To Be or Not To Boobie

Image of Carey, from The Scar Project. Copyright 2011 © David Jay Photography

To Be or Not Boobie

One of main themes of this blog has and always will be, making a cancer journey. As I see it, everyone who either receives a diagnosis or takes care of someone who has received a diagnosis, goes on a journey, and no two journeys are the same.

For instance, during the many months I spent practically living in an infusion room (where chemo is administered) I got to know a lot of different cancer patients and caregivers, each one with their stories, each one with their own journeys. None of those journeys is the same, nor is any more valid than another.

The same goes for breast cancer or any kind of cancer awareness programs.

I’m sure most are aware of the pink ribbon campaign, but what some of you may not know is that this is also a controversial campaign. While many wear the pink ribbons, buy pink ribbon merchandise or post pink ribbon images online, as I do, many find those images offensive. Some of the reasons for this include, that breast cancer isn’t a pink, frilly thing, but a serious disease that kills thousands of women, and yes, men each year. Another reason is that there has been some doubt about how the funds donated to organizations, such as the Susan G. Komen, are really used. I got into quite a heated discussion last year with a breast cancer survivor who was vehemently against the pink ribbon campaign. She raised many valid points, but in the end, we agreed to disagree, and we have remained friends.

If you are interested in learning more about the pink ribbon campaign, I recommend this website, Pink Ribbon.org. By the way, I am in no way affiliated with this organization, outside of sporting pink ribbons on my Facebook avatar and on this blog.

Think Before You Pink and Cancer Sucks are two organizations that sprung up in opposition to the pink ribbon campaign. Many cancer patients and caregivers are grateful to have an alternative to the pink ribbon campaign and proudly wear “Cancer Sucks” buttons, t-shirts to demonstrate how they feel and to separate themselves from the pink ribbon movement.

There are also those who do neither and find other ways to empower themselves on their cancer journeys. As I said before, there is no “one way.” It’s your way and if it works for you, it’s valid. To be honest, the pink ribbon thing isn’t really one I advocate, but my mom loves the pink ribbons and is completely unaware of the controversy, so I use the ribbon online out of respect for her.

Then there is The Scar Project, which posts, “Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon” on their masthead. If you haven’t visited this website, please do. In it, you will find raw, yet beautiful photographs of women who have had mastectomies. I’ve posted one here as an example.

Some of my friends take part in Boobie Wednesday on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. What is Boobie Wednesday? Well each week on Twitter women display photographs of their cleavage to as a reminder for to others to do their monthly self-exams, as well as support breast cancer awareness. Many women find it empowering to display photographs of themselves after they’ve had a mastectomy to show that they are still beautiful without breasts. I’ve seen those photographs and they are truly beautiful. Boobie Wednesday was started by a woman, who has since become a cancer survivor, as a fun way to support breast cancer awareness and education.

As it says on the website, “ Don’t be scared, be self-aware and self-exam monthly.”

Whether you agree or disagree with their methods, you can’t disagree with their message, yet this seems to be a problem for some. Some are cancer patients and survivors, and some are just offended by the images and motives of those who take part in Bobbie Wednesday. While some women feel empowered by this, others are not merely offended, but sickened, hurt, etc., but here’s the thing that some seem to forget, both sides of this issue are equally valid. Besides that, if you don’t want to see the images, then don’t go looking for them. It’s that simple.

Have I taken part in Boobie Wednesday? Only as a blogger when I was asked to write a guest blog after my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, but no, there are no photos of my cleavage anywhere for anyone to see. Is it something I would ever do? Nope, but that doesn’t give me the right to judge or write demeaning things about those who do.

Every woman who receives a breast cancer diagnosis has the option to get breast reconstruction. My mom was offered it and she was 78 years old at the time. She chose not to, but many do. My mom’s surgeon told us about one of his patients who at the age of 90 got full breast reconstruction. Does that mean that my mom and others like her, who chose not to have breast reconstruction have the right to put her down for doing so? No, because it’s her right to make the best decision for herself, just as it was my mom’s right to the very same thing.

The bottom line is this, according to BreastCancer.org, “In 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 57,650 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.” So whether you like or dislike pink ribbons or photos of post-cancer survivors or women with cleavage, take the time to educate yourself about breast cancer and remember to it’s not your place to judge anyone else’s cancer journey.

Just walk it and know that you’re not alone.

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8 Responses to To Be or Not To Boobie

  1. Les says:

    At first look, my brain was confused. But, upon reflection, there was a beautiful woman.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Yes there is Les. One question though, did you read my blog or just look at that photo? lol

  2. dawn h-s says:

    Love the picture. If I had a similar body type, I would not have chosen even the minimal reconstruction I had.

  3. KjM says:

    “…did you read my blog or just look at that photo?”

    There were words as well? 😀

    Yes. I did read your blog, honest!

    For a number of years now, the only stamps I’ve used are the Breast Cancer Awareness ones. For a good while it was simply a painless (I’m male and, so, have a lower pain threshold, I understand, than the other major flavor of humanity – and for me, it’s true) means of supporting a good cause. (I’m actually quite pleased with myself that I still do things that require stamps – but that’s another discussion entirely.)

    Then, because a cousin of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer, and survived I’m happy to say, the stamp thing became a whole lot more personal. Didn’t change much practically, other than, perhaps, to buy a few more sheets at a time than before. But it brought the disease more sharply into focus for me.

    I’ve also donated, on occasion, to Pink-related events or drives. Given the controversies of late, I may revise my position on that and find other ways to support this cause.

    As to the title of this blog post, or the photo for that matter, as you point out, Rachel, each woman’s journey is hers. The journey does have impact on those connected to her, and it’s valuable that such impacts be taken into consideration. But the journey’s hers, and none of us live in another’s skin and therefore should be hands off regarding decisions made.

    As was pointed out, the photo above is of a beautiful woman. In many ways, there is much beauty – in surviving.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you for commenting Kevin, and I agree there is a beauty and a grace in surviving. I remember my mom’s face the day of her mastectomy, it was like she was glowing with joy. She’d faced this horrifically frightening thing and come out on the other side of it. It was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

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