Pinktober Guest Post: Feisty Blue Gecko

Pink-to-ber A portmanteau coinage used by many people who live with breast cancer to refer to October, the Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is heavily dominated by marketing in the color pink and cute tags like “Save the tatas”. (See Komen, etc.)

During the month of October 2013, I am running guest posts from people with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) or who are closely involved with someone who has MBC. This was the idea of the wonderful Jody Schoger, and I think some other breast cancer bloggers are participating, too.

Today’s post is exceptional in a couple of ways. First of all, it’s just exceptional. It is a superb response to my candidate for this year’s Biggest Idiocy in Pink award. It is exceptional in the strict sense because Feisty Blue Gecko does not, thank God, have metastatic breast cancer. However, I am including it in this series as an exception because of the first reason. I’m sorry if I just made you dizzy. Please don’t forget to check out Feisty Blue Gecko’s blog, and let’s give her some comment love here. Now, over to FBG:

. . .

It takes quite a lot to rev my temper engine, but this is beyond my comprehension. Offensive, insensitive to the extreme and in my view, utterly useless.

Unbelievable

These are just a few reasons that this has incensed me:

  • October 13th is the sole day dedicated to Metastatic Breast Cancer, in itself woefully inadequate.
  • Many women have had surgery which means that not wearing a bra is in the least extremely uncomfortable.
  • Many of us are trying to hide the fact that our surgery brings significant asymmetry – not wearing a bra would be excruciatingly embarrassing.
  • Most surgery for breast cancer brings at best pain and at worst restriction in range of movement.  Waving your arms in the air (as in the image above) is another indication of how far removed this is from reality.
  • What about men?????

So, what on earth could not wearing a bra for a day possibly achieve? 

Not awareness. Not respect. Not much needed research. Not action.

And certainly not a cure.

Blue in a Sea of Pink – Guest post by Bill Becker

For Mets Monday this week, I am thrilled to present a guest post by Bill Becker. Bill is living with Stage IV breast cancer, and he’s the founder of the Facebook community Breast Cancer Brothers. Bill has agreed to be a regular guest on Telling Knots, so please welcome him warmly!

Don’t mind us…we’re just some blue in a sea of pink.

Imagine if you can, you’ve been told you have breast cancer.  Any diagnosis of cancer is scary in itself.  The lump that you’ve found has come back positive for breast cancer.  A man in a lab coat sitting across a desk from you just read the results from a piece of paper that was faxed over from a laboratory that performed a test on a sample of flesh from your body.  Now let’s change this up a bit, imagine the same scenario accept the ‘you’ in the scenario is a man.

As a man diagnosed with breast cancer there is very little information to guide all the men and women in lab coats with the most current and up to date methods for treating you.  When you go in to have an appointment with them, they will tell you that we are basing your treatment on what we’ve found that worked with women.  So wait a minute, you’re saying that not only do I have a “woman’s disease”, you are going to treat me based on everything you know about woman.  Ok, but I have a penis, isn’t there anything that tells you what to do in the case of a man with breast cancer?

No, there isn’t enough information, there hasn’t been enough research done to directly support medical treatment of male breast cancer.  I’m sure you’re thinking, why not?  The life of a man is equally important as a woman’s is.  Is it because there aren’t enough of us men with breast cancer?  Is there some secret society of men who have breast cancer and are just not saying anything?  Is male breast cancer like “Fight Club” in that the first rule of male breast cancer is you don’t talk about male breast cancer?  The second rule of male breast cancer is you don’t talk about male breast cancer.  I cannot sit idly by and not talk about it; I cannot let the so-called stigma of having what is known as a woman’s disease, define who I am.  I will not close my mouth and wait quietly with my stage IV cancer diagnosis to die.  Like “Fight Club” I will enter a room with a bunch of other men and I will fight!  Unlike “Fight Club”, when I emerge I will talk about it (and write about it) and I will tell everyone that I meet…hey men get breast cancer too.

I will join everyone else who fights breast cancer, men and women.  When life hands you lemons (or lumps), what do you do? I will make Lemonade, Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Chicken, and the list of all things lemon flavored will be infused with the lemons that I’ve been given.  I will advocate awareness of male breast cancer.  I will tell everyone I can that, yes it is true, men can get breast cancer too!

So how does this scenario end?  The most likely answer is that this scenario will end with my death.  Before we get to that point, what do you say we talk about it?  Let’s make some noise about male breast cancer!  Support the awareness and early detection of breast cancer in men.  Let’s reduce the percentage of men who succumb to male breast cancer from an average of 25% every year down to 21%.  The only way we can do this, is if we talk about it.  So go tell someone…men get breast cancer too.

Bill Becker in The Scar Project: Male Breast Cancer. Photograph by David Jay.

 

Cancer is Not Pink: Men with Breast Cancer

This is not a picture of breast cancer.

This is not breast cancer.

I am a wimp.

It is so easy for me to sit here and expound: “I am so marginalized! The breast cancer awareness community doesn’t talk about people with mets. We scare them. That 30% figure just doesn’t bear thinking about. That’s why they marginalize us.”

And we are marginalized. That is a true statement. But so are women with mental health issues who have breast cancer. And migrant women. And refugee women. And women in war zones. And homeless women. That is all true.

But you know who is really marginalized? Men with breast cancer. How often are they even mentioned? How often do you (do I?) think of men when thinking of people with breast cancer? Pretty close to never, I’m betting.

Yesterday I encountered Breast Cancer Brothers, a Facebook community page not unlike Telling Knots, the 30%, and I had the opportunity  to exchange a few words with a man who, like me, has metastatic breast cancer. I received a nice comment from his wife, thanking me for sharing their family photo on the 30% page.

My world was jolted.

I admit that it is not very often that I look at my situation and think how much easier it is for me than for someone else. Yes, people have said really stupid things to me about breast cancer, but can you imagine what the men have to go through? I cannot, not really.

I put out a request on Breast Cancer Brothers inviting any man with breast cancer at any stage to write a guest post for this blog. One man has accepted the invitation, which makes me very happy. Maybe more men will agree, too. I’d love that.

Cancer—breast cancer—is no respecter of persons. Cancer does not care if we are rich or poor, married or single, gay or straight, independent professionals or temp workers in a warehouse or street dwellers. Cancer does not care if we are male or female. Cancer is not pink.

I’d like to make a request of everyone who is reading this post: please go over to Breast Cancer Brothers and show them some support. Like the page, leave a comment. Show them that while some of us may feel marginalized, while some us truly are marginalized, we will not marginalize each other.