Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Breast Cancer Isn't Cute

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I love that we have a month devoted to bringing attention to this terrible disease. I see pink everywhere I turn, from professional athletes donning pink socks to my local newspaper going pink for a day. It shows support...solidarity...and for people who may not know why there is a sudden influx of pink, it brings awareness to a disease that claims more than 40,000 lives each year.
One thing that typically goes hand-in-hand with this precious month is the return of the cutesy slogans and y'all, I.just.can't. "Save the Tatas." "Save Second Base." Or the most cringe-worthy: a picture of a deer's antlers with the slogan "Save the Rack" underneath. Not much makes my skin crawl more, and this is why: breast cancer isn't cute. It doesn't need to be reduced to some "clever" slogan to be recognized or to have an entire month's attention.
Talk to any female who has been affected by the disease. Is it cute when they find that lump in their breast? Is getting the call from their doctor that they do, in fact, have breast cancer something to chuckle about? Do they meet with a surgeon who pats them on the back, laughs, and says, "Let's make an appointment to remove those tatas."
The reality of a breast cancer diagnosis is much different. It's met with tears, panic, fear, sadness, and probably every emotion in between. It's a lot of waiting. A lot of unknown. It's doctor appointments, surgery, recovery, and medications or treatments (or both) that come with many awful side effects. It's blood draws and scans and long phone calls with insurance companies, praying that they agree to cover the very pills that will hopefully save your life. And more prayers that they'll cover the scan that you need to reveal if your cancer is responding to treatment.
Is any of this cute? Is any of this lighthearted? Is it funny to one day be out to dinner with your family, without a care in the world, while the next day you are facing your very mortality with a realness you didn't expect to confront so soon?
We don't have to make something playful to bring attention to it. It's OK to be serious about a topic that is serious. It's very serious. It steals mothers and daughters and sisters, friends, aunts, and cousins every single day. It steals entirely too many.

I know that most people who share these slogans or wear these T-shirts only have the best intentions. I know that. But here's something else to think on, friends. Say you're at the grocery store, proudly wearing your "Save the Tatas" T-shirt, and the lady behind you in the checkout line is a breast cancer survivor. She's had a double mastectomy. She has the scars (and maybe the implants too) to prove it. Your T-shirt bearing that cutesy slogan suddenly reminds her of her struggle. And she was just there to buy bananas and milk. She is quickly reminded of the hellacious treatment and surgery she endured to "save her tatas," which is not only not funny but also quite ironic because her breasts weren't saved. It was actually vital that her breasts be removed...you know, so she (the person) could be saved. Is she less of a woman now? Her tatas weren't saved, but she was. So why are we reducing her, and so many others, to a body part?

Let's give these women the respect and compassion they so deserve. Let's call them what they are. Breasts. Let's save the breasts. But more importantly, let's save the women.