Bees in My Bonnet: From the Archives

Bee in the Lavender

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Last year my posts during October focused more on breast cancer so here’s a look at some posts from the archives.

Your Man Reminder” is an app and a campaign done by Rethink Breast Cancer.  I find the campain, and the video (hello, shirtless men) highly refreshing compared to some of the other stuff that show up around this time of year.

Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon takes a look at the work of photographer David Jay.  He also is working to put a new face to awareness campaigns around breast cancer; a raw and powerful one called “The SCAR Project.”

Last year my mother shared her story and our family history of breast cancer in a guest post.

I also watched and reviewed the documentary “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” in a two part series I called, “The Darker Side of Pink.”  Part onePart two.

Read about a woman who made the choice to undergo a double mastectomy and how it affected her life and her self image.

Some of the songs that helped me out when I needed it.

Last year’s “Bees in My Bonnet” wrapping up Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Cancer Ribbon

Advertisements

Bees in My Bonnet: Time to Speak Out

Bee in the Lavender

Welcome to Bees in My Bonnet.  If this is your first time reading one of these posts check out some previous ones from the archives here, here, here, and here.

1.  “…when it comes to domestic violence, the silence can be deafening.”  This is so true it hurts.  Abusers benefits not only from the silence of their victims but the silence of everyone else as well.

2.  In case you haven’t heard yet Angelina Jolie chose to reduce her chances of developing breast cancer from around 80% to less than 5% by undergoing a preventative double mastectomy.  I will have more to say about this in another post but for now please read her article, My Medical Choice.

3.  Vows of Silence Aren’t Always Holy.  Naked Pastor writes an article to go with his cartoon “Don’t Tell” explaining that sadly there is a lot of groundwork that has been laid to keep victims of abuse in the church silent.

4.  I love slam poetry.  Check out this poem called “Dear Straight People: We Have to Talk” by Denice Frohman, a world poetry slam champion.  Also “i know girls (body love)” by Mary Lambert, another amazing slam poet.  Mary Lambert’s voice is featured in the song Same Love by Macklemore.

5.  Read a wonderful fictional piece inspired by Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll and his latest sermon series.

What are your thoughts on the below cartoon?

Shopping

Found at Funny Times.

 

The Darker Side of Pink: Part 2

Pink Ribbons, Inc.For me breast cancer is like the crack in my windshield I never bothered to get fixed.  I don’t always notice it, sometimes I even forget about it and try to scratch it off as if it were a piece of dirt.  Not dangerous now, but someday it could be.  It is a part of my story and my life.  It is not something that I need to be made aware of, or reminded that it exists.  It is a part of my nightmares.

This October I chose to focus on learning more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the big players in the awareness movement.  I watched the film Pink Ribbons, Inc., I asked my mother if she wanted to share her story, and I read countless stories of others.  I reflected on the life of my grandmother and the way she chose to live after she was diagnosed.  What I came away with is that the mainstream breast cancer movement is a sham.  It makes me feel sick to my stomach, exploited, belittled, and dismissed; like my story, and the stories of the people I love do not matter.  We live in the shadow of the almighty dollar.

After reflecting on the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. and the mainstream breast cancer awareness culture in general I have six major concerns.

1.  Awareness does not equal action.  This is something I had issues with even before I watched the film.  Awareness is not the same kind of issue now as it has been in the past.  You’d kind of have to live under a rock to have never heard of breast cancer.  So, why do we keep calling them awareness campaigns?  We know what it is and we know that it kills people.  What we don’t know is what causes it.

2.  Pinkwashing.  Pinkwashing is when a company promotes, creates, or uses something that is linked to breast cancer at the same time as “fighting for the cause.”  For example, when Komen partnered with KFC and the “Buckets for the Cure” campaign was launched.  Another great example of this is the now infamous Komen endorsed perfume, “Promise Me” that was proven to have chemicals that interfered with hormones.  There is no integrity.  Not only is the disease being exploited but the public’s trust is as well.  Why wouldn’t we trust someone who says the are working to fight breast cancer?  And that is the whole point.  Companies have learned that they can get people to pay a little bit more money for something if they believe it is going towards a good cause.  These companies are profiting from the people’s pain and desire to help.

A really great website to check out if you are wondering what is in your cosmetics is called Skin Deep.

3.  Thinking that a complex problem will be solved by throwing money at it.  Throwing money at a complicated problem is such a “privileged” thing to do.  I know I will be stepping on toes here but hear me out.  Think about poverty.  This is a complex problem that will not be solved by money alone.  Yet people do not want to get involved, or work towards actually solving the problem when they can just write a check.  It feels good to write that check.  It makes you feel like you are doing something good, working towards a cause, and donating what you can.  I would argue though that it is an empty satisfaction.  Money (alone) does not solve problems, and it often ends up creating more.

I see this with the breast cancer awareness movement.  Thousands of people will run/walk/jump/shop/anything for the cure.  But where is that money going?  How much of it is actually going towards research like they say?  What about prevention and causes?  What about research for women who are not white, middle class, and American?  Breast cancer does not just affect white women and yet this is the group that nearly all of the research focuses on.  There needs to be better coordination between organizations that are conducting studies.  Move beyond the “convenient” sample.

Many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have the major risk factors, so why are they developing it?  The awareness movement has led women to believe that mammograms keep cancer away; that if you can just detect it early enough then you can get rid of it.  If you eat right and excercise you can prevent cancer.  This is so misleading.  Being a woman puts you at risk for developing breast cancer.  Period.  It’s scary, but it’s true.

The fact that people are willing to do all these things to “fight breast cancer” show how motivated people are.  It is coming from a good place and has created an amazing network.  I would just challenge people to be more critical of where they are spending their money and what that money is actually going towards.

4.  Women’s stories are being minimized under the pressure to be optimistic and perky.  The optimistic, warm, fuzzy, pink approach to breast cancer puts enormous pressure on patients to be positive.  As if women need more influences in their lives silencing their anger.  This approach is alienating.  Breast cancer is not a soft disease.  It is not pretty.  It is not feminine.  It is not normal.  And it is not pink.  It is ugly.  It is shocking and jarring to hear that you have cancer.  Women who have been diagnosed need to feel safe to feel angry, cheated, and spiteful.  They should not have to ask for permission.  They should not have to apologize or feel like a grinch if have negative feelings.  They should not have to feel okay about having cancer.  If they want to get to that point they should be able to do it in their own time, in their own way, even if that includes screaming, ranting, and a lot of tears.  When you see a pink ribbon instead of a woman who is afraid and hurting something needs to change.

5.  Militarization of language.  The way cancer is talked about can also be alienating to patients.  The mainstream breast cancer organizations focus on celebrating survivors.  Breast cancer is something to be fought, conquered, and survived.  What about the women who develop stage four cancer and die?  Did these women lose the battle?  Did they not fight hard enough?  Did these women fail?  These are things that are implied through the use of militarized language.  The message that if you fight hard enough you can beat it is so damaging.  There is no balance and it leaves people vulnerable, both patients and the people who care about them.  Breast cancer is not an army to be mobilized against.  It is a disease.  It is a put down to the women who have not and are not “surviving.”  You cannot have this message without seeing people who die as having failed.  This is so not the case, and even as I’m sitting here typing this I’m tearing up.  This message does not allow women who do not recover to die with dignity in a perfectly healed state.  That is so wrong and unfair.

We need to be teaching women to balance hope with the understanding, and the reality, that it may not work.  You may not respond to chemo.  Even if you get your breasts removed it may come back.  This does not mean that you have failed or that you are losing the battle.  Not every story is happy, shiny, pretty and pink.

6.  Reducing women to a body part.  Women are more than their breasts.  Enough said.

What do you think when you see a pink ribbon?

 

Read Part 1 Here

Check out these great websites:

FORCE

Think Before you Pink

Breast Cancer Fund

Breast Cancer Action

Bees in My Bonnet: Wrapping up Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Bee in the Lavender

As October ends and we wrap up the pink month that is breast cancer awareness here are some of the articles I’ve been reading.  In a couple of days I’ll post the second half of The Darker Side of Pink, with my thoughts on the whole thing and some stuff I learned.

I posted this picture on my Facebook page a couple days ago but I wanted to share it here as well in case you missed it.  It hit me pretty hard.  What are you thoughts?

Will Work for Chemo

I refuse to die this way.

When a breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t make you want to deck out in pink.  When is too much more than enough?

NPR’s Michel Martin “speaks with three women — both current and former breast cancer patients — about their challenges, hopes and advice.”

A really great critique of Breast Cancer Awareness Month on xojane by S. E. Smith.  She again writes for the guardian on the commodification of “awareness.”

A write calls for readers to “enjoy October for what it should be…leaves, hot cider, pumpkin patches and warm sweaters… not the massive consumerism mess it has become, thanks to the Kulture.”

A really hard article about finding support for your kids when you’re going through cancer (Warning,  you may need tissues.  I did.)

When you have a strong history of breast cancer in your family sometimes you have to make decisions preventatively.  It is incredibly difficult when you have to decide to get a mastectomy or not before you get cancer.

Author Judy Blume shares her story.

Using lechery for good?  Sex to sell awareness?  Good or not?  You be the judge.

A woman tells her story of knowing that she would need a mastectomy and how her response was to ask her husband not to touch her breasts.

Unfortunately this video is done by the same campaign group that did the amazing “Your Man Reminder App.”  I have to admit, I’m pretty disappointed.  Can’t win them all I guess….

…but, to make you feel better here is the latest app update.  Enjoy!

Cracks, Roots, Support

Music is often the way that I cope with pain and hardship.  I am not a song writer myself, but the music of others helps me to express what I’m feeling, and sometimes even what I want to say.  When I look back through old playlists or listen to old cds I burned I can tell you exactly what was going on in my life at that time.  I tend to gravitate towards a certain type of music depending on how I feel and what I’m going through.

You’ve read about my mother’s journey with breast cancer so you  know part of mine as well.  I don’t want to go into the rest of mine too much because I have a cold and crying when you have a cold is the worst.  I will share some music though that has helped me, both during and after, and even in the midst now.

**Warning: Tissues may be needed**

I’m Gonna Love You Through It by Martina McBride

Lyrics here

Flower by Jewel

Lyrics here

The Darker Side of Pink

APink Ribbons, Inc.s pretty much everyone knows, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The color pink can be found everywhere, the isles of our stores, the backgrounds of websites, the white house and even the NFL.  You can get virtually anything in the color pink to support raising awareness for breast cancer.  But have you ever stopped to wonder what good “raising awareness” does?  Or where your money is going when you buy that pink kitchenaid mixer?  What exactly is being researched and is your money going to support a product that is linked to breast cancer?  These are all questions that Samantha King asks in her book Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and Politics of Philanthropy.In 2011 Léa Pool made a documentary featuring King’s research and her book.  This last week I was finally able to watch it.  The follow is part one of my take on the documentary, what I took away, the “pink ribbon culture,” and some add-ons from outside sources/experiences.  Basically a mash-up.

**Spoiler Warning:  If you plan on watching this film do so now then come back and read the rest**

The documentary itself occasionally felt a little disjointed and could have flowed better from one scene/topic to the next.  I also wish that it would have shared a little more about the history of the Breast Cancer Awareness movement.  There was a section where is spliced back and forth from shots of the past to the present.  It wasn’t clear what was going on other than it was showing the contrast of marches versus the current onslaught of pink run/walk/jog/shop for the cure.  The film was also not very objective, it had a very clear agenda it was pushing, but you have to admire the straightforwardness and honesty in presenting its case against the current breast cancer culture.  Overall I felt that the film was fairly well done and informative.  I would definitely recommend seeing it and if you don’t have Netflix, I’d even recommend getting the free trial to watch it.

Since the film missed out on some of the history here’s what I found.  Breast cancer used to be somewhat taboo to discuss, especially your breast cancer if you were unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with the disease.  In 1974, First Lady Betty Ford was the first women to speak publicly about her diagnosis.  From there it was a chain reaction of outrage, advocacy, and support for women to speak out and to talk to one another about their experiences.  Women began to learn more about it and to get mammograms.  They fought for it to be recognized as a problem and for there to be different, better options other than an automatic radical mastectomy.  You don’t have to hide it, or be ashamed of it, was the main message.  In 1991 the National Breast Cancer Coalition was formed.  They pushed for breast cancer to become a national priority (http://www.healthcentral.com/breast-cancer/c/4535/15438/lesson).

Breast October is all about pinkCancer Awareness Month is a different story.  This was started by a public relations expert at AstraZeneca in the 80’s when it was the largest pharmaceutical company in the world.  According to the film this was done to encourage women to get mammograms.  In doing so, they make more money and therefore benefit by the increased numbers of women getting screened.  From there cost-marketing capitalism took over.  Corporations learned that all they had to do was associate with a cause people cared about and their sales would increase.  Women are known to make more of the buying decisions and are more likely to pay more if it’s “going to a good cause.”  Breast cancer is the poster child for such cause related marketing campaigns.  And people get to say breast out loud, on public television.

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and Avon Foundation for Women were really the spear-headers for the mainstream breast cancer culture.  They created the momentum for others to jump on the bandwagon.  Unfortunately these mainstream players have jumped into bed with corporations.  They have to “sell the disease” or risk alienating their customers.  So, they find more and more innovative ways to tie to the cause.

One example in the film was Yoplait and their lid campaign.  For every lid off of Yoplait yogurt that was mailed back the company would donate 10 cents to research.  But think about it, if you ate one container of yogurt a day for a month and mailed in the lid Yoplait would be donating $3.00.  $3.00?  Might as well just write a check if you want to donate money.  Another example is the NFL.  When they went through a bit of a character crisis and were looking to rehabilitate their image they went pink.  They found out that they had more women viewers than they originally thought and voilà pink cleats and sweat bands emerge.

These companies are exploiting cancer to boost their profits.  They are exploiting the desire to support a good cause and they are exploiting the love people have for dear ones affected by this disease.  It’s disgusting really.

Stay tuned for part two where I will break down specific problems I see with the mainstream breast cancer movement, other than what I’ve mentioned above.

UPDATE: Read the second half of this post here.

Guest Post: Cancer and Strong Women, My Heritage

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972—she was 42 and I was 10.  It was before chemotherapy, radiation, and breast reconstructive surgery.  She took the bold step of having a radical mastectomy with my dad’s full support, a surgeon who respected her decision, and an attitude in which she never really looked back only forward.  I would say life changed for her, but I’m not really sure it did.  She was glad to be alive, went on with her profession as a college professor, got her doctorate, and she was my mom—she just didn’t have her breasts.

When I was a teenager we talked about it—how her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother had breast cancer.  At that moment it became my heritage.  Life didn’t change a lot I just started having mammograms earlier than my friends and Mom made sure I knew how to do a self-breast exam.  Life went on, I married a wonderful supportive man who knew my family history, became a veterinarian, and had two girls of my own.  20 years later Mom became a real breast cancer survivor. We always knew she was a miracle but then it became official.  However, when Mom turned 66 cancer entered her life again as she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  At first it was thought that maybe this was a manifestation of the previous breast cancer, and then we learned it was a different cancer, but they were linked together genetically.  Gene testing was just rearing its head but she was told that to have those two cancers meant she had to have a breast cancer gene—all of the sudden this family history became very real in our lives.

At this point life did change—it became filled with surgeries, chemotherapy every 3 weeks, blood tests, drugs to control vomiting, deep talks about the future, and learning how to say good-bye to a person who meant the world to me.  I was with Mom for every chemotherapy treatment except the first one, as it was done in the hospital following the initial surgery, and I had to work.   Eventually, I adjusted my work schedule to correlate with her treatment schedule.  Often, our youngest daughter, who at the time was 4, came with me to the cancer treatment center.  We read books together while the toxic drug was poured into Mom’s veins, hoping it would annihilate the cancer cells that were trying to take her from us.  Our relationship changed as I watched this strong independent woman who was my mother and had always been in charge of her life, falter and become unable to make decisions.  She would turn to me for help and it was difficult for me to take that leadership role from her.  Then she would feel better and the reins of life would be returned to her.  We eventually learned how to do this trade back and forth with grace and ease.  For a while, the therapy worked and she went into remission for 3 wonderful years.  Then it returned with a vengeance and wouldn’t respond to the same drugs so different drug protocols were tried; they would work for a while and then not.  Eventually one day Mom looked at me and said, “I’m done, I just want to come home with you.  I want to be in your home, with your family, and you holding me in your arms when I go to meet my God.”

My mom gave it a good fight, tried not to let the cancer rule her life, and went on fulfilling her life goals becoming a mediator and a CASA (Court appointed special advocate for neglected/abused children) in her retirement years but the cancer eventually won the battle.  She died at 72 and I was 39.  Yes, she died in our home and in my arms as she wished.  I provided the hospice care for her, my children learned about death, and I lost one of my best friends at much too young of an age.  My world was not the same but my mother taught me not only how to live but how to die with grace and dignity.

So, here the story changes to my story.  At 42 I had my first lumpectomy and the mass was benign.  5 years later I had a second lumpectomy and the mass was classified as atypical ductal hyperplasia—what they called a pre-pre cancer.  Due to my family history, I consulted with an oncologist who sent me directly to the genetics department to be tested for the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 gene mutations, with the knowledge that she was 100% sure I would test positive, as was the genetic counselor who took my history.  However, I tested negative.  This is good, right?  Yes and no.  I now know I do not carry the most common breast cancer gene mutations and thus could not have possibly passed them on to my own daughters. Also, my odds of developing breast cancer have dramatically decreased, however, I do not know if my mother carried one of these mutations. There are also other gene mutations that she could have carried and passed on to me—these can’t be tested for because my mother is no longer living.  So, there does remain a cloud around the futures of my daughters and myself.

I am currently seeing my oncologist every 6 months, having a mammogram once a year, and a breast MRI once a year at 6-month intervals.  I have also consulted with a plastic surgeon that does breast reconstructive surgery and am contemplating having a radical mastectomy.  I have previously had my uterus and ovaries removed as preventative measures.  I have always known I would have to make these personal decisions but I figured I would have cancer when making them.  Now, that it is here, without cancer and with the knowledge I have, it feels different then I imagined.  I often feel very raw and overwhelmed by the decisions that are before me.  I have so many more choices than my mother did and different personal health issues that come into play with my decisions, as well.

So, yes cancer has changed my life although it hasn’t hindered my ability to reach life goals it has stretched me, made life more precious to me, and taught me not to take any human relationship I have lightly.  If there is anything to pass on to my girls it is what I learned from my mom—to face life head on without blinders, to be proactive and preventative in action, and to bravely take on whatever gets thrown at you even if it’s cancer and if it is cancer not to let it rule your life.

———-

Cathy is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine who specializes in felines.  She loves cooking, baking, and filling her home with people to feed.  She and her loving husband of almost 30 years live in a small town in the Northwest.  Their second daughter recently moved out and they are beginning to enjoy the new-found freedom of an empty nest.  She also happens to be my mother.

“Breast Cancer Is Not A Pink Ribbon”

**Trigger Warning**

Photographer David Jay is working to put a new face to breast cancer awareness campaigns.  Normally a fashion photographer he was inspired to start The SCAR Project when a friend was diagnosed with cancer at a young age.  His pictures of young women, ages 18-35, that have survived breast cancer are raw and very powerful.

“For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease. It helps them reclaim their femininity, their sexuality, identity and power after having been robbed of such an important part of it. Through these simple pictures, they seem to gain some acceptance of what has happened to them and the strength to move forward with pride.”

See more of his images here at The SCAR Project’s website.

You can also check The Scar Project on Facebook or at The Scar Project Blog.

The photographer also did an interview with ivillage a couple years ago.

A Reminder to Give Yourself Some TLC…From a Hot Guy

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I have been hanging onto this video for way too long.

I find this video highly refreshing compared to the usual barrage of sexist campaigns such as “save the ta-tas,” or the silly Facebook memes.  I’ve seen a couple in the past that were meant to be provacative, and dare I say, titilating.  The “I like it on the _____” comes to mind.  How are you bringing awareness to something when no one knows what you’re talking about or thinks you are way oversharing?

Back to the video.  Who wouldn’t want a gorgeous man reminding them to do a self-breast exam?  First of all the method is great.  It’s simple and easy to remember.  TLC – touch, look, check.  Got it.  Second of all, if you want to argue that it is going the opposite direction and objectifying men, it is totally obvious these guys are having fun in the video.  They are not being used, demeaned, or demoralized.  There are in on it.  I beleive whole-heartedly that men can be, and are objectified.  It is not just something that happens to women.  But, I would argue that it is not happening in this video.  So enjoy the visual, get a check up, and maybe take a cold shower.  😉

This campaign is done by Rethink Breast Cancer.

“Launched in 2001, Rethink is the first-ever, Canadian breast cancer charity to bring bold, relevant awareness to the under-40 crowd; foster a new generation of young and influential breast cancer supporters; infuse sass and style into the cause; and, most importantly, respond to the unique needs of young (or youngish) women going through it.”

I have a couple of things planned for this month and it is not all going to be light and fun.  Breast cancer is a tough reality for far too many women.  It is something that affects far too many families.  My own included.  I lost my grandmother to cancer when I was thirteen and there are still days it knocks me down, panting for breath.  I hope to balance my posts with not only stories and hardships, but hope as well.  If anyone has a story they’d like to share please feel free to contact me.  Also, I just found out the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. was on Netflix.  I plan to watch it and write a review.  I would love it if others wanted to watch it as well and join in on the discussion.

What If She Has No Breasts?

Breasts.  Part of a woman’s anatomy that differentiates her from a man.  Sometimes called a source of empowerment and beauty, they are glorified by men and women alike.  They provide a source of nutrients for our children and to be perfectly honest, sometimes they are down right cumbersome.  But what happens when a woman no longer has her breasts?  When they are taken from her because they become a source of danger in her own body.  Breast cancer is a reality for many women.  According to the CDC 210,203 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,589 women in the United States died from breast cancer in 2008.  Jodi Jaecks is one of these women.  She made the incredibly tough decision to undergo a double mastectomy to keep the cancer from spreading.

As part of her healing process she decided to try to stay healthy and active by swimming.  The only problem was that all the swimsuits she tried on were too painful on her healing scars.  So she decided to go topless to the public pool instead.  After all she no longer had breasts.  She no longer had anything to cover up.  Despite all of this though, the management still told her she needed to cover up.  She was specifically told that she needed to be wearing “gender appropriate clothing.”

Read the full story here.

Watch the story here.

There are several things that I would like to bring up about this story.  The first is the idea of gender appropriate clothing.  The concept of gender is completely made up.  It is a socially constructed idea that dictates what “normal” should look like for men and women.  It only allows for men and women, he and she, his and hers.  It totally disregards individuals who do not fall into either category.  Either because they feel like they were born into the wrong bodies or because their bodies have both genitalia.  The idea here of gender appropriate clothing then is that women wear women’s clothes and men wear men’s clothes.  Women cover their chests and men don’t.  Period.

This leads me into the next issue.  What if you have a “non-traditional” woman, like Jodi Jaecks, who no longer has breasts?  In her words, how is her chest different from that of a man’s at this point.  She has already had a source of her female identity physically removed and yet they are attempting to force her back into a mold she no longer fits.  It is not even by her own choice.  It was completely out of her control that she got breast cancer.  It leaves me to wonder if it was the fact that she no longer fits into a “normal” category, if that is why she is meeting resistance.  Breasts are central to who a woman is, they make a woman feel womanly, and they allow others to recognize her as a woman.  Without them she disrupts the “normal” in a similar way that people with a physical disability do.  They make others uncomfortable because people are not sure how to treat them.  Scars disturb people.  Ms. Jaecks now has scars where her breasts used to be.  I honestly wonder if this is part of what it is about.  She is now viewed as deformed in some way.  She is no longer “perfect” and society can’t handle it.  She is now different.

As someone whose family has been personally affected by breast cancer I want to say that if part of her healing process (physically and/or emotionally) involves swimming topless then more power to her.  It is a part of accepting her new life.  One without breasts.