This is something i posted on my blog 2/16/12. having just finished reading Mary Elizabeth's Williams's "The Tyranny of Pink," i decided to repost it here.
I am a healer, a bio-energetic therapist; for over twenty years I have worked with cancer patients and breast cancer patients. I do a lot of research and because of my research I was not a Susan G. Komen fan. The ugly facts about the organization are now coming out due to SGK’s decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood. This information however is not new; it’s been around a long time. Komen Watch was started in 1982; Re-think the Pink was started by Breast Cancer Action in 2002. In 2001, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an astounding article in Harpers Magazine, November 2001, titled ‘Welcome to Cancer Land,’ chronicling her own breast cancer experience and her serious misgivings around the cult of pink. I am pretty sure the soon to be released documentary (it may be released by the time this is posted) ‘Pink Ribbons,’ will follow in this vein.
Susan G. Komen sanitized the horror of breast cancer; they turned it pink and pretty in order to sell the brand. There is nothing pink and pretty about having your breasts removed. There is nothing pink and pretty about holding one of your dearest friends after a double mastectomy with drainage tubes coming out her sides. There is nothing pink and pretty about the excruciating pain that follows a mastectomy. There is nothing pink and pretty about the side effects of chemo (which is a derivative of mustard gas) and radiation. There is nothing pink and pretty about the squish of a mammogram and being dosed with ionizing radiation that has been proven to initiate cancer. There is nothing pink and pretty about making a treatment that practically kills you, financially destroys you, and doesn’t work, ok. There is nothing pink and pretty about expecting a breast cancer patient to be ever positive and upbeat; to quite literally cut herself off from the appropriate feelings of anger, rage, and powerlessness and/or allow her to make peace with death. The video of the older woman,‘this is what breast cancer is... is not,’ is the truest representation I have seen of what breast cancer is. Even with my experience it was hard to watch.
Over the years it has been equally hard to watch, but for very different reasons, throngs of women in pink marching for the cure. Mothers, survivors, daughters, survivors, nieces, survivors, step-sisters, survivors, aunts, survivors, grandmothers, survivors, for the cure, women’s solidarity, and it’s all very emotional, tears all around, and as God is our witness we will find a cure for breast cancer. What these women didn’t know is that they were being used. They were being used by an establishment that didn’t give a rats ass about them; they were being used by a faction of a trillion dollar industry that had no intention whatsoever of changing the way they did business. That’s what makes me cry, that's what enrages me, that the tribe to which I belong was and is still being played for fool. At the same time the fact that so many women refused to look behind the curtain, that it never even occurred to them, absolutely floors me and is a testament to the power (and the funding) of SGK’s media and public relations and their ability to spin an earnest desire to help into cash.
I never marched for the cure but I know a lot of women who did and each of them fervently believed that by marching she was part of the solution to breast cancer. When I pointed out to a very dear friend of mine, who marched every year without fail, that most of the monies raised by walk/run for the cure were spent on advertising the event and that only 17% (if that much) of ALL the monies raised by Komen were actually spent on researching breast cancer, she placed her hand on my arm and said very gently, “Kat this is what we have, we have to work with it.” She feels the same way about the American Cancer Society and runs the relay for life every year. The American Cancer Society is an exact replica of Komen only way larger; same sanitized version of cancer, same politics, same payroll, same P.R., same cozy relationships that scream “conflict of interest.” Because known carcinogen producing chemical companies and pharmaceutical companies fund the majority of cancer research the American Cancer Society, like SGK, refuses to acknowledge a causal link between the environment and cancer. To this day the medical community overseeing 9/11 first responders refuses to connect the high rate of cancer among first responders to the toxic chemical brew they were breathing stating, “there is no research to support the connection.” Let’s see, everybody’s got cancer and all the body-sniffing dogs were dead of cancer after six months but there’s no research to support the connection. Hmmm, I wonder who’s funding the research?
I am a fifty-nine year old woman and have been an activist for over thirty years and I don’t think we should work with what we have at all. I think we should be marching in the streets wailing like banshees as virtually all the reasons we've been given for the high rate of breast cancer are proving to be false. 70% of breast cancer patients have none of the risk factors. As for the estrogen link, that high levels of estrogen are related to breast cancer, well that’s never made any sense to me so I dug around a bit and found on the Breast Cancer Actionwebsite (the ONLY breast cancer group I trust) that Xenoestrogens are manmade chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body. So it’s probably not even our natural estrogen that is causing the cancer, it’s the damn Xenoestrogens. Fatty diets have been pretty much ruled out as a cause, now they’re saying it’s the chemicals in the fatty foods. Rates of breast cancer are remarkably higher in industrialized (polluted) countries and if you should move here from say the Amazon your breast cancer rate is going to keep pace with the people who've lived here all their lives. This isn't rocket science, all the evidence is pointing to environmental causes.
There has been documentary after documentary about the horrific effects of toxic chemicals and pesticides on human health, there have been several movies, the first one that comes to mind is Erin Brockovitch. Even the 2010 President’s Cancer Panel stated unequivocally that…”The Panel was particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated and…the American people even before they are born are bombarded with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures.” Clearly if we are going to find a cure for breast cancer, for any kind of cancer, we are going to have to establish the cause and seed the mainstream with the truth, that there is a very real connection, a causal link, between environment and cancer. If we are going to find a cure for breast cancer, any kind of cancer, we are going to have to seed the mainstream with the facts; that all the marching, running, and biking, all the public celebrations of the survivors and the honoring of those passed may be raising awareness but they are by and large sponsored by organizations who are funded by companies that not only stood to gain financially from the activities but whose products cause cancer and whose monies impact cancer research in much the same way that the insurance lobby impacted the public option. This means we’re going to have to take on the chemical companies, which is going to be a lot more difficult than buying Yoplait, and as far as i'm concerned a hell of a better way to honor those fighting breast cancer, those who’ve survived, and those who’ve passed on. Our money, our time, our energy, our raging love needs to go to organizations that do not shy away from the causal link between environment and cancer.
Idealism and hope can only take a body so far. To change anything takes a single-mindedness of purpose that is impervious to double-talk, a dogged persistence that does not distract easily, and a rock hard refusal to be easily mollified by shiny objects, all of which was in ample evidence during SGK and the subsequent fall-out. For the breast cancer movement to take on the chemical companies is akin to OWS taking on the 1%. I am a realist; I know this is practically impossible but the minute I accept something is practically impossible I start looking for ways that it might be possible; I start looking for ways to make it possible. If anyone had told me a few years ago that people across the country would be camping in the streets protesting the 1% whose rise I’d been charting since the Reagan years I would have laughed and said, "in your dreams," but it happened. If anyone had told me a year ago that women would rise up en masse and take down Susan G. Komen in two days I would have laughed and said, "in your dreams," but it happened.
Facts come fast with twenty-four hour news and pass just as quickly but the story lives on. People love to tell you that your experience makes you who you are, but that’s a lie. Experience doesn’t make you who you are but what you do with your experience does. We can learn from Komen, we can make sure it doesn't happen again, but we have to be careful not to get distracted, not to get to self-congratulatory. It's about the cure.
Live loud, love fierce, and suffer no fools. Kat Manaan