It's Pinktober again -- and you know what that means? It means that we the people get to celebrate the sisterhood of the traveling cancer, with pretty pink parades and pinky-pink ribbons. Let's march through the streets, hand in hand O My Sisters, 'cause fighting cancer is a pretty pink bonding experience. Yippy, skippy!
Now, stick to your training, sisters, and replace words like, "ductal carcinoma in situ," with "support the cure" and don't ever let anyone know that the reconstruction you had after your mastectomy never came with a nipple.
Be brave at all costs and smile a big, bald-headed smile for the camera. Let 'em know that cancer will never get us down because we're strong, We Are Woman Hear Us Roar, and to hell with that lost nipple -- before we trot off to "get checked" at the "Mammo Truck," we can get together at one of our pink recipe-swapping parties where we can sit in a circle and crochet boobie plushies, nipple intact. Problem solved!
Let us pretty pink patients drink tea out of pink teacups and never let 'em know that those fabulous warrior-woman micro short hairdos cost us $90,000 each, or that, even though we couldn't afford those "do or die" $5,000 a pop chemo infusion sessions every three weeks for a year, or those wack-a-doo Neupogen syringes at $500 a box, bottle after bottle of Ativan, Zofran and Restoril -- it's still cool, 'cause we're women who hold hands under pink banners.
And why pink? Is that the girly color? The color of the frock that our inner fairy princess is wearing? Is it the color of the inside of our vaginas?
The color pink has pissed me off since 2001, when I was diagnosed with second stage breast cancer.
So, in Pinktober, cancer is about sweet sound bites like, "Pink Ribbon Awareness," "Feel Your Boobies" and "Walk for the Cure." It's not about the fact that we puked 60 times in just one single day and how the vomit was the same red Jello color as the adriamycin-cytoxin that was administered directly into a port that turned the veins between our fingers blackish purple. Egads, no. Who would ever want to know about that stuff, I mean... that would cause the public discomfort and who wants that, right? After all, nobody would ever want to give money to something that icky.
And it's all about giving money, because Big Pharma needs more. Hey kids, guess what? Those countless years of cancer research still haven't come up with a cure. So, I've got an idea... something to sort of counter-balance the whole glaringly obvious concept that the cure of tomorrow doesn't do squat for those who are suffering today.
Wanna do something REAL for breast cancer, something a little more substantial than feeding Big Pharma?
Give money to an individual!
Find a woman out there who needs a wig or cash to take care of her children while she's puking her guts out on chemo, or money to help pay for her meds... find this woman and help HER! She's the one who needs your help NOW. Research is for tomorrow. Today, women need help. Help the individual and you'll really make a difference.
In the name of research, the individual doesn't exist. Only words like "the cure" exist -- but, the CURE isn't here, and women need more than a promise of a cure SOMEDAY. They need real help right now.
All those cancer dollars did nothing for me when I needed them the most. I suffered the most torturous two years imaginable, I am a true prisoner of war in this regard... nobody came through for me. No assistance, no aid, no free products, no wig help, no program, no insurance, NOTHING. I suffered this disease WITHOUT any of the wonderful things that research promises women of the future -- and has still not delivered.
I asked for help and was denied immediately. I asked for nutritional guidance and they allowed me a one-on-one session with a 400-pound nutritionist who told me, "Eat anything you want. When you're on chemo, why suffer anymore?" I asked for a wig, and all the hospitals said no. The American Cancer Society said no. I asked the Komen Foundation for help with clothes or a wig and they said no. Oh, you say these places are not there to give hand outs to individuals? Ah, yeah, my mistake. It's for the "greater good." I should have kept that in mind when people gawked over my bald head.
I couldn't work, I had to take my child to and from school every day, bathe and feed her, everyday with no help. So... what does this wonderful freaking pink ribbon do for me, or for the woman who suffers as I did, right now? Where is the party of pink, where is the great goddess Komen, where is the cure, the easier med, the cheaper med, the med that doesn't make you lose your hair??? Where are all these promises?
They are NOT here, they are only words, and when you SUFFER this crap, words are NOTHING. You need REAL relief, a hug, a helper, someone to help with your kid, someone to buy you a wig that isn't made of cheap, itchy plastic, some money to afford those daily injections to keep your white blood cell count normal, the shots you have to take yourself right before you pass out on the floor and then have to drag yourself up a flight of steps every day to hopefully get into your bed for a rest before you have to drag yourself out again to pick up your kid. Where is the help for the LIVING woman, not the subject, not the test rat? Heal what's real.
The pink plea is a fluffy blindfold that allows us to think we're all in this together and that hope and solidarity are what keep us alive. We've convinced ourselves that even if a cure is not found in our lifetime, there will be one in the future which means that, if you have cancer right now, you should be ready to know and accept that you are an expendable statistic.
Do you really want to help someone with cancer? Then help them pay their bills. Bring food over to their house. Offer to drive their kids to school. Bypass the donation part and go right to the individual. She needs you now.
And for the love of everything you hold dear, buy the lady a wig. It's no fun being a woman without hair.
I would know.
Follow Dori Hartley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dori_hartley