Hi Stephanie,I just read your piece in The Age and was really moved by it, but I'd also like to share another perspective on the pink barrage.I've never had breast cancer so I don't really know what that's like, and I'm very thankful for that. However, I do have another "women's health" condition: endometriosis. It's a very debilitating illness, but one that gets virtually no publicity and I often wonder why that is.It definitely isn't ignored because it's uncommon. Endo is estimated to effect up to 10% of women of childbearing age according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which is about the same as the incidence of breast cancer.It also can't be because it's a "women's health" thing. Like breast cancer, only a very small percentage of people with endo are male, and breast cancer publicity is proof that women's health issues can now be discussed publicly. (Although I don't discount the possibility that a breast lump might be more palatable for public discussion than a diseased uterus, grossly distended ovaries or a vagina that's stuck to one's bowel.)One reason that might explain why endo isn't discussed is because it's luckily not life threatening. Women with breast cancer die; women with endo 'just' become infertile (at about the same rate that women with breast cancer die).Another reason that might explain why it's not discussed is because endo treatment has improved enough that it's usually not noticeably disfiguring now. Women with breast cancer lose their boobs; women with endo often look really healthy. (Endo is associated with high oestrogen level, and that makes skin glow with "good health" -- which can make it really hard to get people to believe that women with endo are sick at all.)But really, none of those possible explanations are accurate. The real reason endo gets no attention is because there isn't a well-organised national lobbying group to fight for better treatment.If a group existed to raise public awareness about endo, fund research to look for a cure and provide support for people fighting the illness -- like the National Breast Cancer Foundation does -- I really wouldn't mind if they painted the whole world pink to do it!To me, this is a situation where the ends definitely justify the means, especially since breast cancer can be fatal. I can understand that some women with breast cancer will look at all the pink and think, "that's not me", but it seems like a small price to pay if a cure is found soon.I also wonder whether there might be a sensible reason why the Breast Cancer Foundation is pink-mad. I've heard that many women feel they lose their femininity when they lose a breast to cancer -- which I relate to because being unable to have children definitely made me feel like less of a women for a while.Perhaps all the pink is a deliberate choice, to let people know that women who have or have had breast cancer are still 100% female. I know that pink and shopping are gross simplifications of female identity and don't begin to cover what femininity actually means to people.However, a simple message is needed in public communication: a single straightforward idea that's easy to understand and remember. Breast cancer = feminine = pink and shopping... it's certainly a simple message, and one that's successfully stuck in the public mind.If that's what it takes to get understanding, support and effective treatment for women with breast cancer, I personally can't fault the National Breast Cancer Foundation for doing it -- although I'm sometimes very jealous that there isn't something similar for women with endo! ;)All the best,Sara
Hi Stephanie,Having read your Sunday Age article a couple of days ago, I feel that a response from another person touched by breast cancer may be of interest.Having witnessed the effect of the disease on my mother-in-law (who it killed) and my sister-in-law (who survived) and then doing my best to support my wife in her, ultimately unsuccessfull battle. (Pip thought that she was getting into the clear after three years of remission but was taken by metastatic cancer in just six months.) I guess that I have some right to comment on your article.Pauline's death really brought home to me the urgency of finding cures for the various forms of cancer that inflict us as human beings.Starting with some donations, participating in the Mothers' Day Walks and then doing some creative writing for the Cancer Council Victoria Arts Awards led me to volunteering to assist with graphic work for those awards. Lots of time spent but the rewards were profound.I am proud to wear a little metal lapel "Pink Ribbon" badge in memory of Pauline and in solidarity with others touched or at risk of breast cancer.So your article tended to anger me somewhat. The medical fight against cancer is too important to be subverted by gender politics. Do you really think that the money withheld from cancer research by those who take your advice to not purchase "girlish" pink products will be replaced with donations? I rather think not. The nett effect will be a less money for cancer research.I applaud your involvement in the clinical trials. These may well be of assistance to others and perhaps yourself, but your white-anting of some the fund raising activities of the NBCF, the Day prior to Pink Ribbon Day leaves a bitter taste.I note that you are a professor of English literature. You may wish to consider volunteering to assist the Cancer Council Arts Awards. A large proportion of their entries consist of written stories from sufferers, survivors, and the berieved. A person with your skills would be perfect to assist with the judging of these awards. This would be a positive contribution to the raising of funds for the anti-cancer fight.Perhaps I have been to harsh, but the memory of my wife's death and my desire to see aleviation of suffering of current victims and the chance for potential victims (including my two daughters who both have a raised risk factor due to genetic considerations) makes this a very important issue for me.Keep wellLance
Started to type response, but it got too long. See next entry...
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