The Harbinger Online

A Pink Party Foul

It’s 7:32 a.m. and the halls of Shawnee Mission East are swamped with students. People crowd lockers, teachers scramble to get their morning coffee. Everything seems normal…at first.

The closer I look, the more pink I see.

It’s that moment when I realize I need to brace myself for dealing with a wasted cause: breast cancer awareness month.

From my left I’m accosted by an innocent junior with a pink bow in her hair and a pink stamp in her hand.

“Would you like to get a stamp to show your support for Breast Cancer Awareness month?” she says in a high, peppy voice, with a ribbon marked in pink ink on each of her cheeks.

I look back to her table where there is a mob of people, all chattering amongst one another, waiting in line to get various body parts stamped. Their hands, their arms, some even do their faces.

“Um,” I respond awkwardly. “Uh, no thanks.”

I step around her and hurry away towards my locker without making further eye contact with her.

I’ve found myself in situations like these for a year and three months, and I still can’t seem to get used to it. A year and three months ago, I lost my own grandmother to the horrid disease that is breast cancer.

I watched my Mimi lose pound after pound, her face shrinking in all the while. I watched the hair on her head, eyebrows and eyelashes fall off as the treatments went on. And in her final days, I watched as her lungs filled up with fluid and her heart failed her.

And it was all cancer’s fault.

So why on Earth were people celebrating?

Ever since Mimi died, all of this glittery pink and the cheerleader-y “rah rah” attitude have really started to bother me. The pink ribbons and “warrior” T-shirts that are an attempt to raise awareness for breast cancer have masked the reality of the illness.

It’s not some club that all these men and women join once they get sick. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s a disease.

And yet, all these campaigns seem to glorify it.

I know that companies like Susan G. Komen make their events exciting in hopes of attracting more people that, in turn, will donate more money. And I know all the pink and fluff that comes with that is fueling their goal to raise awareness. I get that.

But aren’t people informed, already? Who isn’t aware of breast cancer?

The amount of money Susan G. Komen creates and spends on awareness is astronomical. With an average annual income of $240 million, reported that only 15 percent of that goes to research, and 40 percent goes to ‘awareness’.

The amount of money used for something as useless as making people ‘aware’ of breast cancer is heartbreaking, knowing that that much money would be a huge contribution to the research world. These awareness campaigns like Komen’s encourage routine mammograms, which, according to WebMD, reduce breast cancer deaths by only approximately 10 percent.

Even worse, in 2012 Komen abruptly ended their funding for Planned Parenthood and breast cancer screenings, and promptly scrambled back into funding those companies after it was revealed that founder and CEO Nancy Brinker had received a 64 percent pay increase, making her annual salary $684,717. That’s some serious shadiness for a company that claims to do good.

Another organization at fault is the National Football League. Their iconic pink socks and gloves always make an appearance each fall in hopes of raising awareness, but in reality, it doesn’t make any difference. Cork Gaines from Business Insider said that “for every $100 in pink merchandise sold, $12.50 goes to the NFL. Of that, $11.25 goes to the American Cancer Society and the NFL keeps the rest.” All of the remaining funds are divvied up between the company that makes the merchandise (they receive about 37.5 percent) and the company that profits from the merchandise (roughly 50 percent), which is typically the NFL and each of its teams.

There’s a very fine line between marketing to raise money, and raising money to market.

Don’t get me wrong, though; I think most of these organizations have good intentions. I just think the main goal is off.

Besides all the wasted time and energy towards awareness, believe it or not, there’s one aspect of these campaigns that bothers me more than anything: after someone dies from breast cancer, it seems that that’s all people remember about them. She was a “fighter”. He “was a true warrior”.

If I were to ever die from something as dreadful as breast cancer, I would want people to think about how I lived, rather than how I came to my death. I want people to remember Mimi by how she lived, not by what took her life. So few can die for a good reason; we aren’t all martyrs. However, many can live for a good reason.

So why on Earth were people celebrating?

My favorite author, John Green, sums it up perfectly in his New York Times best-selling novel, “The Fault In Our Stars”: “…There is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honor in dying of.”

I just can’t fathom what a difference there would be if these companies focused their funds towards actual research rather than wasting it on movements for awareness. All that money spent on pink gear and marketing their cause could do so much good for the world of research and taking greater strides towards actually finding a cure. I just hope they remember that their goal of awareness has already been achieved. Their next goal should be curing it.

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Senior Katie Knight is Co-Editor for print. This is her fourth year on staff. She enjoys bossing people around--particularly Co-Editor Andrew McKittrick. She is also a member of the Broadcasting Dream Team. Read Full »

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