This is the original article as it appeared the Coalinga Recorder, October 15.
In a rare moment of marital bliss, I watched football with my spouse last week. Something was wonky with the color on the TV. Squinting, I was confused by splashed of bright pink. I saw pink shoes, pink gloves, pink towels and more. Then it hit me: National Breast Cancer Awareness. October brings World Series, Halloween, Captain Kangaroo Day, National Reptile Awareness Day (I am not making this up), and of course, National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Eclipsing nearly all other events (most of which I have not listed) is National Breast Cancer Awareness.
There is a bizarre conflict in what seems to be a breast cancer fest and the reality of the disease and its destruction. Having lost my mother to this disease, I fight back the bile of bitterness whenever the pink pops up. I have nothing against the efforts,really, but my own experience with BC was so catastrophic that my reaction is vitriolic.
And I have questions. There a real sorts of National Cancer Awareness days and months: Colorectal, Childhood Cancer, Leukemia, Lung, Pancreatic, Prostate, Thyroid, Testicular, Brain, and more. I can guarantee that there will be no flings or galas to promote Colorectal Cancer Awareness month or even Testicular Cancer Awareness, and those are significant diseases. Why not?
I went to most of a Walk For Life event once. I had to leave when they lit the bags for survivors of breast cancer. I’d already bit my tongue off each time I heard about how brave these survivors were, how hard they fought, how strong they were. I don’t resent their success. I resent the implication that those who died gave up, weren’t strong, weren’t brave or somehow caused their demise. No.
My mother fought. She struggled.She loved strongly. She gave everything she had for others. She agreed to treatments and did everything the medical advisers told her to do. She tried with every cell, but in the end, there was no way for her to compete with the vicious disease which eventually stole her life. It wasn’t because she didn’t try hard enough or didn’t care. We all lived through the stages of her disease; giddy response to the news that the all lymph nodes were clear, the tattoos to show where the targets for radiation, handfuls of hair leading to a wig, the cane,the fatigue, the loss of appetite, seeing her slip into the haze of relief from her pain. I watched. I held her. I wept.
She is my hero. She lived each day to the fullest, even in the midst of her cancer. She tried, but she could not beat the disease. It’s not because she didn’t want to. I twist inside, listening to the many wonderful stories of victory and success, not because I don’t appreciate them and love the happy outcomes, but because I have no story of conquest. I have no happy ending except to know my mother is beyond the pain.
So this is for all the others,the ones whose cancer doesn’t get a pretty pink ribbon or a tribute from football players. It’s for the ones who fight and don’t win. It’s for the children who fight and have no idea what they are fighting or why. It’s for the ones who love fiercely; both in illness and in loving someone who is stricken. It’s for the dreams still dancing on the edge of pain. It’s for the scars on the bodies and hearts of all of us who dare to love. Who dare to hope.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am NOT saying that awareness is bad. I do NOT have any ill feelings toward survivors or others fighting cancer. I am NOT saying that cancer research is bad. I don’t even hate pink.
When you see the pink ribbon and read a small statement about a portion of your purchase going to Breast Cancer research, take a moment to read a little further. What is the truth about what this company is going to contribute? Is it a viable effort? Has the company already committed to an amount which they are planning to give whether or not you purchase their product? Is the company actually giving anything to breast cancer research?
There are a few websites which break down the financial records for charitable giving and non-profits. You can easily see the spread of a company’s expenditures and without a degree in economics, understand the proportion of actual research or support given by that group as opposed to money spent on fund raising, administration, and other items. It’s extremely useful to be aware of this if you want your contributions to actually DO something. CharityNavigator.org is an excellent resource and a good place to start. You can find the entire budget outlined for you there. Simply input the group or organization you want to investigate, and voila! It’s there.
Here are some links you can use to check up on that non-profit or corporation: