds a way to sell.

This is how we choose to alleviate suffering?

By going shopping?

If you need a blender, by all means buy a blender.

But if you want to fight breast cancer—if you want to hasten a cure, or bolster early detection, or enhance medical care, or just make life a little easier for someone with the disease—do something else.

Find a worthy cause and donate directly.

If you want to do it in October, that's great.

You can even use a pink pen to write the check.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Any suggestions for the best place to send that check? Mom

September 10, 2007 6:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

being a mom of a breast cancer survivor i also agree. i choose to work towards getting women to understand that early detection saves lives. feelyourboobies foundation was founded by my daughter and i believe she saved her life by being proactive about feeling her boobies. and then needing to push for a mamogram, she was 33. so check out her mission on thanks...anne hurst

October 25, 2007 6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did the 3day and raised thousands for BC research. Yet, as I walked I had thoughts similar to yours. When a group walked past with their White Castle sponsored team shirts, I had a tinge of guilt thinking about the $$s wasted by cancer causing companies "funding prevention research". Would $15 be better spent donated to a good charity or paying for T-shirts advertising how you support the cause?

October 25, 2007 6:57 AM  
Blogger TeeBerg said...

Good point. Want more (good intentioned, but head-scratching) evidence?

Went to a University of Iowa women's volleyball match a couple weeks ago -- the team was having an "Attacking BC" night. The court lines and net seams were pink; all the coaches dressed in pink; the line judges used pink flags; the libero (backrow passer) wore a pink jersey, and the other players donned pink socks. When an Iowa player blocked an opponent's hit, cheerleaders tossed pink tees and other items into the crowd (many of the members of which also had dressed in pink).

The big hoo-ha resulted in the UI athletic dept. donating $1,191 to a BC research center -- $1 for every fan in attendance after the first 1,000.

(Here's the story, with accompanying photo gallery:

Thing is: The fans weren't charged the usual $3 admission that night!

Had the team asked fans to donate the usual price of admission to the cause, it could have brought in nearly $8K!

October 25, 2007 1:54 PM  
Anonymous Christine said...


I've been out of the loop for too long! Got back from Seattle Sunday and Zach sent out an email about your NYT mention today. Kudos!! And this is a GREAT entry. I had been thinking about that recently as well--truly--so it's serendipitous to read your very eloquent, funny and profound thoughts on the subject.

October 25, 2007 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a cancer survivor. It drives me nuts to see products such as candy, plastic, and cosmetics advertising themselves as breast cancer products. For those who are unaware, sugar feeds cancer growth, and materials in many plastics are linked to cancer development, particularly hormone-related cancers. Most mainstream cosmetics are loaded with parabens, which also cause breast cancer.

September 14, 2009 10:03 AM  
Anonymous adidasi said...

in my country is a big problem with this topic because people do their analysis at a time 5 years and always too late

March 18, 2010 3:33 AM  

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