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Joe Guzzardi Have we become obsessively pink?

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Joe Guzzardi

Posted: Saturday, October 23, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 6:53 am, Sat Oct 23, 2010.

Since last year's October Breast Cancer Awareness month, I've gone from weary of pink to turned off by it. Pink ribbons have become a more visible symbol of autumn than the pumpkin.

What I am about to write is subject to misinterpretation, so I'll start by clarifying. My mother, two of my sisters and numerous friends have survived the breast cancer scourge. When I lived in Lodi, I was on the Board of Directors of the local American Cancer Society.

In short, I'm "aware" of breast cancer. But since only my family and closest friends know of my personal involvement, I'm considering painting my house pink so I'll be in step with the rest of the nation.

To give you a few examples of how comical pink is, last Saturday I tuned into watch NCAA football. The University of Michigan head coach, Rich Rodriguez, wore a pink cap. That evening, I turned to the major league baseball play-off; the announcers wore plastic pink ribbons on their lapels. Then on Sunday afternoon, the most absurd spectacle of all: 300-pound NFL players had pink shoes on.

I'm sure the American Cancer Society doesn't want people laughing at its deadly serious message. But it's hard not to shake my head in dismay at how misguided the pink effort is while I'm being engulfed by it on television, in magazines and at the mall.

Fortunately, advocates more influential than me are urging common sense. Medical sociologist Gayle A. Sulik's new book, "Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health," fears that pink sends the wrong message to an uninformed America. On her website, Sulik wrote: "The pervasiveness of the pink ribbon campaign leads many people to believe that the fight against breast cancer is progressing, when in truth it's barely begun."

Sulik is skeptical about what she calls the "financial incentives that keep the war on breast cancer profitable." The Susan G. Komen Foundation, Sulik reports, annually sponsors over 125 annual "Races for the Cure" But the events have more than 200 corporate partners that Sulik speculates may present a conflict of interest.

Without question, part of pink is financial gain. Whether it's a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company or a trinket manufacturer, the cash register is ringing. On Amazon, more than 3,000 pink items are for sale, many in bulk for "fund raising purposes." For $200, upscale shoppers can buy a sterling silver, three dimensional Breast Cancer Awareness Hershey's Kiss pendant. Or you can sell "pink" on eBay and help a cancer nonprofit.

Although most vendors pledge that some percentage of their profits will be donated to cancer charities, my educated guess is that the shared sum is small compared to the profits reaped. Every time I see anything pink, I imagine an assembly line worker somewhere in a distant Third World country cranking out ribbons 14 hours a day for pennies in salary.

Another activist group, the Washington, D.C.-based National Breast Cancer coalition, has set as its goal eliminating the disease by 2020. While that may be too optimistic, the organization urges Americans to "peel back the pink and go beyond awareness to into action to end breast cancer."

Here's food for thought. According to National Institute of Health estimates, in the United States during 2010, 207,090 women and 1,970 men will get breast cancer while 39,840 women and 390 men will likely die from the disease. The estimated 2010 cases of prostate cancer — all affecting men — is higher: 217,730 cases from which 32,050 will die.

Yet in fiscal year 2009, breast cancer research received $872 million in federal funding. Prostate cancer received $390 million.

Breast cancer is a terrifying and often fatal disease that deserves our attention. But too much pink hurts the cause. And it deflects concern from other deadly forms of cancer.

Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008. He is a Senior Writing Fellow at Californians for Population Stabilization. Contact him at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Brian Dockter posted at 9:14 am on Thu, Oct 28, 2010.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866

    Joanne wrote:

    Careful mentioning bananas, Mr. Baumbach. Mr. Docktor will think that you are pro-Islam!!

    -Perhaps Joanne could give us an example where I have criticized those for being pro-Islam. Her ignorance of the radical elemements of Islam is troubling. That's the issue I have with Islam.

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 6:24 am on Thu, Oct 28, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Jerome, thank you for your thoughts in regards to life. When you stated ..."starting point to actually live your life - you know, "live, love, laugh." Start to realize that what was once important may not be so much anymore"...it hits home. To me, that wisdom applies to most situations. When I live in Asian villages, and mingle and share time with people who have problems we cannot normally imagine in USA, I have the same reaction. What we think is important is often meaningless when we learn how fragile and short life is, and that are reality is always in jeopardy. I’m soon going back to Asia and will stay for a long time in remote areas, where I can experience something important and meaningful. Your story is inspirational to me as you have not given up and also choose to share your experiences with others. Thank you for your advice.

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 10:53 am on Wed, Oct 27, 2010.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    The following comments are offered to provide information and perhaps even help those who are either facing cancer or have friends or loved ones who have been invaded by this scourge on mankind. I will not enter into a debate regarding my own personal battle; any attempt to do so will be met with absolute silence from me.

    Yes Ms. Bobin, different cancers require different approaches to treatment. For me, since the disease metastasized to the left side of my neck and invaded muscle tissue as well as numerous lymph nodes, surgery was performed (modified radical neck dissection). To address the primary tumors (base of tongue (just like Michael Douglas) and left tonsil (unlike Michael Douglas)), a seven-week course of chemotherapy (Cisplatin) and radiation were successful so that I have recently entered my fifth year in remission. Other types of cancers don't respond at all to the type and duration of what I needed - even those with the identical cancer that I have won't necessarily enjoy the same result. Other factors having nothing to do with the disease (personal habits such as drinking and smoking) or geographic location, body weight, and a host of other variables can either improve or lessen the chances of survival. Incidentally, my own use of tobacco and alcohol during my lifetime was zero for the former and minimal as to the latter, yet squamous cell carcinoma typically affects those who have excessively partaken in these products.

    This is why the fight against ALL cancers should be given appropriate attention. But with all of the pretty ribbons that adorn lapels and automobiles and elsewhere, the first course of action is to be aware of changes in one's own body. We ARE our best advocates for all health care matters. It was only by chance that I found a lump on the left side of my neck. How we live our lives will most certainly make a difference as well. If you smoke, do whatever it takes to stop. If you drink, do so in moderation. If you love tasty but fatty foods, consume those in moderation as well. And try to lose weight. I'm of the opinion that as we age, our bodies’ immune systems begin to wear down to the point where the chances of cancer increase with each passing year; in fact I believe there is empirical data to support this contention.

    If your doctor insists that the lump you found is nothing more than a cyst, make him/her prove it to your satisfaction. Make your health-care providers understand that you're an adult and as such you ARE capable of handling the truth. No sugar-coating. Information is everyone's best chance at survival.

    And while the realization that you have become a victim is Earth shattering and your life will never ever be the same again, it doesn't mean the end is near. In fact, try to use your disease as a starting point to actually live your life - you know, "live, love, laugh." Start to realize that what was once important may not be so much anymore. And those who love you need your support almost as much as you will certainly need theirs.

  • Joshua Hutchison posted at 10:46 pm on Tue, Oct 26, 2010.

    Joshua Hutchison Posts: 57

    If I thought this man had a sense of humor, I would call this an interesting satire of a a serious issue. Unfortunately a bitter man like Joe can't even find a visual like a group a men with pink shoes for the spectacle that it is. Perhaps Joe would appreciate a more traditional funding method: 30 second spots, mailers, telemarketing, storefronts and a telethon. If Breast Cancer would just compete in the free market Joe could respect it. Somehow he uses the success of a multi-faceted campaign by people who creatively raise money to make it seem as though support for one research implies apathy for another. A false conflict. As if people wearing pink has a negative effect on leukemia, prostate cancer, colon cancer...etc

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 12:28 pm on Tue, Oct 26, 2010.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Careful mentioning bananas, Mr. Baumbach. Mr. Docktor will think that you are pro-Islam!!

    This perfectly exemplifies why Mr. Docktor's comments should never be responded to. I broke my own "DO NOT ENGAGE BRIAN DOCKTOR" law. Shame on me!

    As for cancer, I would hope that cancer research overlaps - I admit that I am just an unknowledable lay person when it comes to cancer, I would think that there are multiple types of cancer, meaning the actual cells, not the location, that would respond to the same drug(s). Maybe Mr. Kinderman could inform me?

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:14 am on Tue, Oct 26, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Manuel, only you could have possibly interpreted what I said as intending to think something perverted. The thought did not enter my mind until you made your comment. I was trying to be nice... sorry for the gaff, Ill try to be more hostile to you in the future if that is what you prefer. I thought that your comment that I referenced was a good one, appropriate and of good intent.... so I was trying to respond in kind. But sense you think I am bananas... I can see why you think... the way you do.

  • Manuel Martinez posted at 6:41 pm on Sun, Oct 24, 2010.

    Manuel Martinez Posts: 641

    ...was that meant to be taken as perverted? If so, the subsequent smile is creepy...

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 2:53 pm on Sun, Oct 24, 2010.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9405

    Ivan Petrovich Pavlov would be proud... this has got to be Pavlogs dog syndrome. If Joe Guzzardi writes an article, some people begin salivation.

    Joe was just a making a point that sometimes political correctness is superficial and people should be more aware of actual problems people have and help accordingly.

    I also appreciate Jerome’s sentiment that each day should be appreciated and respected. .. Even if I now have to imagine what Manuel may or may not lick . (smile)

  • Brian Dockter posted at 2:19 pm on Sun, Oct 24, 2010.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866

    Joanne wrote:

    And what color ribbons will we use for Radical Islam Awareness? Or will it just be the crescent and star logo?

    -You're on the right track. A circle with a slash would complete it. That might offend you though. Even though you wouldn't have a problem with a cross with a circle and a slash for Radical Christian Awareness.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 2:13 pm on Sun, Oct 24, 2010.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866

    Oh Joanne,

    David Horowitz has for the past few years had Radical Islam Awareness week at many Universities. Does it chap your hyde that he dares to put the Muslim Brotherhood under the microscope.?

  • Brian Dockter posted at 2:08 pm on Sun, Oct 24, 2010.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866


    Are you suggesting the NFL would never misappropriate funds for Breast Cancer Awareness like they did with the United Way some years back?

  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 9:27 pm on Sat, Oct 23, 2010.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    I don't know of anyone not aware of breast cancer. And like Mr. Guzzardi, my mother also had this disease. But it does seem like certain diseases are largely ignored or at least minimized until a celebrity, politician or someone of "importance" contracts the disease.

    When I contracted my own form of stage IV cancer four years ago, I had never heard of squamous cell carcinoma. But now that Michael Douglas is enduring the same type of disease and with it the very same type of cure (chemotherapy and radiation - but not the neck dissection that I "enjoyed"), perhaps a SCC ribbon will find its way onto the lapels of Americans. I kind of like the color blue.

    What I do know is this: when one receives the news that they have cancer - it doesn't matter what kind it is, where it is or even what stage it might be - it's still cancer and at least for a moment our hearts seem to come to a halt. But from that moment on, each day being alive is a wondrous event, if we let it be. Of course when we're reminded that we are not alone with whatever brand we might be fighting, it at least helps a little more.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 3:12 pm on Sat, Oct 23, 2010.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    To make Mr. Guzzardi happy, maybe we should have the ag types develop a pink pumpkin!

    Mr. Guzzardi wrote: "But the events have more than 200 corporate partners that Sulik speculates may present a conflict of interest." Could you expand on that provocative statement a little, Mr. Guzzardi? Making such a blanket statement without any type of explanation leaves me wondering...or are you suggesting we buy Ms. Sulik's book to find out?

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 3:07 pm on Sat, Oct 23, 2010.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    At least you could spell "feminize" correctly.

    And what color ribbons will we use for Radical Islam Awareness? Or will it just be the crescent and star logo? Though that might get too confusing for obvious reasons.

  • Manuel Martinez posted at 9:28 am on Sat, Oct 23, 2010.

    Manuel Martinez Posts: 641

    So what color ribbons do I use and what Yoplait colored lids do I lick to bring awareness to prostate cancer? (This ought to be fun)

  • Brian Dockter posted at 8:25 am on Sat, Oct 23, 2010.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866

    If we were spend only a fraction of the time we spend on Breast cancer awareness
    and devote it to Radical Islam Awareness we would be far more likely to rid the world
    of a far more existential threat.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 7:40 am on Sat, Oct 23, 2010.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866

    I see all this pink as yet another attempt to femenize society. Men get breasty cancer too.


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