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Theresa Larson I will continue to support, wear pink ribbon with pride

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Theresa Larson

Posted: Monday, November 1, 2010 12:00 am

A few years ago, I entered a local restaurant wearing my pink ribbons and denim in support of Geweke's Pink October fundraising efforts. The young man behind the counter expressed his pink ribbon fatigue, admitted he simply did not "get it," and stated he did not know what the fuss was all about.

I must have taken on a physical transformation that readily showed on my face and in my body language for the young man physically took a step back from the counter. I attempted to put a smile on my face, but the tone in my voice was definitely icy.

"I'll attribute your comment to your youth and I'll assume by your remark that you've been fortunate enough to never witness a loved one endure the ravages of breast cancer. For if you had, you might understand much better what all the pink ribbon 'fuss' is about. I am a breast cancer survivor and I pray to God you never have to experience any of this firsthand."

I think I may have undergone that same physical transformation last weekend as I read Joe Guzzardi's take on the sea of pink during the month of October. He called the displays of pink by the NFL "absurd" and the "pink effort misguided." He further stated that sale of pink ribbon items by corporate America is really all about cash register ringing.

I say, so what?

When I buy an item with a pink ribbon logo, I know that it is simply an item with a pink ribbon logo. If a company makes a bit of money off that, so what? Last time I checked, we are nation that is based on the concept of capitalism. If they donate any amount of money to any breast cancer foundation or organization, then so much the better.

I agree that there are organizations touting themselves to be fundraisers for the cause, and with some of those organizations, very little ever makes it to the programs that benefit breast cancer patients or research programs. To that I say, "caveat emptor." If you're concerned about claims of donations to breast cancer causes, do your homework, ask the questions, get your answers. But painting ALL fundraising efforts with the same ugly brush of disdain is simply unfair.

The Geweke foundation does a marvelous job of raising funds to help with financial support of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The Stockton Thunder dons pink jerseys during the first weekend in November and donates proceeds to the mobile mammography unit from St. Joseph Hospital. Cleavage Creek Winery donates 10 percent of gross sales to breast cancer programs and research. Yoplait Yogurt, Ford Motor Company and Avon. There are many businesses and organizations that do a fine job of supporting breast cancer programs and research.

Joe seems to be stating that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater, because despite all the money that has been raised and spent during the pink wave of Octobers, we are no closer to finding a cure.

He's right, there is no cure. But there has been progress.

Thanks to research, a targeted therapy for aggressive HER2neu breast cancers has been found. Thanks to research, a genetic mutation for breast and ovarian cancer, called BRCA, was discovered. Thanks to advances in treatment and early detection, fewer women are dying of breast cancer. Thanks to studies about the dangers of hormone therapy, fewer women are being diagnosed with the disease. Thanks to advances in surgical techniques, women are no longer butchered when their breasts need to be removed. And I attribute all of this to the widespread, loudly insistent voices of women (and quite a few men) spreading the wave of pink during October.

Does it detract from funding research and support for other cancers as Joe has asserted? I think not. Instead it serves as an example of what can be done when people band together. And cancer research in one area often leads to cancer discoveries and applications in another.

For me, as a breast cancer survivor, the pink ribbon is a symbol. It has evolved over time from its infancy as the symbol of fundraising to fight cancer. It has become a symbol of hope, a symbol of achievement, a symbol of survivorship and a symbol of sisterhood. The pink movement is a way and means of bringing women together as one cohesive force to keep breast cancer in the limelight, in order to force changes in treatment and advances in research, and provide support to thousands of women battling this disease.

And, I for one, will proudly continue to spread the pink wave.

Theresa Larson is the News-Sentinel's director of administration.

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