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The Darker Side of Pink

by Jaime

August 12, 2010

A friend posted this on her Facebook page, and I can't say I was entirely surprised. Susan G. Komen, the organization that has, for better or worse, become the face of breast cancer charities, is using funds that could be going to research for a legal battle. What is this battle about? The phrase "for a Cure"….and even the color pink. The Komen foundation sees any cancer event "for the Cure" as encroaching on its turf, and sees pink as its signature color… So much so that the foundation actually warns other charities about it, according to a Wall Street Journal article. Komen's counsel is even quoted as saying, "We see it as responsible stewardship of our donor's funds." WHAT? If I donated to Komen, I'm not interested in – and I think many people would agree – who owns a trite saying. That's not what brings a research breakthrough, or funds mammograms.

When it comes down to it, a colored ribbon is just that – a meaningless piece of fabric, no matter what color it is. (And just for the record, the original breast cancer ribbons were a grassroots project started by Charlotte Haley, and they were PEACH. Estee Lauder and SELF magazine wanted to join her, and she refused because she didn't want it to be commercialized… so they chose pink ribbons). Finding new treatments and research discoveries for breast cancer isn't about who owns what color or whose slogan is catchiest. Cancer is cancer is cancer. Organizations spout platitudes about coming together "for a cure" (to use Komen's phrasing), but is this what it comes down to – proprietary rights? Is winning a legal battle a better use of funds than funding a promising grant or donating to a needy clinic? Is creating tension and acrimony among fellow nonprofit groups working toward the same goal worth it, if you win the rights to a phrase or color? Komen seems to think so.

Maybe I'm naïve. Maybe I'm wrong. But working and volunteering in the cancer world has shown me that it's an uphill battle, and no one can make much progress alone – we're stronger together than apart. It saddens me that Komen doesn't seem to agree.

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Comments on "Cancer awareness blogs"

Stacy February 24, 2011 | 10:04 AM

I was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer that spread to a cluster of lypmnodes in my abdomin in April 2009. Unfortunately I was not a surgical candidate at the time. I underwent chemo and changed my diet. I went from being a "sweet head" to eating fish and veggies everyday. I am truely blessed because I recently was a surgical candidate and on January 26th 2011, I had my stomach, part of my esophogus and 25 lymph nodes removed. Now I have have entered in a contest to win a cruise! If anyone has facebook please look up Princess cruises, like the page and click contest and vote for me!!Thank you!!

sheila February 09, 2011 | 11:13 AM

I had a daughter, who had Cancer! She was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. She had it for 8 years. She was 30 years old.She had to go through 2 stem cell transplants, Chemo for 6 mths,radiation,for 24 treatments.Which the radiation damaged her lungs,her heart,which she was on 4 heart pills a day.Chemo took away, her chance of ever having kids. She was married. Graduated college. Had a 4.0 average. And was 7 in the top of her class. She fought a good fight,But we lost her on June 7th 2010. A day I will never forget,for the rest of my life.And yes I got angry.mad,closed myself off from the rest of the world. But I know with out a shadow of a doubt, where she is. But to loose a child from Cancer,to out live your child,to a deadly disease,A part of my heart has been taken away from me.A love that was unconditional,cannot compare the grief that I still have. The Pain I feel hurts so much, A burden that I will carry with me,till the day I die, and be able to meet her on the other side. Cancer is a terrible word.My whole life has changed from this.Not only was she my daughter,but also my best Friend.

fabi July 11, 2010 | 9:03 PM

what an amazing woman....

Shirley July 11, 2010 | 2:58 PM

Jaime, I am very happy to hear about your friends good fortune,. I hope many more cancer patients will also have good new to tell in the near future,

Shirley May 21, 2010 | 5:56 PM

Jaime, your article on what to give to a friend going through chemotherapy or even radiation or what you can do for them to enlighten their day has many good ideas. But I can tell you that the many telephone calls you get, and the going out to lunch with the girls is very rewarding and you know that they are there for you.

karen May 18, 2010 | 7:17 PM

Keep writing and keep giving hope.....stage 4 teaches so much more than a soul can bear....and gives lessons to those who will listen....

shirley May 03, 2010 | 4:18 PM

Jaime, your article on having hope. I believe that HOPE is very important in a person's life because that is what keeps us going.

Shirley April 17, 2010 | 11:36 AM

Jaime, I was shocked with your article written buy you and Jennifer. Jaime, I was shocked with your article written by you and Jeniffer. Iknow Jennifer indirectly and I certaily hope that she is "cancer free" as they term it. Best wishes go out to her and your article was great.

Stephanie - Wasabimon April 13, 2010 | 6:12 PM

WOW! I'd cry discrimination for sure. I can't even believe this happened - I'm in shock.

Peggy Bourjaily April 13, 2010 | 2:19 PM

that is such an awful story! However, it sounds like one that needs publicity.

Alexandra April 13, 2010 | 1:05 PM

I had heard about men getting breast cancer but had no idea they could be turned away from screening because of their . How ridiculous!

shirley perkel April 12, 2010 | 8:03 AM

Jaime I just read your article dated April 5th. At the age of 82 I developed breast cancer and my first thought was "Why at my age". It is nobody's fault. I did not exercise, but I certainly ate all the good foods you are suppose to eat, so why. It just happens and I guess you should not question "why", You do the best you can with this disease until the end, but in the meantime keep fighting.

Kristen April 10, 2010 | 8:39 PM

I'm with Jaime--it feels like there needs to be some new dialogue and words when talking about cancer. I guess that's one reason why I was bothered by this study is that it does seem to put the blame for the disease on the woman--if she'd only exercised 20 more minutes a day, then she would be cancer-free. I don't think so. But maybe I don't understand well enough. We have a friend whose 8-y-o was just diagnosed with Leukemia and she talks about her daughter's "battle with the disease." Maybe you do need to see it that way on some level, make it seem like something to be beaten? Just as long as that kind of thinking doesn't trickle down to how research is presented.

Jaime April 08, 2010 | 4:06 PM

Sheryl - I completely agree with you about the word "avoidable". Like you said, it implies there is a choice, and no one "chooses" to get cancer. I think it gets thorny when we look at "causes"...I think many things help to contribute to heighten or reduce the risk of getting cancer, but "cause"?....it's tough. I mean, look at Martina Navratilova - she exercises, obviously, and is trim, and she has DCIS.

Melanie April 08, 2010 | 11:00 AM

The last thing a person with breast cancer needs is a big dose of "It's Your Fault." Geez.

Alexandra April 08, 2010 | 8:41 AM

There was an article in the New York Times Sunday about a young doctor who got breast cancer at 31. Did you see it, I wonder? I agree with your conclusions on this new approach. Here on Cape Cod, we have a 20% higher rate of breast cancer than the rest of MA. We are equal, I think, to Marin County in CA. Why? Silent Spring researchers hope to come up with a reason. Many of the cases are on that part of the Cape where there used to be cranberry bogs, which were sprayed with DDT, not where I live, fortunately. Traces of DDT are still present in Cape Cod dust. I think scientists, like the researchers at Silent Spring, are close to discovering more factors which influence breast cancer. In the meantime, we need to exercise, eat sensibly, and become more beware of environmental toxins. And, yes, get mammograms. Doctors here recommend them every year.

sarah henry April 08, 2010 | 7:14 AM

I didn't see that story and almost couldn't read this post because the premise behind that news piece made me so mad. Thanks for tackling this thorny topic in your usual calm, reassuring, and even-handed manner.

Karen April 07, 2010 | 6:38 PM

I think you already know mine....

Jaime April 06, 2010 | 4:39 PM

Sheryl, I agree - I found it so interesting that she chose the route she did, particularly because it was explicitly mentioned in the article that it was a very painful death, and one that was rough for her, her doctors, and no doubt her loved ones. That fact saddened me more than anything else in the article.

Sheryl April 06, 2010 | 12:40 PM

I read the same article. It was interesting to learn that this doctor, when confronted personally, was unable to do the things she urged her patients to do. Quite understandable, which is why we cannot begin to understand other people's decisions until we, ourselves, are in that position. I agree that this is a topic that is so very difficult to face and talk about. No one likes to think about it and come to grips with the fact that a decision might someday have to be made. That "someday" is hopefully far away, that's why...

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