‘I like it': Breast cancer awareness campaign misguided

EDITORIAL: My mom died of breast cancer eight years ago, and if there’s one thing she didn’t like, it was gimmicks. If you tried this “Where do I like to keep my purse?” nonsense with her, she’d have called it out for what it is.

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

At 53, I’m still my mother’s child. I’d rather put something up in 500-foot-high lights or get thisclose, look you straight in the eye, and make my point. THAT is how that breast cancer victim taught me to deliver messages.

A friend I truly respect said she finds this little “Where do I like to keep my purse?” breast-cancer awareness meme “sorta funny, cause it gets everyone to sound goofy at the same time…”

Sorta funny?

Jerry DeMarco Publisher/Editor

Call me a spoiled sport, but dying because you weren’t smart enough, or brave enough, to have your breasts examined early enough, or at all — leaving a family in pain beyond all imagination — isn’t something to be trifled with or made a cute little game out of.

I know we can’t expect much from a society that believes in chain letters and reality shows. But this sophomoric campaign of double-entendre takes popular culture to an entirely new depth. Still, it isn’t stopping more and more women — and even some men — from indulging (tee-hee-hee) during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. People I truly considered intelligent are playing along. And I’m stumped.

Maybe it’s easier to deal that way. You can detach. Don’t have to get up close. Don’t even have to crack open your checkbook. “Look at me. I’m one of the girls. I’m doing MY part with a flirtatious post that really has a DEEPER meaning.” You can be evasive. Immature. Silly, even.

Women played a similar online game in January, posting the color of the bra they were wearing. Internet experts say the jury’s still out on the latest goof — but the early signs are it’s gonna fall flat.  For all anyone knows, the entire idea could’ve been launched by two drunken frat brothers with too much time, or lotion, on their hands.

“The bra I kind of got — it’s connected to boobs — but I don’t understand the purse,” said MJ DeCoteau, executive director of Rethink Breast Cancer, an organization supplying information and support to young women with breast cancer.

I’m glad my mom isn’t alive to see a female collective so out of touch with its feelings that it has to play an adolescent game to make a point. As if we were teaching children a lesson but couldn’t use the specific words.

Trouble is: Being passive, non-confrontational, and ellipitical undermines the very mission. It’s completely AGAINST raising awareness and lowering ignorance. And why does it always have to be a woman’s issue that gives rise to this junk?

My mom might be here right now if she wasn’t so frightened or ignorant. And she’d be the first to tell you. Nobody got in her face — not me, not anyone. And she paid for it, as did we. And when we found out the truth, trust me: No one was crackin’ wise.

I sat in on the first interview with the oncologist.

Regina (Vasil) DeMarco

Mom, 65, was sitting up in her bed at Englewood Hospital. The doc was in a chair at her feet, clipboard in hand; I was in my own chair next to the bed, so I could grab her hand if she got shaky.

The doctor asked the questions deliberately. He was a very good man. Caring. Sensitive.

She answered each and every question directly, sometimes even cracking a joke.

Then he asked: “When was your last breast exam?”

She paused.

I looked at her and she looked away. Her smile ws gone. I looked at him. He waited.

“I never had one,” she finally said.

The doctor didn’t flinch as he wrote down the answer. Then he went to the next question.

After he left, I closed the hospital room door.

I bawled like a baby. I stomped. I screamed. I shouted.

“Why? WHY????”

She looked at me with the sweetest, sincerest face — as though I were the adult and she the child.

“I was afraid of what they’d find,” she said, sobbing.

Less than seven months later, she was dead. Not gone. Not passed on. DEAD.

For several months before that, she had to be all but carried to the bathroom, 15 feet from her bed. She forgot who people were. She’d start a conversation and find herself lost. She cursed anyone who’d ever hurt her or her children, cursed her fate — and, yes, cursed a God who would allow this to happen to her. Then, one day, she fell. She deteriorted faster after that.

I’d love to see the percentage of “innuendistas” who actually have lost a mother, sister, daughter or other loved one to breast cancer, who deposited suppositories, who wiped the white foam that constantly gathered at the mouth’s corners, who had to select which CDs to keep playing over and over and over again, so that the withering shell that was once an important woman has some comfort to lean on when you have to leave to take care of whatever you have to take care of.

Do these half-wits know how patronizing it is to sufferers — those being eaten by a ravenous cancer, as well as the helpless loved ones around them — to flit their lashes under the cover of something so painful? If they’re so smart, how come they don’t see the nonsense themselves? Why do they act like dilletantes instead of caring, empathetic human beings?

Say what you will about men, but this definitely isn’t our style. We’ll either clam up or hit you between the eyes with the truth. If you think this little tease is going to hook us, think again.

I, for one, pledge, as always, to continue doing my part — and then some — as I’d done even before my Mom was diagnosed just weeks before 9/11. I will open my wallet for the cause (I like to keep it close, in case I need to show ID, or a picture of my son, or to MAKE A DONATION). I will continue to write stories, post on Facebook, stir discussions. I also will urge frequent frequent FREQUENT checkups and self-exams.

One thing I won’t do is beat around the proverbial bush.


And if that doesn’t work, how about this, then:

“Twenty-five years ago, in the United States, 110 women died of breast cancer every day. Twenty-five years and billions of private and public research dollars later, that number is 110. Every day,” Fran Visco, president of the non-profit National Breast Cancer Coalition advocacy group, wrote on Huffington Post this week. “Not much progress, is it?”

“There’s frustration out there that we don’t know more,” breast cancer surgeon Susan Love told U.S. News & World Report. “We’re wearing pink, walking and running to raise money for research. God knows we’re aware, and yet we still don’t really have a clue what causes this disease.”

If that doesn’t drive home the point, do you actually think playing an adolescent game will?

As a bright female friend recently said: “The only time the location of your purse is important is if it’s in your hands… when you’re about to donate to the American Cancer Society.”

No wonder people are so ignorant of breast cancer. They’re too busy “actin’ goofy” when they should be donating time, money and brain power to genuinely trying to save people who otherwise would die.

Shame on all of you.

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