Eileen Z. Fuentes | The Business of Breast Cancer Awareness and Pink Ribbons
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10 Aug The Business of Breast Cancer Awareness and Pink Ribbons

Money, breast cancer awareness, and pink ribbons www.thespeach.com

Photo: Gaia Health

Since my breast cancer diagnosis in 2008, I intuitively felt uncomfortable with the use of pink ribbons. Well-intentioned friends and family flooded me with gifts displaying them and while I was grateful for their sincere efforts to support me, I never used those products. As time went on, I began getting e-mails from different companies with offers for me to purchase expensive items with the infamous ribbon. But I couldn’t help but wonder, where is my money going and shouldn’t I be receiving some of it to support my new health-supportive lifestyle? To add insult to injury, a friend who was diagnosed a year after I was invited me to “race for the cure” as she had committed herself and could not meet the minimum sponsorship amounts. Because she was going through chemotherapy and couldn’t handle the mental and physical exhaustion, she put a lot of money on her credit card (even though she was unable to work while in treatment) so that she could stop the constant harassment to pay up. This event and other similar ones caused me to investigate further and among other things, this is what I discovered about breast cancer fundraising and pinkwashing – A term used to describe a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.

You can click on each picture below and be redirected to articles and videos with additional information.

pink ribbon gun www.thespeach.compink ribbons kfc www.thespeach.comPromise Me Perfume pink ribbons www.thespeach.comyoplait pink ribbon www.thespeach.commikes hard lemonade pink ribbons www.thespeach.com

Komen has been publicly crumbling and what I’ve been saying out loud is quite visible to all. There have been resignations after resignations and just yesterday Nancy Brinker announced that she was assuming another position… overseeing fundraising?!?! Yeah okay… please excuse me while I throw up! I have to ask myself what would her deceased sister, for whom she began the organization, say? Actually she is on twitter and she constantly keeps me laughing.

So for those who ask how they can help, I will happily redirect you to the “Think Before You Pink” toolkit so that you can gain some historical information, wallet-sized cards with questions to ask before you buy and to learn more about the work no-pink wearing cancer survivors like myself have been trying to let you know for some time now. Keep in mind October is breast cancer awareness month and you will surely be inundated with lots of products proudly displaying pink ribbons in support of the cause… but mostly of their bottom line.

Suggested Reading: Komen By The Numbers: 2010 And Still No Answers | The Cancer Chronicles Culture

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Eileen Z. Fuentes

After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008, Eileen became her own Self-Healthcare Activist. She is an Integrative Cancer Coach and works full-time helping patients do more than just survive at Columbia University’s Cancer Center in New York City.

  • CancerBully
    Posted at 18:46h, 10 August Reply

    I completely agree that it has become a monster! But I titled my play PINK so I gotta love it a little!

    • Eileen
      Posted at 22:25h, 10 August Reply

      The difference is that you did it from your heart with the true intention of spreading awareness, particularly for the younger survivor population. All these years later, your vision is still clear… rock on (and I want to see Pink-Part II)!

  • Sofia Quintero aka Black Artemis
    Posted at 11:21h, 11 August Reply

    Before I was diagnosed, the pink ribbon inundation secretly irked me, but then out of guilt I would buy the pen, USB drive or whatever trinket. It all made me feel suspicious and unsettled. Looking back I actually think the relentlessness and commercialism of it all actually made me want to NOT think about breast cancer, After diagnosis I did start to investigate, and what I learned just made me actively pursue a distance that I already felt from this juggernaut of which I was supposed to be a beneficiary. And I DID benefit before Komen lost its mind and defunded Planned Parenthood because I was diagnosed because of referral through Planned Panrenthood Hence, my hot little letter to Komen during the debacle stating point blank, “So in reality you’re for the cure for all women except for working-class women of color like me with no insurance. We can just drop dead, right?” This is also not to say that there aren’t things about so-called pink ribbon culture that don’t resonate with me. But this branding of the cause that raises so much money for anything BUT the cure. No, ma’am, don’t expect me to register for your race any time soon. And the thought of a woman being under stress going into debt to raise money for Komen while she herself is still in treatment – I don’t care if you got Carte Blanche Health Care, if you’re not a multimillionaire, cancer will always stretch your finances in one way or other just disgusts me!

    Now here’s the ironic thing about the color pink. Its choice was probably one of the few things Komen did right. The original breast cancer awareness ribbon was salmon. When the woman who created it refused to get into bed with them, Komen actually asked women with breast cancer what color the ribbon should be. They chose pink – with all its cultural loading – which really shouldn’t surprise us regardless of how we feel about the color. That cultural loading is why they chose it, and we can’t fault Komen for that. We can fault Komen, however, for not more actively asking its primary constituency what we want about more substantive things — like where the money goes. Then again, I’m presuming that women in the throes of a BC journey are its primary constituency. With all the emphasis on early prevention as opposed to a cure, we may not be. Like i said, cancer treatment always generates cost so maybe those who have or have had BC don’t seemingly have the same disposable income as those who do not. Hence, we’re not as lucrative a market for their guns and chicken.

    • Eileen
      Posted at 12:47h, 11 August Reply

      This comment is equally as important as the post, if not more. You hit nearly every nail on the head and touched upon some of the details specifically related to;
      * working-class women of color with no insurance – POW!
      * the emphasis on early prevention as opposed to a cure – BOOM!
      My sister, we are definitely on the same page and I look forward to more of your observations as you continue your journey.

  • Aunt Clara
    Posted at 12:35h, 12 August Reply

    I hate it when people are browbeaten into supporting things, whatever that might be. In the long run it does not work, and it creates more ill-will than it solves anything. Thanks for speaking out on this.

    • Eileen
      Posted at 09:36h, 13 August Reply

      Thank you so much for the comment. I feel partially responsible (through my illness) to let others know that we are not benefiting from this pink ribbon madness.

      BTW, Can I just say that I am one of your biggest fans! You make me so proud to be a Dominicana… Un fuerte abrazo!

  • Olivia
    Posted at 23:10h, 16 January Reply

    PERSON!!! Yes, this organization may have its downsides but it has raised so much money and research to save lives and supporting the survivors and honoring the victims. This organization informs and helps to SAVE LIVES. You should not be bashing them. They are the organization that has helped bring up the survival rate to a 94%

    You should honor these people. Not speak badly of them.

    No one is forcing you to support them, it is entirely your choice but I wish that you do not continue with this hatred and negativity toward them when they are out there creating awareness, raising money for research, and working on finding a cure.
    They may not have helped you directly and you may be annoyed, but they have helped indirectly whether you realize it or not and they have helped so many others.

    • Eileen
      Posted at 23:18h, 16 January Reply

      Thank you for your comment. While I respectfully disagree, you are entitled to your opinion, but so am I. I wish you well.

  • Halona Black
    Posted at 12:45h, 17 January Reply

    A pink bucket of chicken??? And I was just confused by the pink gun… I agree with you that the marketing has gone too far. I lost my own mom to breast cancer when she was 49 and I never supported any pink campaigns. I have given cash to individual women who wanted assistance with seeking holistic health support. I have donated time to small community based organizations that were doing good work.

    • Eileen
      Posted at 13:06h, 17 January Reply

      You and I are cut from the same cloth… I rather cut the middle man out. It omits the confusion and gets resources directly where they need to be. Your mom taught you well. Thanks for the comment.

  • Jenell
    Posted at 22:12h, 04 November Reply

    Thanks Eileen for sharing this information, very eye opening. As a survivor or Thriver as you say

    • Eileen
      Posted at 23:52h, 08 November Reply

      I’m glad this resonated with you, Jenell.

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