Sunday, September 13, 2009


It's amazing how often I think I'm in an absolute pit of depression because my whole life is a pathetic failure, then I eat something nutritious or take a nap and I have perspective again. I'm like a toddler.

Anyway. Yesterday I participated in my second breast cancer walkathon this year. (I was a walker last time, staff this time.) I think it's a good cause, but I won't lie to ya, it's a weird atmosphere at those things. Everything's too pink, and everyone's a little... too happy. "WOO FIGHTING CANCER WOOOOO!" I don't like cancer either, and fundraisers should be fun, but medical research doesn't seem like a matter for "wooo," you know? Also the amount of money that comes in is freaking massive and it sorta creeps me out how opaque it is where it goes. I'm not accusing them of impropriety (the Susan G. Komen foundation spends 87% of funds on programs), just of vagueness--I wish they would say what is being done to "fight" cancer. They make it sound like we're paying a guy to run out and punch tumors. Or the degree of cutesy pinkness reaches the overload point until you think you're donating for the promotion and spread of pink itself.

Still, better to help a basically-worthy cause than to sit on the sidelines bitching. Isn't that right, Twisty? I don't want to be too harsh on this one because she is a breast cancer survivor herself, but mocking women who get breast reconstruction and cover their hair loss? Daaamn. Also, a nice bit of tinhattery about "they want you to get cancer and they want you to think treatment is easy because that's how they make their money!" (Apparently none of Them have breasts of their own or care about anyone who does.)

And then the comments are largely about how encouraging patients to fight is unfairly suggesting that surviving cancer is somehow "better" that dying from cancer, and assigning that kind of value judgement is very patriarchal.

I wish there was this kind of turnout for other cancers, though. I'd like to hold a 5000-person rally for colorectal cancer prevention and treatment. Brown banners and ribbons everywhere, "Save the assholes" t-shirts, chirpy hand-drawn posters of anuses that are also smiley faces, kids handing out brown lemonade with extra fiber. We'd be doing good and having fun!


  1. Oh yes. My First Rule is Eat Something and it has the force of a Prime Directive. Doesn't even matter if you're not hungry. Stops a lot of things getting worse, sometimes. But then we are all just toddlers with self awareness, really.

  2. Twisty can always be counted on to take things too far, but she's more restrained here than usual. She does have to disregard parts of Julia's account of her mastectomy/hysterectomy in order to make her argument, but that's nothing new.

    For anyone who might not have visited it via Twisty's site and isn't too squeamish, Julia's account is extremely cool.

  3. Hey, I'm all for colorectal cancer research support. That's an unpleasant form of cancer.

    And hey, breast cancer has got to suck, but it's really hard living without your asshole.

    I've got a sibling studying medicene over at the University of Iowa. There's a lot of research into experimental cancer therapies going on over there, and a pretty sizable percentage of the best and brightest in biology that go on to study cancer treatments.

    I'll ask if they're involved with any of the breast cancer foundations. You might be paying a graduate student do develop a treatment that really brings the pain to cancer cells. We can punch cancer with science.

  4. "I wish they would say what is being done to 'fight' cancer. They make it sound like we're paying a guy to run out and punch tumors."

    My read was that's the party Twisty was really twisted about: there's all sorts of talk about "the cure" but not so much talk about what that mean, what the consequence are, what your chances are, and (the biggest deal I thought) what's going to *happen* to you if you've got it.

    I've followed a couple of bloggers through their breast cancers, and reconstructive surgeries after. And you don't get any sense that there's anything "pink" about it. And, as Twisty was saying, even there there's not a lot of the nuts-and-bolts business about how to sleep without blocking your drainage tubes. Or why you'd need them. And how *long* you typically need them.

    Two things I'll say about how militant Twisty gets about the hair and reconstruction thing. One is how intensely it seems to hit people to lose either their breasts during surgery, and their hair during chemo. The other is how intense people's reactions (including children, family members, and random passers by) are if you don't cover it up. Which is something the vague pinkiness of Komen foundation support-building activity *doesn't* do to help women where they evidently could really use support.

    That she thinks it's a conspiracy by "them" just means she's a nut. (That's not to say there's not more money in the system for "the cure" than for prevention -- that's true for all kinds of illnesses. "I don't want to be sick" is way more focusing than "I don't want to *get* sick.")


  5. The 'don't tell people to fight (breast cancer, sexual assault, depression, a lousy marriage, what-have-you) because you're implying that people who don't fight are lesser' meme pisses me off so bad and you see it all over the place. No, not everybody can fight, and those that can't shouldn't be belittled for it--but nobody actually goes around calling people who die of breast cancer losers. Nobody that I've ever heard of, anyway. And people who can fix their problems ought to be encouraged to do so.

    God, I'm turning into a Republican in my old age.

  6. I think Twisty offers a perspective that I have never considered before. I have always been wary of all the pink ribbon crap because I think companies use peoples personal experience with the disease to sell more product. I don't think Twisty says covering or disguising your breast cancer battle wounds as a dis to the women but a comment on why when someone has been on the brink of death should they feel the need/encouraged to cover of up there journey to make everyone else (society) feel better.

  7. Anonymous - Yeah, but "pink ribbon disease" also gives at least some money to a worthy cause.

    And what if a woman herself would like to cover up the effects of her cancer and treatment? It's not all about society, some people may (bizarrely!) have a certain attachment to their own hair and breasts. And it is a dis, a big dehumanizing one, to tell them that they don't really want that, it's just society making them think it.

  8. Re: happy-clappy "yay, we're fighting cancer!" style activism, please check this out: