Let me tell you what it’s like campaigning for Cervical Cancer. First, I explain that the cervix is separate from the uterus, the urethra and the vagina. Then, I discuss HPV, while people silently judge me. Revelations about my sexual history cross the minds of my audience before they hear how conservative I truly am. Finally, I share that 100% of us, at sometime have had a strain of HPV in our bodies. 80% of us have a recurring strain. I blow minds with statistics, I break hearts with the stories of those that have left this earth and finally, I beg for people, to see BEYOND THE PINK.
Pink Fatigue. It hit me in the beginning of 2006, when I had my own battle with cervical cancer while carrying the breast cancer gene. I wasn’t able to be a part of a club of pink ribbons, march in stride with other women or even buy a waterbottle with an inspiring logo. I was, alone. Then, it was everywhere. Everywhere I looked, pink assaulted my eyes as to remind me, that my breasts were more important than my cervix. I looked into Komen, I saw the hypocrisy of misused funding and decided that although I would actively speak out about cancer, I didn’t need to tolerate PINK. I didn’t need to tolerate using a color to represent women that were all together, NOT PINK, but stronger. I didn’t see the need to girly-up a serious cancer.
And that’s what we do- we TOLERATE pink. We spend more for the golf balls with the pink ribbon, because 10% goes to breast cancer research. We send yogurt lids in the mail to support breast cancer research when the stamp costs more than the Yoplait will ever donate to research, anyhow. (Lids for A Cure only donate .10 cents per lid.) We smile politely when someone mentions how PINK has empowered them. We cheer on those at Race For The Cure and wonder, “Where IS the cure?” We don’t really think beyond the bastardized representation of breast cancer anymore…. PINK, do we?
I just can’t function in a world of pink, anymore. We have misused and SOLD OUT to a hope that PINK will save us when really, all we need to do to save ourselves is to ask the tougher question of, “Where is all that money going?” It’s the same for any large non-profit. We look at the administrative costs and the fact that while MILLIONS, (sometimes billions are coming in the door,) people are still dying of diseases because they cannot afford the care. This to me, is disgusting and represents Non-Profit-Elitism. Then I heard about the Susan G. Komen foundation USING funding to sue other cancer organizations. Over $1Million dollars in funding while low-income women STILL cannot receive adequate care because mammograms are still unaffordable. So, please… forgive me because PINK turns my stomach in a way that no amount of cheer or empowerment can fix it.
“We were certainly taken aback by it,” she told HuffPost. “We have partners running these kite events around the country. What if one of them uses, say, magenta? Is that pink? I mean, where are we going with this? We just want to raise money for cancer. What we don’t want is to have our energy misplaced by having our charity partners trying to police the good work that we’re doing.” (Huffington Post Article)
Let me tell you what it’s like to try and save women from other, “non-pink,” cancers while Queen Komen reigns over all: It sucks. No one has any funding left, or brainspace to comprehend an organization that actually discusses other cancers. Our brains are so focused on ‘Saving The TaTas,” or “Racing For The Cure,” that other women suffer and are branded not as important, because breasts reign supreme in these parts. The cervix, is an afterthought and ironically, the cervix, (when healthy,) is actually a bright and cheery pink. If I had a cervix left, it would be revolting. My cervix lays in a rejected body part medical wasteland somewhere, unattached from me and alone.
Cancer is cancer. The cells grow alike, whether in the breast or in the cervix. Cancer is spread because of our environment, diet, stress level and genes. Cancer, doesn’t discriminate between the rich or poor, sick or well. But some, organizations DO. Some organizations however, would humble Komen with strength and authenticity in a time when PINK overwhelms.
I spoke at a gala this weekend for the SAS Foundation, a non-profit organization based out of Appleton, Wisconsin. During a glass of wine, I spoke with an attendee and she mentioned, “It’s sad that while anyone can point out the breasts, no one knows anything about the cervix.” I agreed and we watched the slideshow on the television about a woman who lost her life, years prior. The heartbreaking story of how SAS was founded begins with a tale of a women who never missed a Pap Smear and for 3 years was misdiagnsed. The ending hasn’t happened as 3 of her most passionate friends took up her battle and started to educate and empower women around them. Two men and a woman lead this incredible organization with such heart and perseverance. This tale is the same as mine, except while the beautiful must of the founders, lays in the ground, I walk above. Comprehending how close I could be to that fate has me angry that in a day and age while one organization raises billions, others struggle to pay for the necessities necessary to save actual women’s lives.
I tweeted tonight at the incredible campaign opportunity unfolding that I’ve been given for Cervical Cancer and gynecological cancers. Someone responded that my ‘anti-pink’ sentiments were tearing her down. I sat for a while and reflected that this debate was the same of abortion or anyother debate. Can we love and support women’s bodies and their choice to choose abortion while being ‘good’ and ‘moral’ people? (I think we can.) Can a formula feeding mother understand the benefits of breastfeeding, yet still choose to do formula and be a good mother? (I think she can.) Can I be so against what has happened to pink and breast cancer but still be PRO-breast health? (I think I can.) Somehow, in the anger and frustration of debates, these points are almost always lost.
I sent the person that responded this:
“Pink doesn’t just represent breast cancer. Survivors do. Pink represents a money-making machine based off breast cancer. I can be pro-women, but anti-pink. I can be PRO you, but anti-the ridiculousness of selling everything from KFC chicken to waterbottles and giving a meaningless percentage to cancer research. Please don’t twist my tweets to think, “I hate your breasts.” I hate what breast cancer has become. It’s been bastardized. Mistreated. Spit on. Women die for pink, so the execs at Komen can get richer. While MORE women die without reason. You’re more than Pink, though- that’s the problem. Our breasts are not pink. They trivialize other cancers, to make breast cancer rule. I’m sick of pink.”
I don’t know what possessed me, but tonight I stood in front of the mirror, staring at my breasts. None of my body parts are more important than the other, yet there my breasts stood as a ticking time bomb, and what remains, (a small sliver,) of my cervix, hides inside. One body part almost killed me. Another holds a gene that will kill me. My body, is a mass of incredible strength and lovely curses. My passion for healthy women isn’t defined by cervix or breast, but taking the COLOR out of cancer prevention and sticking to the BLACK AND WHITE facts of the matter: I’m over the gimmicks. I’m over the shadiness and I want, a goddamn cure. I think that’s all anyone wants. A cure.