Friday, September 21, 2012

"I'm Sick of Hearing About Cancer!"

Today I heard a woman exclaim to her friend, "I'm so sick of hearing about breast cancer!"  She was looking at an ad for a new charitable/advertising push meant to raise funds for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, or meant to appear compassionate enough to sell more products - I'm not sure which.

My first reaction in my mind was rage and disgust.  How dare she be so cavalier about something others have to live with every day?  I judged her for being so judgmental.  And when you think about it, it really was a stupid thing to say.

I've been fortunate enough in my life not to have to watch a loved one go through cancer.  I can only imagine the hopelessness, the pain, the way it rearranges your whole life, from scheduling to emotional upheaval.  And having cancer oneself?  I can't even imagine the pain, fear, and pure aggravation of grueling treatment programs and terrible side effects.  To say that it's a bother to "hear about" cancer when others are painfully prodding through it seems callous and rude.

My second reaction was guilt, because I realized with shame that I have thought the very same thing at times.

I've gone so far as to avoid purchasing a product just because it had a pink ribbon on it, not because I support cancer, but because I've sometimes felt as though breast cancer gets more "attention" than many other worthy causes and yes, I do get sick of hearing about it.  Efforts to "raise awareness" are particularly silly to me at this point.  It's doubtful that many have not become aware of breast cancer at this point, and those who haven't, for example very poor women in inner cities, are unlikely to become aware of it via Facebook appeals to share a heartbreaking picture or tease men by posting one's bra color.

I might be more likely to support more local or practical charities that provide real, in-person services to those with breast cancer, such as transportation, errands, service animals, etc.  But I still hurt for the many other deserving charities who must feel like they are playing second fiddle to an already well-funded (I didn't say sufficiently funded) research effort.  It seems at times that supporting Komen or other breast cancer awareness or research has become more of a fashion trend than a serious endeavor.  Recent questionable political decisions by the Komen Foundation haven't helped my distaste for it.

If you have someone in your life (or yourself) with breast or other cancer, I think about you, I grieve for you, I wonder what I can do for you.  I want to do something.  I've just come to the conclusion that buying pink soup cans instead of red and white ones is unlikely to help you at all.