Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why I am Not Crazy about the Komen 5K

I love Ann over at her blog, "Breast Cancer?  But Doctor ... I Hate Pink!"  Last October, she had this wise thing to say about October being National Breast Awareness Month:

"This is the national month of pink, where everybody runs and jogs and buys items in pink "for the cure.

Do you believe that?  Do you think that buying pink UGG boots, or a pink flashlight, or a can of soup with a pink label, or any of those things on display in stores this month will help anybody like me, who is suffering with cancer?

Do you feel satisfied that if you chose something pink this month that you helped?

Don't be. The only people you are helping when buying any product tagged "awareness" is the company that slapped that label on the product.  Being aware of something does not save lives, and catching breast cancer early does not stop it progressing to Stage IV, as I well know.  Nobody knows why cancer progresses and almost all of us who are now Stage IV were early stage to start with.  Awareness doesn't stop cancer, and the money donated to Koman and their ilk doesn't go towards a cure.

But, you can help.  YOU can save somebody's life, and it's so simple.  How?

Stop.  Think.

Don't buy pink."

I love every word that Ann wrote here.  She followed these words up by encouraging people to connect with the Bone Marrow Registry instead (click here for her entire blog entry on this subject).  I wish I could register (folks who have had cancer cannot) -- this is a great way of helping other people!  It is easy to register!  (I have volunteered at a marrow drive!)

I am posting this because what Ann wrote helps me to articulate my own frustration at the thousands of people coming to my "hood" today for the Komen race here in downtown Saint Louis.  Don't get me wrong -- I get that for a lot of breast cancer survivors that this is an important event to perhaps celebrate overcoming such an awful thing.  I get that.  Really.  But for me, Komen makes me feel a little sad -- and angry.

(Komen 2011)

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2010 after getting my first mammogram ever. I then spent the next 6 months undergoing two lumpectomies, radiation, chemotherapy, and then a hysterectomy (and it is still amazing to me that I did all of that in six months while teaching full time).  In June 2011, six months after completing my treatment, I did in fact raise money for Komen (about $2500) and was one of the top ten individual fund-raisers, my goal.  I wanted to give back to a community that had given me so much (including my life).  Because of the money I raised (thanks to all the wonderful friends and family who supported me), I was able to walk with the banner and lead the Survivor Procession (I didn't see it but I was even on the news I hear!).  

(Yep -- that is me at the end)

And there was, indeed, something empowering in standing with all these women who had been through the same thing that I had.  I liked that part.  But months later, I started reading and researching Komen and realized that this is not the organization for me.  I wish that I had instead raised money for the local organization that helped me so much when I was sick -- the Cancer Support Community (click here!).  This place is awesome!  I got so much emotional support and I know that every dollar there is used to help folks with all kinds of cancer (and supporting the care givers as well).

I know that I need to keep working on not being angry and perhaps my anger at Komen is just a way of redirecting the anger from getting cancer in the first place.  I get that for some women and their famlies something like Komen is a way of "taking back" cancer.  But for me, Komen is just a reminder that money and greed drives a lot of people in this world.


  1. Wow! Honest revelation! I always wonder about the worthiness of any cause once it becomes a buzzword and a bumper sticker. Thanks for writing this.