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It’s Breast Cancer “Awareness” Month Again

three generations of breast cancer survivors

Three generations of Breast Cancer survivors!

It’s October again… Everything is swathed in pink. Please take the following as advice before you cover yourself in pink for the “cause”… Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a euphemism for “Give us money so we can pay our salaries”! Forgive me if I sound bitter or snide, but I was diagnosed at 28 years old and 20 weeks pregnant and Komen, American Cancer Society, and most (if not all)
big name “Awareness” groups offered me two choices when I was diagnosed: 1) hope that I didn’t die before I had my baby without treatment or 2) kill my baby to seek treatment. However, MD Anderson had (has) been doing chemo on pregnant women for more than 20 years with better results than on similar post-abortive mothers. No thanks to those big-name organizations, not only did I survive, but my almost 3 year old daughter survived as well! We are the fifth and sixth generation of survivors, but only the last three of us have actually survived (my mother is now a 7 year survivor, but her mother died at 58 and her grandmother and great grandmother died in their 40’s).

How did those big organizations “support” me in my time of need? How do those big name organizations further the “cure” by not only killing future generations but also condemning those women who fall for their lies to worse survival rates? Who gains by the continued denials of links or causation of breast cancer by hormonal contraceptives and abortions? Where’s the “cure” there? “Awareness” means less than nothing if erring on the side of caution – for instance publicly admitting possible links/causation between hormonal contraceptives and abortions and breast cancer — and other cancers. It should be called “Brea$t Cancer Awarene$$” because all it does is line the pockets of the organizers while presenting false hope to victims and supporters!

Even if the scientific link between abortion and hormonal contraceptives is weak (it isn’t), women deserve to be told the WHOLE truth about these “necessary” parts of “reproductive rights”. For instance, the link between BPA and the ills it causes aren’t much (if any) stronger than the links between hormonal contraceptives and breast cancer, yet everyone avoids BPA to err on the side of caution. To be perfectly honest, I actually didn’t realize until looking at the journal articles while writing this post, that the type of carcinogenic chemical of BPA is actually VERY similar to hormonal contraceptives (estradiol, estratone, estrogen-like chemicals). Why shouldn’t the big organizations advocate the same type of caution for abortion and hormonal contraceptives? The WHO (World Health Organization) has ranked contraceptives as Level 1 carcinogens. If the purpose of these organizations was truly to reduce breast cancer (and other cancers) wouldn’t they advise women to avoid hormonal contraceptives? Instead, the supposed “benefits” of these “reproductive rights” are said to “outweigh” the risks… as a survivor, if I thought there was something I could do that was completely choice oriented to prevent my daughter from getting breast cancer, you’d better believe I’d do everything in my power to see that she made the right choice!

Where’s the benefit of that type of false “awareness”? T-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. with cutesy “Feel your Boobies” or “Save the Tatas” slogans* don’t actually further the cause of finding a cure or providing real life support for victims. Instead all they do is demean the victims of this horrible disease. Don’t get me wrong, I own a few t-shirts with similar slogans, but I AM a survivor. Plus, most of them (except the “Fight like a Girl” one) were given to me by friends in an effort to lift my spirits by letting me know they were supporting me in my struggle. The friends who gave me those t-shirts didn’t just plunk down $20 for a shirt and consider themselves as supporting me in my struggle. No, they actually DID things to help me: sent notes of care/support, listened while I cried or whined, helped me with a real task in life, prayed for me, spoke to me of courage and strength, etc. The t-shirt was just the physical and remaining reminder that they DID something that actually helped me–even if it was just emotional or mental help. That is the way true supporters can lend a hand to victims of this horrible disease.
Some of the newer more popular slogans are actually innuendos that over-sexualize the disease and body parts involved. The “boobies” I lost during my mastectomy weren’t playthings or frivolous slightly naughty bits–they were nutrition for my son for his first year of life. They were a visible representation of my gender. Sadly, they were also linked, in ways I did not and still do not understand, to my self esteem and self image. Yes, I can laugh about cutting them off because they were trying to kill me, but you don’t know the feelings I hide behind that laugh. I have numerous very real physical scars from the three surgeries to remove and “replace” those body parts, but worse than the physical scars are the emotional ones that no one–not even other survivors necessarily–can understand. Every women (or man, since they get breast cancer too) has different breasts, and her “relationship” (for lack of a betterword) is unique to her, so her response to these traitorous body parts and the subsequent removal or alteration of them is different too. Often, women are evaluated by their breasts because we live in a highly sexualized world. So losing or altering this most visible sign of womanhood can be highly traumatic. It’s really only something some of us laugh about because the alternative is crying. When you add the other losses (loss of ovaries, tubes, uterus, cervix, etc) some of us face because of related cancers, the emotional toll rises and hearing or seeing such jocular interpretations of our loss(es) can be devastating.

If you’re aware of breast cancer and want to help 1) find a struggling victim in your neighborhood or area to support, 2) thoroughly research any organization BEFORE donating, 3) don’t play meaningless “games” for awareness sake, 4) open your eyes to the truth of breast cancer (and other cancers) and let others know it, and/or 5) pray for a cure, better survivability, and more real world support for victims. Those are things that really help real people who are victims!

    *I don’t mean to pick on just these two slogans, but they were the first ones to come to mind… I have no affiliation or hatred of any of these slogans except as explained above. If it makes you feel better about yourself, by all means wear or buy products with these types of slogans on them. However, don’t expect me (or other victims/survivors) to appreciate it if that’s all you do.
Find more of my story at Erika’s Miracle Journey.

 

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About Erika

Erika V. is a thirty-something mother of two (with four saints in heaven). With a degree in molecular biology, she works for her state’s police crime lab; although her dream is to stay home with her children and homeschool them. Her newly converted husband is a sometime auto mechanic and primarily a stay-at-home dad. Passionate about pro-life issues and science, she is a survivor of breast cancer while pregnant. At 20 weeks pregnant with her daughter (pregnancy number six), she was diagnosed with BRCA1 stage II breast cancer. When local doctors we stumped with the diagnosis, she traveled to MDAnderson where chemotherapy on pregnant women has been done for over twenty years. After delivering her baby girl and undergoing more chemotherapy, Erika has had a whirlwind of surgeries to combat the cancer as well as the complications of cancer treatments. Three years and eight surgeries later, she continues to be passionate about pro-life endeavors, even winning the local Right to Life group’s Life Award and serving on their working board of directors. She authors two blogs, one a mommy blog Biology Brain-Simon Says and one a breast cancer while pregnant blog Erika’s Miracle Journey. Blog posts are often filled with pro-life references, including medical journal articles supporting the pro-life position. While there isn’t often time, she also enjoys horses, reading, gardening, and KY bourbon.

  • Gina Nakagawa - Terrific article, it should be read and headed by all women, especially Catholic women, especially Catholic women who think. No matter what the cause, know who it is you are supporting when someone sends you mail, or calls you asking for a donation. Many solicitors of money for causes are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” All of the suggestions for supporting women with breast cancer noted in this article are wonderful, and can go a long way toward doing real good. God bless and keep you.October 3, 2012 – 10:10 amReplyCancel

  • Susie @Bowdabra - Hi Erika-

    I just saw your post pop up in my Pinterest Feed. On the Bowdabra blog we have posted a few things this week in support of the Breast Cancer Awareness movement. We are well aware that money is to fund salaries, which isn’t what we all want.. I think that most of us just want to remind one another about checking our breast and give support to our friends, sisters, etc who have like you had to go through all of this.

    Your post is 100% what I believe and I appreciate you sharing it. Can we feature part of your post and link back to your blog on our blog? I have a post going up this afternoon- Wed Oct 3rd and I would like to include part of your post and link to your post so more will come read it.

    If so, please email me at susie@bowdabra.com If you don’t see this until after my post goes live, I can add it in or do another feature tomorrow or the weekend.

    Thanks so much! susieOctober 3, 2012 – 10:31 amReplyCancel

  • Amelia - I applaud you for being a survivor, but think you are too harsh on people and organizations who really are trying to help. I am also a survivor but lost all of my fertility with the chemo. My sister put off her treatment while she was breastfeeding (diagnosed at 3 months post partum) and died two months before her daughter’s second birthday. She should have been diagnosed well before that but our well-meaning GP convinced her that women in their 20s dont’ get breast cancer. Ha! Breast cancer runs heavily on both sides of our family. I am learning to view my infertility as a gift that I will not pass on these defective genes to another generation.October 3, 2012 – 11:00 amReplyCancel

  • Denise - Well written and informative. I am a Catholic mom to three daughters….thank you for a new perspective particularly coming from a molecular biologist and more importantly SURVIVOR 🙂October 3, 2012 – 12:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Erika - Amelia — You say I’m too harsh on people and organizations, yet your comment actually perfectly displays what I’m talking about. With the millions of dollars raised for “awareness” women like your sister and I shouldn’t be told we’re “too young” to have breast cancer. If the awareness campaigns were working, then your sister, I, and especially our doctors wouldn’t have put us off just because we were “too young”. If “awareness” campaigns were working people wouldn’t look at me in shock when I told them I had chemotherapy while I was pregnant with no ill effects for me or my baby. If “awareness” campaigns were working even small-town doctors (oncologists especially) would know of these giant leaps in treatment that began over 20 years ago! Your sister shouldn’t have been sentenced to death because of the ignorance of her doctors in the face of so many “awareness” campaigns. If “awareness” was working you wouldn’t be so happy at losing your fertility because your genes wouldn’t be a death sentence to your children.

    The purpose of these awareness campaigns is supposed to be to educate people of causes, treatments, types, and characteristics of breast cancer (or whatever the cancer du jour is) and to fund research to prevent, detect, and treat these cancers to save lives. However, when these big organizations don’t keep up with the research (one of their supposed purposes), they fail us tremendously.

    It doesn’t matter to me, my mom, or most of the survivors I know whether someone owns every pink appliance out there. What matters is that when someone is in crisis at diagnosis that they get the most current information available and that their doctors have been made aware of the advances in treatment. If those things aren’t happening, the organizations are guilty of profiting off of a terrible disease and either telling bald-faced lies (there’s no link between contraceptives and breast cancer) or lies of omission (abortion or postponing treatment are the only options a pregnant cancer victim has).

    As I said in my post, I am one of only two diagnosed generations to survive this dreaded beast of breast cancer. While I do hope and pray that my daughter (or son) will not carry my defective gene, mostly I hope and pray that one day this “defective” gene will be controllable. I don’t expect miracles, although I do pray for them.

    However, it should not be labeled a miracle to expect an “awareness” or “research” organization to actually provide the information they purport to pay for with donations from sincere donors. Buying a pink shirt (magnet, bumper sticker, license plate, appliance, etc) is not a bad thing. The bad thing is that it has no concrete effect on the fight against breast cancer. I love the people who have swathed themselves in pink for my sake. However, I also love the people who have offered up their daily sufferings, prayers, time, money, and effort into supporting me through the worst that is breast cancer. In my personal experience, those that swath in pink also offer things to me as support. However, if someone just buys the t-shirt (or whatever) and thinks their support is clear, that person needs a wake-up call.October 3, 2012 – 10:38 pmReplyCancel

  • margaret B - Thank you Erika for this moving post. You are in my continued prayers. I am in awe by how courageous you are. God bless you and your family.October 4, 2012 – 12:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - I agree with your article and have written several “Letter to the Editor’ when I see false and misleading information about breast cancer and use of the pill in various magazines. Only one responded and said that they “stand by the research they used”. I would like to know what organizations are currently OK to support, so if you suggest to someone to not support one, is there one that we can support?October 4, 2012 – 3:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Erika - Stephanie — if you want to support breast cancer research, but quail at the thought of them advocating abortion, here’s a list (compiled last year) that is comprised of a few such organizations.

    Breast Cancer Prevention Institute
    PolyCarp Research Institute
    National Breast Cancer Foundation
    MD Anderson Cancer Center**

    I’m sure there are others, but I haven’t researched many of them. There’s a new organization forming called the Breast Cancer Consortium (I think) by a fellow disenfranchised breast cancer survivor. However, I don’t know what their stance is on abortion and contraceptive links. They are a brand new organization that I only know a little bit about. However, I know their founders are adamant about not using the money for salaries for executives…

    **MD Anderson does at times give the option of abortion for pregnant cancer victims and also sometimes recommends contraception. However, due to their research into treating cancer while pregnant, they are obviously looking for alternatives to abortions for cancer victims.October 4, 2012 – 4:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Robyn - Exactly the information and article I’ve been looking for, written by someone uniquely qualified. I’m tired of the pink-ploitation of October and always wonder… what is all of this pink stuff for sale doing to really help people? My daughter’s soccer team wore pink socks and hairbands to a game recently since it was the same day in our community as the Komen Race for the Cure (ugh we all know what’s going on there with Planned Parenthood) but as far as I know that was it. I would have hoped the well-meaning lady that had the idea for the pink socks would have given the girls some information or something, but that was it. And I agree, the boobie and tata references are insulting to all women. God bless you and thank you for providing the list of groups worth supporting.October 5, 2012 – 10:13 amReplyCancel

  • Stiven - Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world today. In a survey, there are eight out of ten women and four out of ten men are suffering from breast cancer through their life span.We should be alert about the symptoms breast cancer.November 13, 2014 – 10:15 pmReplyCancel

  • Erika M Vandiver - Stiven – if there is someone out there who is unaware of breast cancer, the pink goods aren’t doing any good anymore.

    Awareness needs to be MUCH more than commercialization of a deadly disease simply to pay executives to come up with more ways to earn their salaries instead of actually supporting the search for a cure or support for this disease.November 18, 2014 – 6:34 pmReplyCancel

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