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by Dianne Armitage
A quick Google search using the words “Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2013″ brings up a whopping 75,800,000 possible sites to explore, pages on which to land and places to go in only a few seconds. So, itâ€™s small wonder many of us are left scratching our heads, wondering how many of these virtual options are worthwhile.
To make matters even more complicated, in the past few years, breast cancer awareness has become politicized, polarized, and in some instances nearly pulverized. What this means to the average individual dealing with breast cancer, whether itâ€™s the person who has been diagnosed, or her family, friends and supporters, is often a feeling of helplessness. We all want to do something, we just want to be sure what we are doing is actually going to benefit the community we are trying so hard to help. And no one wants to be an unknowing pawn when it comes to corporate pink-washing.
As a community, we have excelled in making pink synonymous with breast cancer. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesnâ€™t recognize the pink ribbon as a symbol for our cause. Unfortunately, in some instances weâ€™ve been too trusting, believing that anyone waving the proverbial pink flag has our best interests at heart and is as committed as we are to ending this epidemic. If only that were true!
While we donâ€™t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, there is an unfortunate truth that cannot be denied, and that is: regardless of our previous efforts, whether weâ€™ve walked, shopped or shouted for the cause, this year nearly 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and close to 40,000 women will lose their lives as a result. Our efforts are not making a significant change in these numbers.
We want that to change, so in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2013, we thought it might be interesting to take look at some of the more hopeful pursuits currently available that just may have the potential to not only change those statistics for the better, but to actually allow those of us seeking real change to know we are doing something to help!
Collaboration is the key
Dr. Susan Love recently announced that her research foundationâ€™s Army of Women is joining forces with Susan G. Komen and the Young Survival Coalition to collaborate on the Collateral Damage Project. This unique team will be seeking media opportunities to talk about the Project throughout October, asking women and men to send their collateral damage questions, topics and experiences to www.questionthecure.org.
In a post on her blog dated October 4th, Dr. Love shared the following:
So far our DSLRF folks have sent us almost 3000 questions! The top topics in order are:
Pain in joints/arthritis 18%
Sexual problems 8%
Others include hair loss, fatigue, weight change, early menopause, problems with nails and teeth, insomnia, smell and taste problems, vision and hearing problems, skin changes and balance/weakness! Obviously we have only begun.
We hope that this effort to â€ścrowdsourceâ€ť the questions for the study will demonstrate both a new model of collaboration among breast cancer groups as well as a new model of asking the patients/public about what should be studied.
Using the HOW Study will let us match the collateral damage to your age, time since diagnosis, treatment, type of cancer and other medical history. This should give us a powerful way to document the cost of the cure and report it back to you and the world.
Collaboration and collateral damageâ€¦.what a way to start October!
Dr. Love has been a longtime advocate for women with breast cancer — and for women in general. And as she is quick to point out, her recent cancer diagnosis shifted her focus somewhat because as a patient she understood much more fully what women undergoing treatment deal with.
Advocacy is another answer
Fran Visco and the National Breast Cancer Coalition stand strongly committed to their 2020 Breast Cancer Deadline. The NBCC has been a vital link for those dealing with breast cancer and those in power to make significant change occur.
To date they count among their successes:
NBCCâ€™s advocacy has resulted in more than $2.5 billion of new federal dollars for breast cancer research.
They have created a large nationwide, grassroots advocacy network. Today NBCC’s membership includes more than 600 member organizations and 60,000 individuals.
Theyâ€™ve brought about the development of an unprecedented multi-million dollar breast cancer research project within the Department of Defense that has attracted more than 40,301 research proposals.
Through the Department of Defense program, they worked vigorously to ensure consumer activist participation at the peer review research table.
In response to NBCC’s 2.6 million signature campaign in 1993, President Clinton met NBCC’s demands and committed to a National Action Plan on Breast Cancer, an innovative collaboration of government, science, private industry and consumers.
They established an annual Advocacy Training Conference to train women and men from across the country to become informed, active and effective advocates of NBCC’s legislative agenda. NBCC’s annual Lobby Day following the Conference allows members to use their newly acquired skills on Capitol Hill.
They launched a breast cancer political campaign, including a ten-plank policy platform, voter registration drive and a voter guide.
Their Clinical Trials Project educates NBCC members on the importance of clinical trials; increases the influence of breast cancer survivors in trial design, access and accrual; and advocates for public policies to encourage access to trials and mandate insurance coverage of participation in qualified trials.
Project LEADÂ® (Leadership, Education and Advocacy Development) is an acclaimed science-based program designed to educate and train breast cancer activists to participate in the breast cancer research processes.
Through NBCC’s World Conference, theyâ€™ve brought together breast cancer advocates from around the world to discuss strategies for women to become involved in breast cancer decision making within government, the scientific community and industry.
Their current campaign asks us to toss aside awareness, comfortable, and good enough â€“ and take meaningful action. In a series of compelling Take Action this October video vignettes, the NBCC has given both a face and a voice to countless women dealing with breast cancer.
If you want to make a difference, this is definitely a great place to start.
Sad, mad, frustrated â€“ you too have a voice
Our sisters at Breast Cancer Action like to stir it up because as they know all too well, if we just sit and wait, always being good girls and behaving ourselves, trusting that someone else out there will keep us safe and healthy, the price we pay is much, much too high.
Their Executive Director, Karuna Jaggar, posted a recent call to action for October designed to start an important conversation:
Today is October 1st and I have a severe case of dĂ©jĂ vu. Congress and the President are facing off, yet again, while the public pays the price. And once again, countless corporations are enjoying the marketing bonanza of â€śBreast Cancer Industry Monthâ€ť while women pay the price with their lives.
And, yet again, corporations are selling pink ribbon products in the name of breast cancer that contain chemicals linked to an increased risk of the disease.
Do you have any idea how many toxic chemicals are in the average pink ribbon product? Nope? Neither do we. Nor does anyone!
All anyone knows for certain is that only a small handfulâ€”about 200 of the over 80,000 chemicals in use in the United Statesâ€”have been tested for human safety. And thatâ€™s a serious problem. For all of us. Enough is enough. Iâ€™m pushing back on pink!
TOXIC TIME IS UP!
Join me to take a stand to protect all women from toxic chemicals that are making us sick, because the manufacturers of pink ribbon products certainly wonâ€™t.
Right now, landmark legislation that could significantly impact cancer prevention is within reach.
Itâ€™s time to turn our outrage over pinkwashing to action and ban the toxins that make us sick in the first place.
Whether youâ€™re one of the quarter of a million women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this yearâ€”women whose treatment can be affected by exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals contained in many of the cosmetic and household cleaning products we use every day. Whether youâ€™re worried about a cancer recurrenceâ€”frustrated that your own purchasing choices represent just a small portion of the chemicals youâ€™re exposed to. Or whether you want to reduce your chances of being diagnosed in the first place.
Join me and turn the groundswell of outrage at pink ribbon hypocrisy into a movement that will make history, a movement that has the power to change the course of this breast cancer epidemic. We can make protection from toxic chemicals a reality. We can reduce the risk breast cancer and countless devastating diseases and disorders before harm occurs.
Be part of the movement to make a difference long after the pink razzmatazz of October is over.
Weâ€™ve all heard the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This October, itâ€™s time to stop walking and talking in circles and get straight to the point. Toxic Time Is Up.
Weâ€™re all in this together
Weâ€™ve highlighted three of the major players in the breast cancer arena, each of which provides you with an opportunity to get involved, speak your mind and know that you are doing something to move this dialogue forward.
As most breast cancer survivors will tell you, doing something feels much better than simply sitting and worrying. Whether you walk or run for the cause, start a non-profit to make a positive difference, donate your time and energy to a local organization, attend a support group, write a blog, shout about it, or simply empower others by the example you set, itâ€™s important to be a part of the conversation. Because if the over 200,000 newly diagnosed each year â€“ their families â€“ their friends â€“ their co-workers â€“ and their medical teams — add their voices, not only will breast cancer awareness be something on our minds each and every day â€“ but the cures are certain to be just that much closer.