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By Dianne Artimage
It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about Halloween, although I could always muster a boisterous trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat with the best of them! It’s October – and that means Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
While I’m sure most breast cancer survivors are thrilled there is any recognition at all, the majority of us are aware there is breast cancer 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! I generally wake up and am reminded there is breast cancer when I look in a full length mirror after my shower. At some time during the day, when I have one of those twinges, or aches, or even a problem reaching for a top shelf – I most certainly am aware of breast cancer. And at night right before I am finally able to relax and unwind enough to sleep, I have a moment of reflection followed closely by a moment of thankfulness. I made it through another day apparently unscathed.
I for one would welcome a day where I didn’t have to be aware of breast cancer. I would love the opportunity to just jump out of bed in the morning and feel wonderful. While I’m grateful for every moment I’ve been given, I can’t help but feel just a bit wistful about how marvelous it would be not to have to think about breast cancer so much. That’s a luxury I’m afraid I simply can’t afford (and one my poor body isn’t able to allow me!)
Frankly, no woman, survivor or otherwise can really afford not to think about breast cancer every now and then, even if it’s to make sure to get that yearly mammogram or perform her monthly self-exam.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month brings with it a virtual smorgasbord of opportunities to shop, and in doing so, purportedly give to the cause. Unfortunately, many of the companies in this plethora of pink ribbons not only don’t give very much to truly assist women with breast cancer – their products may actually contribute to the problem.
I try to take a look at the Think Before You Pink campaign every so often, just to make sure I’m still paying attention to matters more important than myself. On a recent visit to their site I discovered a disturbing factoid about those emails we all receive asking us to click on a link in order for women to get free mammograms. According to the TBYP folks, five million clicks paid for only 129 mammograms. Well, that really got me thinking before ANY pinking!
TBYP has a name for companies that promote a pink ribbon campaign while actually manufacturing products linked to breast cancer. They are called Pinkwashers.
Unfortunately, Pinkwashers apparently abound in today’s marketplace. We have companies asking us to save the lids off of our yogurt to help the cause – but the rBGH in that yogurt may just be making us sick.
Exotic, luxury car companies donate one of their bright, shiny models – when it’s known that pollutants in car exhaust contribute to all sorts of cancers.
Cosmetic companies are high on the list of those who slap a pink ribbon on a product, while many of these same product formulas contain chemicals either known to or suspected of contributing to cancer.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month you’ll find pink ribbon campaigns on everything from candy, watches, tours, toys, workout apparel, toilet paper, vacuum cleaners, bagels, diet foods, wine, ties, phones, yoga mats, sticky notes, batteries, purses, toiletries, scales, and Sponge Bob – and that’s just a partial listing.
I’m certainly not pointing a finger in any particular direction (perhaps in this case a breast would be more appropriate!) What I am saying is that we often have a knee jerk reaction to pink ribbons. They’re sort of like puppies, kittens, or fuzzy baby pandas. Everyone goes, ohhhh, isn’t that sweet – when what we really need to be doing is asking ourselves, how much money from my purchase will actually go to the cause? How much money was spent marketing the product (that could have simply been donated to breast cancer research?) Where does the money go and what sorts of programs does it support? And probably most importantly, what does the company do to assure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?
I wish shopping could cure breast cancer because I’m pretty sure my credit card bills would have definitely funded a cure by now! This doesn’t mean we are destined to wander around without makeup, cars, deodorant, or even our favorite plush toy (although that might create a pretty scary Halloween costume, come to think of it!) But it does mean that while we are being aware of breast cancer we also need to be aware of the importance of making sure companies are being accountable when they use our plight to fuel their sales. And since we, the women who have actually had breast cancer, don’t have the good fortune to just think about it every October, perhaps we really do have an opportunity to make a difference in the search for a cure!
Now, where’s the candy corn? And please – tell me it isn’t pink!