An excellent edition of Grand Rounds is up at Sumer’s Radiology Site, and it’s well worth checking out. If you have a tissue handy, I highly recommend Beth Gainer’s article “Faun and Me“. Beth tells a wrenching story of losing a friend to metastatic breast cancer, and notes that when October rolls around, she is “ infuriated at all this pink hoopla that trivializes the death of so many people.”
I lost a dear friend earlier this year to ovarian cancer. Her cancer was diagnosed in 2004, and she lived almost seven years, battling through numerous rounds of chemo over the years. A few months after her diagnosis, I remember talking to her about the Race for the Cure that was going on in Denver, and all the products in stores that October with pink ribbons plastered all over them. She wryly noted that ovarian cancer doesn’t have pink ribbons and huge survivors groups because there just aren’t that many long term survivors (it’s often not discovered until it’s quite advanced).
I’m always a bit conflicted about the profusion of pink every October. NFL players have pink ribbons on their helmets and pink socks. Boxes of cereal have huge pink ribbons on them. Kitchen appliances come in shades of pink. Every year, the pink seems to spread. And don’t get me started about the Facebook games that encourage women to post double entendres as a way of “raising awareness” for breast cancer. I can see how awareness is a good thing if it encourages people (men and women) to be in tune with their health and current on the screening exams that they and their doctor feel they need (of course, it would also help if everyone had truly affordable access to healthcare, since cancer is enough of a worry without without also having to worry about how you are going to pay for treatment). And breast cancer awareness programs are also a reminder to all of us to do whatever we can to provide support to those who have cancer. But what about the people who know that their cancer is terminal? What about those with metastatic breast cancer? Or with another form of advanced cancer like my friend? The people who know that there is almost no chance they will beat the disease, and that their life will almost certainly be cut short by it? Do all the pink ribbons trivialize their deaths?
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here, but Beth’s story is very compelling.
And I miss you, Bronwyn.