Before you get all up in arms about me using the words “sexy” and “cancer” in the same sentence, calm down. I don’t believe there is anything sexy whatsoever about the C-word. It is a horrible disease in every form. Read on and you might understand my point here.
As we close out the month of October, I reflect on a season when weekends are not really my own. Yes, in the USA that means “American” football season. And if you follow a team as a true fan, you are there at every game you can see. These are the days when you and your friends and fellow fans do all the football traditions. You tailgate at gawd-awful hours for the morning. You wear your lucky _________(fill in the blank…socks, underwear, T-shirt, earrings, whatever). You eat too much tailgate food and you often drink too much ______ (yep, fill in the blank again with your alcohol of choice…beer, wine, whiskey, tequila shots). You travel to away games to cheer on your team, while spending lots of money for hotels, dining out, etc. Autumn is the season, for me, which leaves little time for other weekend activities. It is also a time of year that brings you together with a whole bunch of crazy, fun people cheering for the same thing; a WIN! In an extremely polarized country at this time in history, it is the one thing that brings democrats and republicans together. They sit next to one another, they cheer, they high five, they hug; even though their religion and skin color and politics might be polar opposites. That comradery is one of my favorite things about following a sports team.
A few weeks ago I was watching a pro football game (Indianapolis vs. Houston) on TV and I noticed the players were wearing hot pink gloves and socks and towels as part of their uniforms. Not a particularly masculine color. What’s with all this pink? Ah right, October is breast cancer awareness month. You would have to live under a rock not to know that. Not only is pink all over social media, we find it on product packaging for the month in grocery stores, we see it on buttons and stickers and flags, and we see it all over one of the most masculine and difficult sports. Football has really embraced this breast cancer thing, it seems.
And it got me musing about breast cancer. I cannot think of a cancer that gets close to this much attention (or funds). There are other cancers, of course, which claim lives every day. Do we shower attention and public service announcements and money towards cervical or ovarian or bladder cancer? How about colorectal? Who wants to talk about rectums? Beyond your proctologist, I just do not see it as cocktail party conversation.
To be fair, breast cancer is the leading diagnosed cancer for women. Not far behind it is lung cancer, colorectal and uterus. But the number one leading cause of cancer death in women is NOT breast cancer. It is lung cancer. Fairly far ahead of breast cancer deaths.
So why do the other cancers not get their fair share of voice in all the clutter? Is it that breast cancer is the “sexy” cancer? It because all these other cancers happen to organs hidden within the body? Are we a society generally so obsessed with breasts that the other cancers do not deserve the same research and attention? What about men’s cancer? The number one cancer for men is prostate cancer. What about testicular cancer? Yes, there is a testicular cancer awareness month. It is April. But I bet most people have no clue about that. There are no blue flags and towels and ribbons. No T-shirts emblazoned with “Save the Balls”. And if you wore one, no one would take you seriously anyway.
And then there is the stigma about some other cancers. I was recently reading about a woman who had lung cancer and was going through horrific rounds of chemotherapy that ravaged her body and made her hair fall out. She was wearing pink in the grocery store and a seemingly well-intentioned woman came up to her talking about how she had survived breast cancer. She wished her well with her fight. When the woman explained she was going through lung cancer treatment, the woman recoiled and tartly said, “Oh, well you must have been a smoker.”.
What happened to “keep up the fight” encouragement ? You see, some other cancers have a stigma and are often judged. Liver cancer? That is what you get for all that heavy drinking. Lung/tongue/throat cancer? Well you never should have smoked. But no stigma with breast cancer. What if a woman had to live without her breasts to survive? Oh the horror. As if a woman is not a complete human being without them. When in reality they are pretty worthless as a functioning organ (except for feeding a baby, of course). Besides, there are plastic surgeons to recreate them. Try to live without your liver or lungs or pancreas. I am pretty sure there are no fake livers or lungs that can keep you stay alive. So why not donate for more research to invent those?
I would love to see a general cancer awareness month. Educating people of all the deadly cancers out there. Why can’t fundraising be shared for all cancers? Like some sort of national cancer fund? Don’t most cancers cells work in a similar fashion anyway? If we were sharing the wealth, perhaps a cure could happen quicker for all.
Monday Musings. Have a great week.