What I saw at the gym

I don’t usually see daytime TV, but it was on at the gym when I was there this morning, and I caught some of the ITV “Breastmates” campaign (= team up with friends and remind each other to do breast checks). I was dismayed.

Of course we should do self-examinations – can’t argue with that. But this is a facile campaign. Firstly, I take issue with the silly visual images they kept showing of anything that is round and can come in pairs – melons, towel hooks, cupcakes – superimposed cheekily (as the programme makers think) on womens’ bodies.

Breast cancer is not a joke. Breasts are not objects of fun for public consumption. I can’t tell you how insensitive and inappropriate this succession of images seems to me, as a women who has had a mastectomy. Why don’t they show a woman with just one melon or cupcake? Or with a slashed or lopsided melon/cupcake on one or both sides? Because it would be less fun and look less good, that’s why. Because it would remind everybody what treatment  for breast cancer (even early breast cancer, remember) actually entails.

More importantly, I take issue with the oversimplified message being conveyed. It may seem logical, but to say that finding and treating breast cancer early is always the best course of action is simply not true. It is way, way more complicated than that —-

Laura J Esserman, you’re singing my tune

In breast cancer awareness month, too many people are clicking on my post of Oct 2013 about “No Bra Day” , hoping (I assume) to see something salacious (but – ha! – I have made the picture very small). Instead, I urge readers to go to the link below for an inspirational article about a surgeon in the States who is prepared to think a bit differently (and rigorously) about breast cancer. I was at the hospital again this week and had to explain myself and my position on mammography to a new doctor. He should read this.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/29/health/a-breast-cancer-surgeon-who-keeps-challenging-the-status-quo.html?WT.mc_id=2015-OCTOBER-FB-INYT-MC7-AUD_DEV-1001-1031&WT.mc_ev=click&ad-keywords=IntlAudDev&_r=0

One right-wing American male changes his mind

This bloke (CS) had advertised a Facebook “event” for the 13th October. He entitled it “No Bra Day” (if Obama hasn’t shut this down too”). There’s a clue in there about his politics.

Here are our exchanges.
Me This is AWFUL. It is offensive to women like me who have had breast cancer. Please look at my blog http://www.olot1.wordpress.com and think about the message this idea is putting out.

The next day, I picked this up:
CS Dear ED , dont know who you are , but here is a news flash , EVERYONE is entitled to an opinion , i have several close friends who, like you have had breast cancer , they learned to deal with it and so have I , maybe its time you did the same , if you do not like this , simply block any further updates from this page , thank you


The next bit happened in real time:

Me Of course everyone is entitled to an opinion. I am expressing mine. It is less than two months since I lost a breast. I am dealing with it. But I do not expect ever to feel at ease with an event which focuses on women’s body parts rather than women as whole human beings.

CS as ive said , i feel compassion for those who have to go through this , never meant to offend anyone , sorry , wish ya luck in the future , cancer is never an easy illness to deal with

Me Thank you.

CS
You are very welcome , im about to do something ive never done before , I am going to remove this event .

Me Fantastic – I am so glad. And I am very,very impressed by your humility and ability to reflect and change your mind. That is not easy to do.

But CS did not get this last comment because he had already taken his event down by the time I had typed it. I am trying to contact him via Facebook to say thank you.

DO NOT “like” this awful, awful picture.

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This picture (doing the rounds on FB) is an example of the worst excesses of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It made me feel sick. And there are a lot of upset women on the Breast Cancer charity forums who are as outraged as me.

Look at it. For a start it says, “Support Breast cancer”. What — not support breast cancer research, or breast cancer care, or even breast cancer “survivors” or “victims” (terms I hate)? Almost anything would be better than what it actually says.

Secondly, it shows a slim young woman waving a teensy little bra. For those of you who don’t know, the majority of women with breast cancer will be watching their weight/struggling with their body image. This is not helpful. Nor is the reminder that tiny little bras are not an option for most of us any more. If we wear one at all, it has to carry a prosthesis, or cover our scars.

Even worse, when I clicked on this picture in order to download it and put it up on my blog, I came across messages from men cheering on the women who are not going to wear a bra on the 13th, and reminding them not to forget to publish the photos. So is this about supporting women with breast cancer, or is this about soft porn?? Forgive the failure of my sense of humour. I am no prude. I enjoy rude jokes. But I see NOTHING funny about this. The message I’m getting here is that it’s breasts, not women, who matter. And if that is true, well, I’m stuffed.

And finally, the 13th is the day in Breast Cancer Awareness Month which has been dedicated to those with metastatic cancer – that’s those whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body – a life-limiting condition, not a laughing matter. Those of us who have had even a brush with this disease are holding our breaths and hoping that’s not where we end up. How sad and insensitive that on this particular day, this trivial message should be sent out to distract the unwitting and the thoughtless.

So – please do NOT circulate this picture. If you have already inadvertently and with the best of intention put it up on your FB page, please take it down. Perhaps say sorry. And take a look at the SCAR project instead, perhaps. And wear a bra, or not, as you like, on October 13th. Either way, it won’t help any woman with breast cancer, anywhere.