Musings of a Marfan Mom

A REAL Way to Spread Cancer “Awareness”


You’ve probably seen the breast cancer “awareness” meme on Facebook recently. An email went around to the tune of “let’s show those guys how strong we are!” and instructed women to put the location of where they like to set their purse as their status, with no further information.

The result? Sexual innuendoes plastered across Facebook, but no mention of breast cancer at all.

Yah, that’s really showing all those guys how strong we are. Instead of doing something of substance, let’s just tee-hee about how we wrote “I like it on the floor by the back door” and made all those guys think we were talking about being sexually adventurous.

I’ll be blunt. I think memes like that are stupid and degrading. Breast cancer isn’t a joke. It’s not sexual. It’s deadly. I doubt there is a woman alive who isn’t aware that breast cancer exists. There is NO need for “breast cancer awareness.” What we DO need is education about prevention. We DO need affordable medical care. We DO need access to fresh fruits and vegetables (you might be surprised how many people in the urban US don’t live within reasonable distance of a grocery store). We DO need money for research and programs that support families dealing with cancer.

This month is breast cancer awareness month. If you REALLY want to make a difference in cancer, please consider what I’m about to tell you.

I recently became aware of a woman who lives near me named Sanjana. I do not know Sanjana personally; her family or friends left flyers about her on every door in our apartment complex. She’s a teacher and mother to young twins, and she’s dying from a rare type of blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma.

A stem cell transplant could save her life, if she had an eligible bone marrow donor donor. Unfortunately, she’s South Asian and so few of them are registered with the Be The Match registry (formally the NMDP registry) that the chance of her finding a donor is only 1%. In fact, it’s difficult for any ethnic minority (read: non-White) to find a donor. The community is doing everything they can to register more South Asians in the hopes of finding a match.

So, if you want to take a public stand against cancer this month, consider signing up to be a bone marrow donor. Donate your Facebook status to telling people about the Be the Match registry and Sanjana. Encourage your friends to join you in spreading the word about bone marrow donation.

I’ve been involved with raising money for and awareness of the registry since I was 14 years old. I know there are a lot of myths about donation, so I’ll take a moment to dispel a few. First, it’s quick and easy to register. Go here to request a kit: you’ll need to take a swab from the inside of your cheek & answer some general health questions. That’s it. There is a fee associated with joining the registry, but a lot of people donate to help offset this fee and the registry isn’t going to turn down a would-be donor because of an inability to pay. If you pass the qualifications, all you do is wait to be matched. This could happen right away or take years and years. You won’t be responsible for any medical costs associated with donating, and most donations do not require surgery. Joining the registry does not bind you to anything. Even if you’re matched, you don’t have to go through with the donation if you change your mind.

Please: decide to make a REAL change to the face of cancer and become a part of the Be the Match bone marrow donor registry.

If you’re interested in doing more to help Sanjana, you can check out her Facebook page and website.

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  1. I’m interning with the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio and we like to call all this Breast Cancer stuff, “the pinking of America.” Its not that I’m trying to make the awareness sound bad, but there is a lot out there. I agree that we now need to talk about prevention and get affordable health care out there.

    But it bothers me that no one talks about any other kind of cancer, September was Ovarian Cancer Awareness and 90% of the women I encounter have NEVER heard of it! There are so many other cancers out there that need awareness. The Susan G. Komen foundation is a billion dollar a year deal now, I think its time they use some of their money to focus on other cancer organizations. There is enough pink and talk about breast cancer for my liking and my grandmother died of it 45 years ago!


  2. I was just diagnosed with breast cancer this month (treatable). One result: I notice ALL of the pink crap more than usual, and it is driving me crazy! Essentially, everywhere I turn (Facebook, pink packages of Sun Chips in the grocery store, etc.) there’s something reminding me every minute that I HAVE BREAST CANCER! I’m not a big fan of “awareness” campaigns to begin with. I’m pretty sure everyone is “aware” of breast cancer. Let’s focus on real steps–making preventive and diagnostic tools available to everyone, etc. Enough with the pink! (Although my son, whose favorite color is pink, loves that I come home from the doc with new pink junk every time I go!)


  3. “you might be surprised how many people in the urban US don’t live within reasonable distance of a grocery store”

    Yes, you are so right. My husband and I talk about this all the time.

    My mom died of genetic breast cancer during breast cancer awareness month and honestly, I was glad to have the pink stuff to cling to. I won’t be posting where I like to put my purse, but I am grateful for the marketing geniuses who helped inform and motivate people regarding this disease. When my mother was first diagnosed, in 1990, breast cancer was private and not talked about because it involved the word breast. The Susan G. Komen walk did not even allow men to participate. I think it is in part do to all this marketing that we have come such a long way.


  4. This is an awsome post! You are truly an inpspiration to me. Thanks for all the good info and for carin!


  5. Now that’s spreading breast cancer awareness! Last year we were supposed to post our bra color on Facebook, and I just thought that was senseless, too.

    I know that everyone gets tired of all the pink, and other cancers get a lot…I mean, A LOT…less attention. Ovarian cancer can be tied to breast cancer genetically, however, and if we learn more about breast cancer we may also learn more about ovarian cancer. My mom had both.


  6. Thank you for this post. You explain what I feel much better than I ever could.


  7. THANK YOU! I’m so glad someone finally said it…degrading is right and how does it help Breast Cancer. I’ve refused to do it both years…I just don’t feel comfortable saying those kinds of things (kinda skanky). If you wouldn’t say it in person, why would you on the internet?! And it doesn’t help Breast Cancer awareness or research. dumb.


  8. Excellent points. Sadly, my supervisor died from from H1N1 following chemo for MM. It’s quite rare in younger people and has an awful survivor rate. No, I had no awareness of it prior to him but was well aware of breast cancer…


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