Thursday, October 1, 2009

On Being Aware of Breasts

(Imagine the random hits I'm going to get on this blog because of that title. 13 year old boys and sundry fetishists, welcome. Or, er....not.)

It's October 1st. And so begins Breast Cancer Awareness month--as decreed  by U.S. President Obama (okay, and all of our Presidents since 1985 apparently). And here's part of his declaration:

"NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2009, as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I encourage citizens, Government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and other interested groups to join in activities that will help Americans understand what they can do to prevent and control breast cancer."  (you can read the whole thing by clicking on President Obama's name above).

If my President asks, I must, of course, respond to the call. So let me share with you what I can to help prevent and control breast cancer.

First, and foremost, those self exams. And gentleman...yeah, it can happen to you too. So no helping with our exams until you've at least done your own. And here's my best reason for emphasizing the importance of the self exams: I had a "perfectly fine, no cancer detected, nothing suspicious here" mammogram on July 22, 2008. In late November of 2008 I felt a thickening in my breast ("right breast, 10 o'clock"--that's the medical term for where it was. ;-) ) and by December 23, 2008 my second mammogram came back as "highly suspicious of malignancy."  And, of course, it was indeed breast cancer and a rapidly growing aggressive one at that. Note that timeline. There wasn't any misreading of my July mammogram. Nothing can be seen on that film. 5 months later and a 1.7cm tumor is clearly visible. Imagine if I had waited until it was time for my annual mammogram? Right. So don't you do it either. Self exam! A little self awareness never hurt anyone.

Next, of course, do get those annual mammograms. They at least help you know what's normal in your breasts. If something is there it isn't going to go away just because you are ignoring it. There isn't a single case of cancer being ignored into remission. Those cancer cells are nasty little bastards that would love to be left alone to do their dirty work. Don't let them!! The sooner it's caught, the better. Why take any chances?

Those are sort of the obvious "breast cancer awareness" items. But it really wouldn't be me if I didn't have a few more things to say, now would it?

Let's talk about those pink ribbons.

I was never really a fan of pink--and I mean baby pink (I'm fine with fushcia, hot pink, all that). It's completely consistent with my life in general that I would get a disease that is notorious by it's pink ribbon branding, just so it could attack even my aesthetic sensibilities. Apparently, I have Estee Lauder to thank for this.   According to Wikipedia (and how could that be wrong??)

"In 1993 Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the Pink Ribbon as its symbol, though this was not the first the ribbon was used to symbolize breast cancer.[2] In the fall of 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation had handed out Pink Ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors."

[And note that that the big company basically stole the ribbon idea from what was then a start up little foundation where one sister was honoring the memory of her late sister! Of course, Susan G. Komen Foundation seems to have survived and thrived. As has the pink ribbon.]

The month of October finds pink ribbons on absolutely everything! (Note photo). To a very, very ridiculous extreme. This morning I noted that Yoplait wants me to send in my pink ribbon bedecked yogurt tops (clean, they are careful to request) and they'll make a contribution to Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Really, Yoplait? Why must I wash a piece of foil, package it up with 20 other pieces of washed foil, pay postage and waste and envelope so you can donate...what, 20 cents? Maybe? Why couldn't you, dearest Yoplait (maker of my pina colada morning fix) just donate $X for every Yoplait yogurt sold in October? Or maybe just, um, donate money and then tell us you did it. Could it be that you know folks (or at least not the sane, busy ones among us) are not actually going to wash foil pieces and send them to you, so in actuality you get great "press" and advertising and you look like you're supporting important breast cancer research, but in reality...not so much.

And that's not even the worst offender. You can pretty much buy any piece of crap/ tchotcke bedazzled with a pink ribbon. And when you do, maybe, maybe 1/8 of a cent winds its way down to an organization that might be doing something about breast cancer. Maybe. Believe me, I get all sorts of emails and solicitations to buy things with pink ribbons and a lot of it is just so ridiculous and so clearly not actually benefiting anyone except, obviously, the manufacturer. Now,  I do own some of the pink ribbon festooned items. I will admit.  I have awesome wine glasses with not only pink ribbons, but rhinestones!! And I have another set with pink stems! And I love them, don't get me wrong (although let's be clear, in both cases the pink is definitely of the hot pink variety--some were gifts from friends who know me well; note, they are after all wine glasses!), but I have no delusions that money went to any breast cancer organization. And that's my point. If you are buying these pink ribbon items because a) you like them, or b) you think your friend/sister/relative/ co-worker who is dealing with breast cancer will like it and know you thought of her, fine. No worries. Buy away. But....if you really want to help breast cancer research, or breast cancer patients directly, please consider helping an actual existing local organization that you can see and talk to and verify the existence of.

I'm quite involved, at the moment, with one of those local agencies and we just named the Inland Agency's Breast Cancer Resource Center  "The Pink Ribbon Place"--precisely because everyone does indeed know the pink ribbon symbolizes breast cancer awareness. And believe me, we're running with the pink ribbon symbol. But we're doing it to raise money that will directly benefit people diagnosed with breast cancer and needing a place to turn for support. The Pink Ribbon Place will run support groups, have a lending library for books on breast cancer, have information, scarves, wigs, prosthesis available, and really is working toward being a center that can help a person dealing with breast cancer every step of the way. So yeah, we're going to exploit that pink ribbon, too. Starting with a Brunch for Breasts on October 11th at Restaurant Omakase from 9a.m to 2pm. $40 per person and $20 from each meal will go directly to The Pink Ribbon Place. (That's a lot of tin foil mail-ins right there!). If you live near Riverside, consider supporting the event. Your donations really will count. And, you'll have an incredible meal...check out this menu:
October 11th
Brunch For Breasts
9:00am - 2:00pm

eggs benedict
soft poached eggs, apple bacon, hollaindaise
breakfast sandwich
brioche, arugula, tomato, apple bacon
pumpkin pancakes
maple crème fraîche

polenta brûlée
polenta cooked with fontina cheese
all served with assorted fruit & our breakfast potatoes

our grilled cheese
brioche, gruyere

lobster salad 'on a roll'
maine lobster, tarragon, lemon, crusty roll

chicken apple sausages
smothered in apple & onion

omakase burger
brandt beef, garlic aioli, onion, tomato
all served with assorted fruit & duck fat fries

chocolate 'gooey' cake
ginger - sea salt ice cream

apple croustade
whipped marscarpone

pumpkin pound cake
cream cheese ice cream

pain perdu
french toast with caramelized quince
$40 per person, $10 for specialty drinks

And the specialty drinks? Mamm-osas and Cure Royales!! And yep, 1/2 the proceeds from those will benefit The Pink Ribbon Place as well! Drink for a cause! Does it get any better than that?

This time last year, I didn't even know I had breast cancer. This time last year, I couldn't even feel a lump. Now, I'm proud to say I'm an 8 month survivor. (They start counting from surgery--since that was the last we saw of any cancer in my body). I like to think it's all behind me but it's obviously an experience I'll never forget. As Chris's mom Trudi (a 16 year survivor) said to me early on, I'm part of a club now. And the club's color is pink. Okay then. Bring on the pink! [But let's not forget the awareness part too.... Self exams, people. Do it.]

[Update: I didn't know this when I posted the above last night, but apparently there is a website all about what they call " " pinkwashing""." It's called "Think Before You Pink. Huh. I'm not the only one who gets crabby about pink! It's a project of Breast Cancer Action...and I have no idea who that is, so now  of course I have to wonder, is BCA for real? this blog I real...?? More coffee, please.]


  1. Great post Teresa. Can't wait for brunch!!!

  2. I think the EXACT SAME THING about companies who ask that consumers jump through hoops to get them to donate a little something from their trillion dollar bank accounts to a worthy cause. Just write a check, dammit! If I'm going to go through washing and packaging foil, I'll be doing it to recycle and get that $.20 myself....and not use a stamp that could be used to mail off my car payment.


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