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The Naked Truth About Breast Cancer

I've written a lot about the trials and tribulations of being a breast cancer survivor in America in October.

It's not for the faint of heart.

In fact, if you're like me, it's damn hard to cut through the pinkwashing and pink nausea to maintain your love of all things October.

There's pink on everything, from burly football players to massive fracking drill bits. There's The Singing Mammogram (a do-wop song and dance that starts out with, "Boobs, Boo-Boobs, Boo-Boobs, Ta-Ta-Ta." Check it out here, if you don't believe me.)

When I went to the Susan G. Komen blogger summit in May, I got the impression the ship was being righted and we would see less disgusting and demeaning shenanigans in the name of "awareness" and greater focus on more important things, like research.

I guess I was wrong.

Breast cancer isn't pink and it isn't pretty.

We don't need a song and dance to be "aware."

We're way past awareness.

We want answers.

We want to be able to use words like "cure" and "preventation" in real sentences about real women with real breast cancer. (Notice it's not called "boobies" or "ta-ta" cancer.)

One of those real women is my friend, Lockey Maisonneuve, who I was blessed to join earlier this week on a road trip to Woodstock, NY. A yoga instructor and creator of the Let It Go Workshop, Lockey was there to do a photo shoot with Robert Sturman, world class photographer and artist.

After a rainy session in which Robert got amazingly beautiful yoga shots, Lockey wanted to do something different.

There, in an open field in October, she removed her top to tell her truth about breast cancer.

The image above was taken by me. It was truly moving to photograph the photographer and his subject at such an intense moment. To see Robert's incredible image, make sure to visit his Facebook page.

You can read more about my day with Lockey and Robert, and see another picture of Lockey at my new blog. 

I know I just wrote my Pinkwashing - Why I'm Not Buying It piece. But, for the record, this year I really wanted to avoid writing about the usual October storm of pink crap and critcism. It's getting old and so am I, I guess. 

Once again, I couldn't not write about what was, for me, a pure statement of truth about breast cancer, this time juxtaposed against the decaying corn stalks of October.

It was the naked truth and I had to share it with you.

Especially now.

Survival > Existence,

 

Related Posts:

Pinkwashing - Why I'm Not Buying It

This Pinktober Let's Reclaim the Power of Pink

Running on Empty - Coping with Cancer Stress


 

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Pinkwashing - Why I'm Not Buying It

It's October and the pink marketeering machine is once again taking advantage of our sincere desire to put an end to breast cancer.

I was blissfully unaware of the hoopla until that moment my cancer pain smashed head on into a pink ribbon festooned six-pack of Mike's Hard Lemonade. Rather than try to recreate my anger, I thought I'd share a representation only a 20-year old slam poet could muster. (Warning - Graphic language.)

Criticizing the obscenity of pinkwashing isn't a slam on another survivor's desire to wear pink and run in races. This is about large corporations making money off of our suffering. If you want to fight back, get involved with: 

Think Before You Pink®, a project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the number of pink ribbon products on the market. The campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.

This October, Think Before You Pink® is "taking it further and targeting some of the most outrageous pink ribbon promotions that exemplify everything that’s wrong with pink ribbon culture. We’re calling out the empty awareness, the misinformation, the profiteering, the pinkwashing, the degrading of women, the “tyranny of cheerfulness” that hides the harsh realities of this disease."

Make sure to check out this year's most egregious offenders. (One offender is a company many of us know if we've spent any time working on craft projects with our kids and not one cent of the money they make from selling pink ribbon trinkets goes to breast cancer anything.)

I don't know about you, but I assumed the Susan G. Komen organization authorized all the pink ribbons you see on these products. When I brought that up at my meeting with Komen CEO and President Dr. Judith Salerno at the Blogger Summit I attended this year, she said there was nothing Komen could do about the unscrupulous misappropriation of the ribbon.  

There is something we can do. We can get educated and we can educate others.

It's our responsibility to know where our money is going. 

Anger is only useful if it results in action.

Survival > Existence,

"I'm Not Buying It" by Justice Hehir of Rutgers University (of which I am a proud alumna.) Justice was nominated for best poet at the competition. The video was uploaded by Lindsey Michelle Williams. Thank you to my daughter, my favorite Rutgers University student, for bringing the video to my attention.

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Getting to Yes Through The Power Of No

Product Details“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” Joseph Campbell

If you've been reading WhereWeGoNow for any length of time, you know that cancer's kick in the rear taught me to say "Yes" to my adventure. In fact, "Say Yes to Yourself" is one of the 10 simple secrets to creating inspired healing, wellness and your joyous life after cancer that I wrote about in How to Build an Amazing Life After Treatment.

So what do I think about a book that celebrates The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness?  

I found it deeply spiritual and, ultimately, about the power of bringing "a blissful Yes into your life, one that opens the door to opportunities, abundance, and love."

Written by James and Claudia Azula Altucher, The Power of No makes clear that the ability to say No to what isn't working is the only way to make room in your life for what does work. Accordingly, the writers explore the power of saying No to self-destructive behavior (physical and emotional,) stress, mindless chatter, angers of the past, self-sabotage, being stuck, phony storytelling, scarcity, "bad luck" and people you know aren't good for you.

The conversational style of the book (James and Claudia take turns sharing personal anecdotes) teaches by example. These are people who have been in the trenches with stories to tell. They've made big mistakes in business and love and have found themselves "on the floor." After decades of struggle, each of the authors discovered the power of No and connected with a life of greater health, abundance and happiness.

I recommend this book to anyone going through a life transition or healing journey. We all get stuck sometimes and it always helps to connect with others who have been where you are now. It also helps that each chapter offers concrete exercises to guide the reader to sit, reflect and do the work necessary to unleash the power of No and ultimately find your Yes.

Survival > Existence,

 FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

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Act with Kindness, Because You Never Know

 
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Philo
 
The other morning, I spent some time talking with four young women in the physician assistant program at Seton Hall University. I was there to give them the truth (mine) about what it is like to be a cancer patient.
 
As a patient educator with the Pathways Women's Cancer Teaching Project, I've met with hundreds of young residents, and medical, nursing and chaplain students. During our sessions, we are interviewed and participants are encouraged to ask us anything and everything about our experience. In this way, we expose them to the patient as a whole person with a family, job, fears and emotions. We've been told by many participants that meeting with us has entirely changed their practice for the better.
 
Three of the women I spoke with were engaged and asked numerous questions. The fourth was extremely quiet and sat twirling her hair. She appeared to be listening, but wouldn't participate, even when I asked her directly if she had any questions.
 
After our session with the PA students, the patient educators got together. When it was my turn to talk about my session, I mentioned the young woman twirling her hair. I said I initially thought she wasn't engaged, but a moment of eye contact led me to believe she might have been dealing with a cancer story of her own.    
 
We looked at her feedback form and, sure enough, she had written that a member of her family had breast cancer and she just couldn't talk about it in the group.
 
How did I know? Something in her eyes sparked a split second of recognition. How many times had I gone out into the world, trying to function normally, when deep down inside I was carrying the red hot ember of cancer worry? What about that time I struggled to hold it together as the tech said amazingly ignorant things to me during my first mammogram after my mastectomy?
 
And it's not just cancer pain we push down where we think no one can see. One of the most painful experiences of my life happened over 20 years ago when I was a practicing attorney. I was in another attorney's office for a scheduled deposition of his client, a child. My job was to ask questions about the child's accident, but the attorney came out and told me his client wanted to leave early. When I said I would try to be quick, but I had a job to do, he asked me if I had children. When I answered that I didn't he dismissed me with, "Oh, that's why you don't understand."
 
What he didn't understand was that I am the oldest of nine children, so I certainly get kids. He also didn't understand that I had lost two pregnancies and was battling infertility. As much as his carelessly cruel comment hurt me, I held in my pain and trudged through the deposition.
 
None of us has to come clean and share anything we don't want to share. We have a right to our privacy and our dignity (there's nothing worse than losing it with people you don't trust to handle it.)
 
Sometimes it's easy to know when a person needs your kindness. And sometimes it isn't. 
 
But it shouldn't matter.
 
Part of being human is to experience sorrow, fear, grief and pain. 
 
To be an evolved human is to know it's not just you and to act accordingly, with kindness.
 
Because you never know. 
 
Survival > Existence,
 
 
Image courtesy of Jennifer

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Marie Ennis O'Connor's picture

Kindness is such an under-rated virtue. I always think of the quote by Leo Buscaglia “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” And have you read the wonderful poem by Naomi Shihab Nye on kindness?
I featured it on my blog here:
http://journeyingbeyondbreastcancer.com/2012/01/08/only-kindness-makes-s...

Debbie's picture

Hello Marie:

What a beautiful poem, Marie. Thank you for sharing it. It's true that the "smallest act of caring" can actually turn a life around. That's why we will always need more of it in the world.

Debbie

 

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The Joy of Books Comes Alive

If you relish the joy of holding a real book in your hands, don't miss this amazing stop-motion animation by Sean Ohlenkamp. Let me know if you agree with the statement at the end of this short and immensely delightful video.

Comments

Honey Bee's picture

Hello Debbie,

"There's nothing like a real book." My sentiments precisely.

Friendship, adventure, consolation, education, relaxation, pleasure, stories, conversations, wisdom, delight, joys of language, humour, "les mots justs", new acquaintances, understanding, enrichment, vocabulary, directions for healing, domestics, business, fashion, creation's wonders. All within the covers of a book. Treasures just waiting to be found.

I'm so grateful that my brain fog has dissipated enough to let me once again savor the richness of reading.

A nice comfy chair, a cup of tea in a china cup, a companionable book, and the stage is set for an enchanted evening. (or morning, or afternoon!)

As children, we often heard Dad say, "Go read a book," when he wished to take a Sunday afternoon nap. That admonition sent us down a lifelong path of delicious engrossment in books. He furthered the journey by taking us regularly to the library. And, of course, he read to us, sometimes the same book over and over. Sweet memories indeed.

Love this topic.

Honey Bee

Debbie's picture

Hello Honey Bee:

I love how your Dad lovingly passed his passion for books down to you! Reading is one of the great joys of life and you're very lucky to have discovered it early.

Read on!

Survival > Existence,

Debbie

 

 

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