Musings on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, etc.

It’s October, which means it’s breast cancer awareness month! YAY and BOO, simultaneously.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this strange little tradition and its deluge of awareness and action programs – one of which I’m actually actively working on at my job, and which will go live shortly! I think you’ll all really like it. I’ve never been one to be overly serious about cancer, so this isn’t serious, either. Natch. I think it’s much cooler than a pink ribbon on a salsa jar. So check back soon to hear all about it.

I kind of forgot that breast cancer awareness month was a thing until I was back home in Los Angeles the other weekend for a film shoot for my job. Since I don’t drive in NYC, I never listen to the radio (thanks for the Spotify Premium subscription, Brandcenter friends! It’s all I listen to!) – but sitting in traffic in LA, fiddling through the stations, I was bombarded with commercials touting every company’s breast cancer initiative in honor of October. And then I was sitting there on the 110, staring at some palm trees, and wait…am I crying? WTF?

A representative from Phillips Healthcare contacted me recently and asked if they could sponsor a post of mine in honor of their breast cancer awareness programs. I keep it super-real on this blog, so let me be real for a minute: Honestly, I was skeptical at first. I once saw a truck drive by advertising a WATER brand that was dedicated entirely to breast cancer research, which makes zero sense. I don’t need to be reminded of cancer every god damn time I buy yogurt and hair products, okay? I’m not trying to get ambushed by emotions every time I’m in the grocery store. Do you want me to cry in the dairy aisle, D’Agostino? IS THAT GOOD FOR BUSINESS? I mean, I just flew back from Los Angeles and had to stare at all of the flight attendants’ pink buttons and ties for six hours, and while half of me was like, “Yay, solidarity and support!”, the other half of me was like, “STOP REMINDING ME,” and those two sides of me duked it out all the way to LaGuardia at 30,000 feet up in the sky.

The Phillips rep was kind enough to send me some materials about what their company accomplishes each October, and I was impressed. They’re not paying me to talk about this, and let me be clear that I wouldn’t do it if I thought what Phillips was doing was BS. But along with a lot of other products you probably use every day, Phillips makes mammogram machines that use MicroDose Technology, and they sponsor a Mammography Truck – and mammograms are probably the most important tool we have in the fight against breast cancer right now. Because here’s the thing: When you catch breast cancer early, you can cure it. Yes, I said cure. As in forever and ever cure it, and go on living your life. And that is amazing.

I’m fully and completely supportive of any and all initiatives that work to make sure women have access to early detection. There is simply nothing more important. And while mammograms won’t help girls like me because we’re weird medical anomalies, the message is the same: Be diligent about your health. Whether that means getting your boobs squeezed between some plates, checking yourself in the shower or going to the gynecologist regularly. And if something doesn’t seem right, for God’s sake, follow up on it. It’s funny to think about how many times in my life I knew something was off, but put off doing something about it – not just healthwise, but in my relationships and my decisions and so on. When I really reflect on it, my gut feeling has been right probably upwards of 90% of the time. I’m not saying I always did what my gut told me to do. I probably almost never do what my gut tells me to do, because it’s usually the harder thing. But dammit, that stupid gut knows what’s up.

So yeah, breast cancer awareness month is a time of great internal conflict and strife for me. On the one hand, when you’ve got a disease that 1 out of 8 women is going to be diagnosed with in her lifetime, is there any such thing as too much activism? With numbers like that, virtually every one of us will know someone who will be affected by this disease. It’s awesome that companies like Phillips are so dedicated to improving the technology we use to keep women healthy, and working to provide resources for women whose lives are impacted by breast cancer. The community of support around breast cancer is truly humbling, even if I sometimes feel like a bit of an outsider in it because I’m 25, unmarried and a drunk degenerate and not 50, married and a mom.

Also, let me take a moment to say that I know that hatin’ on pink ribbons is a pretty popular activity these days. I’m not trying to do that. Because I know that women deal with this in all kinds of ways – and while I laugh-cry at pinktivism and 5Ks and inspirational Pinterest quotes, a lot of women find it truly empowering, and I am completely in favor of that. And I am all about people doing whatever they can to help other people. There’s no one way of dealing with a deadly disease that’s any better or more valid than any other. Rock on. I’ll just be over here writing random stuff all up in this blog.

On the other hand, I had no idea that hearing the words “breast cancer” and seeing pink ribbons all over the place would be this emotional for me. And I kind of resent a lot of companies for putting me through that when they have no logical reason to. Are you listening, D’Agostino? Please let me grocery shop with relative emotional stability. Please.

One other, totally unrelated thing: It’s almost my birthday! Which means I’m going to be 26. Do you think I need to change the title of this blog? What’s a gal to do? Time marches on.

19 thoughts on “Musings on Breast Cancer Awareness Month, etc.

  1. your blog gives me such insperation and hope… thank you..I have had 8 rounds of chemo and am in my 3rd week of 6 weeks of radiation… am also having herceptin treatments every 3 weeks.. there will be 18 of them….I have the HR2 receptor…I have no one to talk to about my cancer, that really cares…so I eagerly wait for a writing from you….from someone who has and been through this…. Thank you so much.. and stay healthy….

    • Sydney, if you need someone to talk to, please know you can email me. I can send it to you privately and you can contact me. DO NOT feel like there is no one to talk to! There is SO MUCH support for you. ❤

      • Sydney Saccone-Maraldo says:

        Thank you so much MIchelle…I appreciate it very much
        You have so much to look forward to and I wish you a very happy life..You deserve it…I love the humour in your blogs.. Just keep them coming…….

  2. Sue Warner says:

    First of all, happy almost b-day to you! I am one of the 50 yr old, married, moms you mention in your latest installment. I will be 4 years out from my diagnosis with the pink monster next month. I am a triple negative so went through mastectomy, 8 rounds of chemo and (of my own choosing) radiation just to be sure it was gone. A very good old friend of mine turned me on to your blog. You are such a great writer and give hope and chuckles to so many of us. I think you should leave the 25 in the title. It will give you a yardstick to measure how far you’ve come as you continue to write over the years. Thank you for putting it out there.

  3. “I’m 26 and my boobs are trying to kill me” still has a nice ring to it. I’d say change it. But on your birthday, when you change it, do a “google” thing and make it all fancy for the day. To celebrate! You can send me any royalties that come from the idea.

  4. Ann says:

    I vote to keep the name. As Cassandra points out, they aren’t trying to kill you any more! It’s a really strong title and still seems to fit with what you talk about here. At some point the blog will take a new direction or you’ll make it into a book–it’ll evolve naturally. For now it’s a powerful reminder that breast cancer does occur in women under 30.

    • Thanks Ann. It definitely is important that other young women know they could be at risk. My message has always been to trust your body, and if you feel something you know you shouldn’t feel, see a doctor!

  5. Christine T says:

    I vote to keep the “25” because it signifies the past, the shock and unfairness of being diagnosed with a serious illness at a young age and then being treated and moving on. I am turned off by all the “pink” in advertising, on TV, slapped onto the labels of ordinary things we buy, on banners on the sides of city buses, everything/everywhere it seems. What started out as a good idea–educating women about the disease and mammograms–has turned into pandering that seems so phony to me (as in if I buy a particular yogurt, the company will donate a couple pennies for each container–or some such silliness). And what about all the other diseases? I know a 32-year-old with ALS! I ignore the “pink” messaging, esp in October, but I do hope/wish that education of the public about breast cancer “awareness” would include much emphasis on preventive measures–such as the well-established link between alcohol consumption and increased risk of breast cancer (and other cancers).

    • Thanks for the good points you made, Christine. Maybe what we need is a breast cancer science month that focuses on how women can stay healthy – screening, mammograms, eating right, exercising, cutting back on alcohol, and so on!

  6. pattiapaul says:

    Stick with the “25”, it’s all about benchmarks. As I sit here watching Sunday football, with grown men all dressed in pink, I have no idea why you think Breast Cancer Awareness Month is becoming more of a show than a cause. Although, I received my 1st pedicure as a bogo because I had breast cancer. What perks we get from a double mastectomy! I’m one of many in my family who has had the disease. I’m just very lucky – I’m 47 and alive, my mom was 47 and dead. Medicine sure has come a long way!

    • Christine T says:

      I think it’s become more of a “show” than a “cause” because the month of October has been superseded by the ubiquitous “pink ribbon” symbol seemingly everywhere. I think breast cancer education should be the goal, not consumer products bearing the pink ribbon symbol with the promise of pennies toward cancer-related efforts. Public education about the facts of the disease, about symptom awareness, about screening techniques (pros and cons), and about known risk factors are lost in a sea of such purposeless and silly things as “men all dressed in pink” and pennies being donated when a customer chooses one brand of yogurt or one pair of sneakers over another. Were the men dressed in pink abstaining from alcohol in solidarity with the women in the room, who I hope are aware of the very real association between alcohol consumptions and increased breast cancer risk?

    • Yes, I feel very lucky to be alive too. And hey, I wouldn’t complain about a free pedicure! 🙂

  7. Catherine says:

    Dear Michelle,
    Another great blog. As your birthday approaches, bringing you to the ripe old age of 26 (I have clothes older than that!) maybe you should rename your blog: “At 25 my boobs ‘were’ trying to kill me.” Time is marching on and so are you; stronger, happier and healthier. Rock On, with or without that pink ribbon.

  8. Awesome Blog post. I completely agree with exactly how you feel but can never put it in such wise words as you did

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