Cancer is Sexy!

I have to credit this entry and much of the editorial to Penn & Teller’s episode of their show Bullshit from a few years back. They opened my eyes in a way that I now have a hard time seeing pink breast cancer ribbons and not letting a cynical smirk cross my face. In a good way.

See, they make a whole show out of chastising the breast cancer awareness/fund raising efforts of the pink ribbon (and pink stand mixers, baseball bats, thongs, etc.). It’s not that creating awareness and funds-gathering for cancer research is a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact. It’s not about cancer. It’s about the type of cancer these groups focus on. Breast.

Breasts are sexy. No one wants to see breasts go away (or heaven forbid become disfigured due to mastectomies). Seeing professional sports teams supporting breast cancer, while I’m sure a nice nod to moms and sisters and things, is now a little odd for me to process or appreciate. Given that sports are dominated by men, why isn’t there a prostate cancer awareness month? Isn’t that a little more relevant to the male population? Is it that it truly is a man’s world? Boobs trump prostates or colons or skin or ovaries or stomachs or livers? Somehow, I can understand that… sadly.

Recently there have been reports that not only are we no closer to finding a cure, but we are now actually encouraging women to put themselves in medically dangerous paths with the hope of heading the risk off at the pass. I’m turning 35 in a few months and 35 has always been “the scary age”. If I have a kid at this point, the risk of birth defects shoots up markedly. Mammograms. Female cancer risks become more prevalent (and those without having given birth it seems, are at an even higher risk). Now is the time to get involved, right? Well As Penn & Teller pointed out in their show, all that fund raising money has to go somewhere – and where it tends to go, is overhead. To make the ribbons, to pay for the t-shirts we wear on the walks, to create the giant banners plastered on the sides of airplanes and to the new jerseys worn by the guys in the NFL. That can be said for all cancer fundraising efforts, actually. A few years ago I walked in the American Cancer Society Walk-n-Roll in honor of my father and my aunt, both of who passed from cancer. I raised $2500 through the generous donations of friends and family and you know what? As I thought more about this after being enlightened, I felt a little guilty. Did they pay for my t-shirt? A new labcoat for a researcher? Did even $10 find its way into an account for the children of victims? I have no idea.

To call it disillusionment is strong, I would never say it’s a bad thing to donate or raise money for cancer-related causes. I will say however I’d much rather donate locally, to Gilda’s Club or a local hospice. Put money in places you know it’s working and where it’s going (and to whom).

This entry is not meant to insult or malign folks who get involved. It makes a person feel good and those walks are powerful, especially crossing the finish line to waving friends and family who hold photos of lost loved ones. It’s a serious business at the end of the day, but it’s also tainted by drug companies and vested interests. Take your money, time, efforts and emotions out of the hands of those corporations and put it all into something on your block. That will feel good, and maybe eventually there will be a cure one day to all cancers, not just the sexy ones.

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