I lost a friend yesterday to breast cancer, and I’m ticked. Frankly, I’m more than ticked, but for the purposes of this blog, I’ll leave it at that. And let me tell you why I’m angry. In 2015, at age 64, this woman died of the same ugly illness that took my mother from me in 1980 when she was just 59. Thirty five years, and I wonder what progress we’ve made.
And the fact that she died on the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness month only makes me madder, and makes me wonder if the plethora of pink we see on every sports team, and the hats and scarves, umbrellas, and cell phone covers has made a difference.* As cited in the New York Times, “Some women with cancer and others question the worth of all that pink merchandise for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. More than awareness, they say, they want action.”
To be fair, I suspect your opinion on pink depends what side of the issue you’re standing on, to paraphrase Nelson Mandela. My sister-in-law (who I’ve always said is the best thing to ever happen to a Sievers) is an 18 year breast cancer survivor, and embraces the pink ribbon. Me? I want to know why we haven’t found a cure? Why hasn’t this become a priority? Why will our country spend approximately $685 million on breast cancer research this year, compared to more than $114 billion on anti- aging procedures and products this year. http://report.nih.gov/categorical_spending.aspx and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/20/boomers-anti-aging-industry_n_932109.html
Earlier this fall, I saw a video of young football players – seven or eight years old at the most, all decked out in pink socks and jerseys, and I wondered, who is benefiting from this besides the manufacturers of pick socks and jerseys? And why do we expect young kids to be ambassadors for this message – aren’t lessons in sportsmanship and teamwork enough anymore? And how much did that cost the parents just so some adults could feel good about themselves?
Both my friend and my mom fought back the disease once. But when the devil barged back into their lives, like an uninvited guest hell bent on doing nothing but wreaking havoc, no amount of drugs, no number of prayer chains, no visits with spiritual leaders and no meals from neighbors, could tame the ugly demon. Each woman left children and grandchildren and grieving family members and friends, but each also left a legacy of kindness and compassion, and a zest for life for all to remember.
I’ll miss my friend, just as I’ve missed my mom. But I wonder, why we are willing to spend so much money trying to turn back the hands of time, when so many of us just want more time. That’s all I want to know.
*“We find that from 1993 to 1995, the period when breast cancer advocacy was expanding rapidly into a nationwide movement, NBCAM led to an increase in the number of November diagnoses. During earlier periods (from the mid-1980s to the early-1990s), when breast cancer advocacy was still a nascent grassroots movement, and in later periods, when breast cancer advocacy had become a well-established nationwide cause, there is little evidence that October NBCAM events had an effect on November diagnoses.” (Published: Journal of Health Economics, 30 (2011) 55-61)