Friday, July 6, 2012

SUPPORT FOR SUSAN LOVE, THE WOMAN AND FOR SUSAN LOVE, CHAMPION OF RESEARCH

Last week, there was a note on Facebook posted by Susan Love's sister.  It asked all of us to keep Dr. Love in our thoughts as she began her chemotherapy treatment at a facility in California.

My brain could not comprehend what my eyes were clearly reading.  There was something so fundamentally wrong with the sentence.  Dr. Love?  She's not supposed to be on that side of an IV line. I got upset.  And it took me a bit of time to get UN-upset.  How is any of this possible?  Quite simply, it goes to prove the randomness that is cancer.  All cancer.  Not just Pink Cancer.  But Every Cancer.

Weeks ago, there was a bit of a dust up involving Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation when Ford announced support of the foundation in their Models of Courage program which is an offshoot of the Warriors in Pink initiative.  I had a reaction when I heard and then, an opinion which I have taken too long to voice.  Being silent was being safe.  It kept me out of the crossfire.  Since WHEN?  My silence, I feel, was a statement in and of itself.  However, my "silence" was primarily because I could not summon the words to make a clear point.

I am vocal in my support of Dr. Love.  I've never backed away from my beliefs.  As an active volunteer in the Love Avon Army of Women, I knew this partnership was bound to raise a few eyebrows.  Realistically, I knew plenty of people might be pissed off.  I was not one of those people.  I could not, can not and will not join the ranks of the pissed off as a result of Ford's support of the DSLRF.  While I do not buy into the need for women to be draped in pink ribbons or parading around appearing as if they stepped from a paintball session where the only color in use was pink, I accept and respect one very simple fact.  We are all different.

Some of us... (many of us?) simply do not understand why we must deconstruct the ribbon.  I don't buy pink ribbon products.  However, I did.  And, less than one year ago, I sported a baseball T about second base.  Yes, there is a photo in this blog..... see for yourself.  I don't consider myself to be someone who can be led to the slaughter house.  I don't follow. I don't necessarily lead, either.  Pretty much, I try to march to my own drum.  But, I didn't know.  I simply didn't know. And now, I do.  Before I knew, I just went about my business. Quietly.  Now?  Not so much.  I'm quiet about plenty of things, but I'm very vocal about other things.  The pink ribbon is one of those things about which I've become quite vocal.

We must speak in ways people can hear.  The simple, realistic, absolute truth?  THAT is going to take time.  Perhaps far more time than most of us might like, but we can rant and rave or we can be realistic. This shit ain't changing overnight. If that makes me "not militant enough" well, so be it.  My goal is to see change.  When any group swings too far in any one direction, rather than educate or engage in meaningful conversation, it polarizes people.  Instead of rolling up our sleeves and working together, we are too busy yelling above each other, louder than the next person in an attempt to force our beliefs down someone else's throat.  My dad had a great saying:

Don't be so right that you make yourself wrong.

Ponder it.  Swirl it around in your brain.  Grasp the message.  My dad was brilliant.  We can yell and holler, rant and rave, kick and scream...... but if someone feels good about that pink ribbon, a militant stance, despite it being the right stance, will only stall progress.  Ask yourself this:  "Do I want to be right or do I want to be part of a movement that effects change?"  I prefer the latter.  If some see that as compromising myself, so be it.  I'm focused on the big picture.  I don't need to win all these stupid battles.  I want to win the WAR.  (And, I'm not a fan of those war metaphors, but it's time for ALL of us to take a damn step back and remember, we may be alienating our sisters and our brothers in our ongoing insistence that the war metaphors are "wrong."  They aren't for me but DAMN it, they may comfort others.  We are being high and mighty.  Rather than being inclusive of all, we are a polarizing factor, but I'll save that conversation for another day.)

Back to this Ford situation.  I'm not a hypocrite.  I'm not willing to give up my automobile which provides me with the convenience to run where I wish, when I wish.  Cars are cars are cars and to my knowledge, every single car manufacturer is still using the same basic premise in the manufacture of their automobiles.  Hybrids abound.  But.....most of us are still driving vehicles that require the same old gasoline that we've been using for decades.  (FYI, the Ford Escape Hybrid is being used in NYC by many of the yellow cabs.  The lead time, should I wish to purchase a hybrid vehicle is many months. I know that for a fact.  We tried.)

As long as I am on the endorsement highway, I'm not willing to give up my make-up, either.  Comes a point in life where, yes, I do wish to look good and yes, I DO need the help of cosmetics to achieve that goal.  And no, I'm NOT very cautious about reading the labels.  I try.  But I'm not a savvy scientist so unless something is very obvious, I'm not up on all the possible, potential, could be an issue ingredient in every product I use.  There.  I said it.  I suck at militant.  But, I fancy myself pretty good at activism.

So, here's my position.  Officially.  I will continue to speak out against that ribbon.  I will continue to encourage people to ask the right questions.  Demand transparency.  Ford, in it's campaign, is being as transparent as it gets.  Each and every single "pink item" they are selling, wherein they note "100% of the net proceeds will be donated to the charity of your choosing" shows the EXACT dollar amount being donated for each and every single item that is available for purchase on their website.  The fact that Ford isn't dividing the proceeds, but rather is allowing the person who is plunking down the money for a pink product to decide WHERE those proceeds are directed......  for me, as far as a pink campaign goes, it doesn't get more transparent than this.  Until "cause marketing" is no longer part of our lives, I can and will take a two pronged approach.  Educate those who are unaware and at the same time, make sure everyone knows which companies are conducting themselves in the least exploitive manner possible: from their marketing tactics, to the money they are taking in thanks to the ribbon, to the distribution of that money.

Oddly, coincidentally, in one of those bizarre, twisted "are you kidding?" moments, I began to write this post at an altitude of 37,000 feet.  When my flight touched down at JFK and taxied for the gate, I was immediately reminded of the enormity of the task at hand.  Only (and significantly) ONE IN EIGHT in the entire fleet, this is what welcomed me home.... Parked at the adjacent gate, I got a good look at this thing, up close and personal.  Like I said...... change is going to take time.  Lots of time and lots of patience.  In the meanTIME, as long as the ribbon is still ingrained in our culture, let's make sure the funds being raised are actually being donated... and those donations are being put to good use.  As offensive as this was for me to see, after doing a bit of digging, I learned a substantial grant was made to MD Anderson to research inflammatory breast cancer.  Compliments of American Airlines.  Would it have been even BETTER if the money spent to paint the plane was part of those research dollars?  OF COURSE.....  but, at this point, I will take whatever I can get as I continue to chip, chisel and claw away at The Ribbon.

I still stand firmly in my belief.  I'm not a brand.  Nor am I a method of adding to someone's bottom line.  I'm a woman with a disease.  Until all of us are on that same page, I will continue to donate directly but for those who must, I hope they will support the right companies when they purchase pink. I will continue to open my mouth about campaigns that may be worthy but are using tactics I find offensive.  Interestingly, Estee Lauder is high on the offensive list.  And even more interestingly, Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Lauder family have thrown boatloads of money at MSKCC. However, their tactics are lousy (Estee Lauder Company).  Photos next week.  Ford has not sexualized the disease nor have they taken a penny of the proceeds.  Yes, Yes, YES... I hear you screaming.  "But it's pink and it's war that they are propagating."  I agree with you.... but, in the end, isn't our ultimate goal to win that pink war?

I will NOT ostracize anyone when the end goal is to educate.  Many of us in social media are aware, but for every one of US there are likely HUNDREDS who do not know because it never occurred to them to question the status quo.  It's up to us to be responsible, to try to educate, to attempt to raise the right kind of awareness.  I hope eventually, one by one, we all emerge from the tangled mess and leave behind, a twisted pile of pink.

This was not comforting.....  This was not a feel good moment.  This was me, returning from a relaxing four days, not yet setting foot on NY dirt only to be reminded..... "Oh yeah, THAT."











16 comments:

  1. Don't be so right that you make yourself wrong - such a simple yet profound statement Anne Marie. I applaud you once again for a brilliantly argued and powerful post on the complexities of this issue.

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    1. Thanks so much, Marie. This is a complex issue and I think it's important that those of us who wish to see the end of the ribbon are straddling the line NOT drawing the line in the sand. We need to build bridges to bring sides together...... not toss bombs to annihilate the other side.

      Just two more cents....

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    2. I'm glad you added the 2 cents, AnneMarie. I don't think the pink ribbon is so bad, it's the businesses that are using the ribbon only to increase their sales that need to be taken to task. The question is: how can we learn which firms are truly providing financial support, like Ford? I've read about some of the companies on your blog (like Yoplait), but there are so many that "go pink" - particularly in October. Is anybody keeping track somewhere that can be accessed by the rest of us?

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    3. Hi Ellen,

      Thank you for being brave enough to comment. This post, I'm certain, is not popular with many but I'm being realistic. I've thought about trying to compile a list but the sheer magnitude of the products out there makes it a daunting task. (With a chemobrain, too!)

      For some reason I thought I stumbled upon a website that was sorting this out. I will do a little digging and see what I can find.

      Meantime, I suggest people find a local organization and just donate directly. There are plenty of local organizations that are helping women (and men) throughout their treatment. There are research facilities to which donations can be sent. One of the labs close to my home allows you to designate which "program" within their facility gets your donation. Many (most, all?) of the major cancer centers have research projects and they take donations, too.

      For me? Rather than buy a pink cap.... I'd much prefer to send the whole amount to a lab where all of the money is going straight to research or helping someone in need.

      AnneMarie

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  2. I agree with Ellen. I am not against the pink ribbon and businesses that make money because they put a pink ribbon on their product need to be held accountable. I didn't know any of this until I stumbled on your blog. I also agree about donating directly. It's too hard to decipher what product is actually funding real research and how much of each dollar goes directly to the research. How would you begin to locate labs and facilities that are diligently working on research? Thanks so much for the wonderful information.

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    1. Nataline,

      I like to focus on places that are doing research with "high risk, high reward" potential. I know in the NY area, Rockefeller Research and Cold Spring Harbor Labs are two places where they are doing that kind of research. Dr Susan Love Research Foundation conducts and funds research, too. Here are some of the links. I know they aren't "clickable" in the comments so you will have to copy and paste!

      http://www.dslrf.org/endingbc/content.asp?L2=5&SID=322

      http://www.rockefeller.edu/about/

      http://www.cshl.edu/cancercenter/

      I suppose I should put together some information. One of those (maybe both) will allow you to designate the program where you want your donation to go. Both of those are excellent research facilities. I'll try to compile a list.

      Thank you for asking some great questions!

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  3. AnneMarie
    My computer's about to die, and if I don't comment now, I know I'll forget tomorrow (you know how it is!) Just wanted to say your dad taught you well.
    Thinking about what's in my cosmetic bag, the color I just put on my hair, the car I drive everywhere every single day, the polish on my toe-nails, etc etc I have no right to throw stones.
    Still, that plane ...
    xo

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    1. Yvonne,
      Thanks so much for the very kind words about my dad. I can't tell you how much I appreciate reading that....

      I just think we need to be realistic about how quickly we can dispense of the ribbon products. We don't need a middle man. We CAN donate directly. I agree about throwing stones, too. Although I'm not a fan of the ribbon stuff, I look at the transparency of anyone running a campaign. I'd much rather see the end of all cause marketing and it's a goal I will continue to work toward. It's going to take time, patience and effort. A coordinated effort would be great. After all, aren't we all looking for the same result.... Fran Visco said it best when she said we must stop people from ever getting breast cancer and for those who already have it, we have to stop them from dying of the disease.

      Enough posturing and jockeying for position. Too much noise and it distracts from the real work.

      xoxo

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  4. Bravo, girlfriend! First, let me say I'm glad you're back, safe & sound and hope your trip was all you hoped it would be. Second, I agree that so many breast cancer advocates have become rabid when it comes to pink ribbons and pink dollars. I don't have much to add to your blog, but since I had planned to write something along the same lines this week, I will go ahead and write it.

    XOXOXO,
    Brenda

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    1. Brenda,

      Thank you as always for cheering me on.... Pink rabies... what a great GREAT GREAT way to frame this conversation. Great post on your blog, too... going to comment now!

      xoxox

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  5. AnneMarie, it's so good to have you back. I hope your trip was refreshing and renewing.

    I felt about Dr. Love's cancer the same way I felt when I learned about Dr. Marissa Weiss's cancer (from breastcancer.org). You said it well: she can't be on that end of an iv line, can she?

    I, too, don't purchase pink ribbon products. Some are given to me, and I even hesitate about regifting them, when I know I am sending the wrong message. It's like regifting candy.

    Keep up the good work of getting the message out. Persistence pays! And never forget it!
    xoxo

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    1. Hi Jan.....

      It's easy to be persistent when I have people like you at my back..... I just want to see this scourge come to an end. I don't expect to see that day but I sure as hell intend upon leaving a solid foundation!!

      xoxox

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  6. Excellent post, AnneMarie. Very well said, and I love your father's wise words.

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    1. Thanks Catherine!!

      It means so much that my dad's words have been given new life especially now. July is a rough time for my family and it's quite comforting to remember those "dad-isms" that I often didn't understand until I heard them many times. When the aha moment hit, I would realize, "BRILLIANT!"

      xoxox

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  7. AnneMarie, I spent over a year at MD Anderson, and when I was there they have a special unit for Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC), and the ladies I met there where not alive at the end of that year. If American Airlines sends research money, wrapped in a big pink ribbon, especially marked for research for IBC, I cannot think of a better gift of research needs and donations. Now when you see two private jets, all wrapped in pink ribbons, sitting at Love Field, Dallas, during the Susan Komen 3-Day in Dallas, I really had a different thought process of how that money was being spent.
    They say our wisdom is inherited, you have your father's wise words.

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    1. Christine.... thank YOU for giving me a GREAT visual to punctuate the whole point! Private jets....... fabulous use of donor dollars. Private jets to transport the important people to and fro...... including, I'm sure..... to attorney's offices where even more donor dollars are being used to sue the little guys. This is what needs to stop and this is the stuff the world needs to hear and see.

      Your words about my dad are appreciated in ways I can't begin to describe.

      Hugs and love,
      AnneMarie

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