Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Twitchy... .

I should be in bed, trying to sleep. I have to get up in a few short hours and deal with all the angst that comes with a pre-teen girl trying to get ready for school before she's had her meds. But I'm twitchy, so I'm sitting in my chair, at my computer, trying to get things out of my brain, and waiting for my nightly meds to start working their magic... .

There's a number of reasons I may be twitchy: It could be hormones. It could be that yesterday was my birthday, and so today is the let down of not being the princess anymore. It could be that all the "Pinktober" crap has started, and that makes me cranky every year. It could be that I have had a migraine for more than two weeks with only one day of relief. It could be that I'm tired of dealing with rude people in professional situations. Like I said, it could be any number of things. Alternately, it could just be inexplicable anxiety and crankiness. Lord knows that's not an impossibility with me!

For now, though, I'm going to rant for a minute. I'm going to rant here and try to not respond on everyone's Facebook statuses when they post about it and inadvertently piss me off. I'm going to rant about something that I've ranted about every October for a few years now: Pinktober and Pinkwashing.

Here's the thing - I know too many other survivors and fighters. And I've had to say goodbye to far too many incredibly strong people. Of the friends that I have that are cancer patients, survivors or family members, I can think of maybe one who isn't offended by the salacious act of "pinkwashing." And, honestly, I haven't talked to her about it in over a year, a time when she was newly diagnosed, a time when many patients just grasp at whatever they can find to not feel so alone.

Just a few facts about cancer:

  • Lung cancer killed twice as many women last year as breast cancer.
  • More than 400 men died of breast cancer last year.
  • It is projected that more than 20 thousand people will die of bile duct cancer this year.
  • More than 28 thousand men will die of prostate cancer.
  • Nearly 2000 people will die of thyroid cancer this year, over half of them with the same diagnosis as mine.
  • "An estimated 56,460 new cases of thyroid cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2012 in the US, with 3 in 4 cases occurring in women. The incidence rate of thyroid cancer has been increasing sharply since the mid-1990s, and it is the fastestincreasing cancer in both men and women. Since 2004, incidence rates have been increasing by 5.5% per year in men and 6.6% per year in women."
So, let's talk about awareness now.

Here's the thing - what I just posted, the links, the facts, the figures, that's what raises awareness. Awareness means teaching. It means making people aware. Women are aware that we have breasts. And we're well aware that these breasts can develop cancer. I honestly don't know of a single female in an industrialized country who has not heard of breast cancer. We are aware. What people are not aware of, however, is that men get breast cancer. And that men should be performing self checks. So, if you want to raise breast cancer awareness, maybe that's a good place to start. Another area where breast cancer lacks awareness is what treatments entail. People not close to the situation have this idea that it's cut out a lump, or cut off a boob, or, in extreme cases, cut off both boobs, maybe have some radiation, maybe have some chemo, then life goes on. The reality, though, is so much more involved and drawn out for most patients. And just like other cancers, the situation varies from patient to patient. What worked for your friend/sister/hairdresser/dogwalker's uncle's girlfriend's best friend's nail girl may not work for you.

There's a saying in the Special Ed community, "If you've seen one person with Autism, you've seen one person with Autism." Cancer is very much the same way. My thyroid cancer has been different from any case of thyroid cancer any of my doctors have treated. My friend who died of brain cancer had a similar experience, in that her case was different than others. Every cancer patient I know, every cancer patient I have ever talked to, has said the same thing - while we may have things in common, and certainly have an understanding of one another others don't, none of us have had the same experience. We all come to this club from different places. We all take different things from being members of the Cancer Club. We are unique, and so are our experiences.

You want to raise awareness? Understand that. Understand that cancer doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care if you're rich, poor, black, white, fat, thin, vegan or carnivore. It doesn't care who you know or what you do. And while some cancers seem to be more acceptable, to the patients, they're not.

Think of it this way: Replace Breast Cancer with Colon Cancer. Do you think we'd get a month dedicated to selling brown products? Would football teams deck out in poop brown gear? Would people decorate their cars with brown ribbons? How about prostate cancer? Thyroid cancer? Bile duct cancer? Urinary? Bladder? Penile?? Testicular??? No. So why parade breast cancer patients and survivors just so you can feel better about yourself? Why contribute to corporations getting even richer off of the suffering, pain and fear of patients and survivors? Why trivialize what dealing with a cancer diagnosis does to a person by commercializing their experience?

Think about it. Think about the men and women behind the diseases. Think before you pink.


Jeff said...

I do not disagree with you but just to maybe offer a little different perspective. We all agree that Boobs are the power centers of the universe. :) Perhaps by raising awareness of breast cancer we are actually raising awareness of all cancers. It may not be direct but at least indirectly. Perhaps this has been the platform that allows you and many like you to take the next step like you are and raise awareness to a whole new level.

Thank you for your concern for all of us. Thank you for the reminders to check our necks, breasts and privates.

Stay strong Kerry some people are listening.

Kerry said...

You misunderstand me - I in no way am insinuating that breast cancer awareness is unimportant, or shouldn't be done, but rather, that so many things being done in the name of awareness aren't actually. That, and the Pinkwashing actually *dilutes* the awareness, not increases it, because the more we're bombarded with something, the less we notice it... .

Sarah A. said...

"So why parade breast cancer patients and survivors just so you can feel better about yourself? Why contribute to corporations getting even richer off of the suffering, pain and fear of patients and survivors? Why trivialize what dealing with a cancer diagnosis does to a person by commercializing their experience?"

Breast cancer affects more women than any other cancer which means there are a lot of people supporting efforts for a cure and research. I don't think having a breast cancer awareness month and having parades,wearing pink, etc. is trivializing the illness, in fact, it shows you the gravity of it and just how much people it affects. I agree, there should be more support for other diseases and illnesses, so if you see something lacking in that area, why not try to do something about it.