Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cheap and Easy

By now I'm sure you've heard of The Handbag Thing on Facebook, where women were setting their statuses to describe where they typically put their purses, except they would write something like "I like it on the kitchen table." Obviously, if you didn't know what they were talking about, you'd think something other than a purse on a kitchen table.

The link that I posted above really speaks to me about this particular "awareness" movement and about much of the breast cancer campaign in general. The widespread use of the color pink is a great way for people to say they're doing something to help fight breast cancer when, in all likelihood, they not only are contributing next to nothing but they also think that making a token pink gesture gets them off the hook for both cancer causes and feminist causes. Particularly since so much of breast cancer campaigning is cute, girl-power-y, sexual, and everything that actual breast cancer isn't. A quote from a patient, from the article above: "Cancer is not pretty. It's not pink. And it's definitely not flirty. It's a deadly, bloody, nasty disease, and it's killing me."

I don't need to tell people who have fought other cancers, particularly those of us who are parents to pediatric cancer survivors or angels, that the cuteness of the breast cancer campaign draws far more attention than any other cancers can hope to attract. And it's impossible, because pediatric cancer is not "cute." And prostate cancer? Well-funded in the grand scheme of cancers, but if someone wanted to raise awareness about it, it would be mighty awkward to try and make prostate exams cute.

While discussing this with a friend (with whom I pretty much disagree about everything), he asked me very simply: what would I do differently?

Ladies and gentlemen, in response to his question, I have an assignment for you.

When you hear about someone that you know who has been diagnosed with cancer, or has a family member diagnosed with cancer, do something for them. Make a donation to an organization that researches their type of cancer, in their honor. THEN make a donation to them in the form of a drugstore gift card or a gas station gift card. If you know them well, offer to take their laundry to the wash and fold or bring them meals to freeze for later. If you know them really well, you could even help clean their house. Because after spending all day at the clinic or in the hospital, housework is just not a high priority, but germs are especially problematic to the cancer patient.

If you'd like to do something to help pediatric cancer or other cancer patients, and you don't have a ton of money, buy some consumable art supplies, particularly when they are on sale at Staples, and donate them to an oncology playroom. Play-Doh is also considered a consumable supply because it can't be shared by sick kids. If you have a little bit more money, call up an oncology clinic and ask them if they have a wishlist of things that they'd like.

If you really think that pink ribbons are raising awareness, then put a quarter in a jar every time you see one and at the end of October, send that money (in check form) to Susan Komen or whatever other cancer-fighting organization you choose. Also, check the organization to which you donate and make sure that you want your money to go there.

Instead of just wearing "save the tatas" or "feel your boobies" shirts, encourage other women to do everything they can to take charge of their health.

Oh, and don't assume that every woman who has had cancer had breast cancer. My mother had fibrosarcoma, which happened to be on her back. She still went through chemo, and radiation, and still lost her hair.

Think about it, everyone. Cancer sucks. But if we dress it up all pretty in pink...it still sucks. Get up and DO something.


mamapoekie said...

This is a great article. I put it in Sunday Surf
It's tragic how people can go all 'support the cause' by doing silly things like these, but they go mute or gitty when it hits their turf

Sarah R said...

Great post! And I agree -- take action. It does a lot more than thinking about an illness.

Amy Hartmann-Ohlson said...

thank you for bringing this to the attention of folks who know of few, if any, ways to help those who really need an extra hand while going through some tough sh*t. from a family member/caretaker of a cancer angel (my dad)....

Anonymous said...

Thank you. You put into words what a lot of people are afraid to even think let alone voice, fearing being flamed or something like that.