Saturday, October 13, 2012

MBC Awareness Day - The Darkside of the Pink Ribbon-Fest


Today, October 13th, is Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. YES, this select subset of Journeyers get one day out of the entire Pinktober-fest. One day out out of 31, to bring attention to that form of breast cancer that claims the lives of women & men at an average rate of 40,000 per year. That significant statistic is only for the U.S. Approximately 470,000 die each year world-wide. Such little attention has, historically, been given to MBC - either in "awareness" or in research. MBC is the dark underside of the Pink Ribbon. I do not often paraphrase Stalin, actually, this is my first time, but it seems fitting. Sadly, in the world of MBC, one death is a tragedy but thousands seem to be merely a statistic.

I wrote the following in February 2010 - just over 6 months after my initial diagnosis; while I was still in the throws of multiple surgeries; and while I was still in the midst of embracing my own cancer journey. This was in response to the dearth of information and mis-information that I was having to contend with as I groped my way along a well-chartered, but equally mystifying path. It seemed apropos to reprint again, as I continue to stumble along the routeway of MBC.

Please to Meet You...Can You Guess My Game?

You pay homage to me
With candlelight's,
With relays, and
Pale pink parades.
You go through these motions, notions
and emotions half-veiled and dazed.
Caring, yet not comprehending the dark nature of my true game.

I have marched on,
I have latched on,
I live due to the choices you have made.
You're dumb-founded and scared, and
Emboldened and brazen.
And I enjoy this pink badge of honor,
Celebrating the carnage left in my wake.
Yet you don't seem to understand when you meet me,
Thou you flippantly market my game.

You clamor to the life I've taken -
Fear gripping you like a vise,
Yet celebrating with ribbons and vigils
And solemn events to light up the night.
Yet I still seize, clutch, and penetrate,
Creating breastless creatures with the disease I rake.
And in response you raise your banners and tie your pink laces,
Feigning a civilized calm, within the din of despair,
Yielding and railing at the call of my name.

I enjoy an enviable market niche,
A public relations dream with a broad reach.
I bring many persons together
To walk,
To share,
To cry, and
To prescribe.
Together you'll meet me, step-to defeat me and fight,
While still shunning from the meaning of the game that I play,
For the "greater purpose" you cling to me me, giving life to my name.

I'm embraced,
I'm battled,
I'm run for, and against.
I raise warriors in pink,
I raze survivors inside and out.
You speak awareness of who I am,
Yet I'm still the ever uninvited guest.
You know me, but you choose not to see,
Past the Madison Avenue glitz; and
In the whispers of your fears, my name is endorsed on your lips.

You make me t-shirts and teddy bears,
Coffee cups and pins
You celebrate my name,
In the hopes that YOU will win?
I'm on bracelets and billboards,
T.V. ads and magazines.
You use me to bond women together,
Through hats, key chains and I.V. scenes.
You want to be rid of me, wrench me from your breast,
While still elevating my name like some personal test.

You breathe and drink me, in
The chemicals you create.
The ones that both heal and do harm.
You willingly open your body to my sin.
Your lust for luxuries simply invites me in.
Through cosmetics,
Beauty creams,
Hair color,
Deodorants, and
You gulp me down in plastic bottles.
Swallow me hungrily in pills.
You ingest me in the foods you eat,
And still,
You come gripped with shock and dismay,
And curse when you greet me,
Still stoically refusing to take personal ownership of my game!

I bring sorrow,
You bring hope -
And wrap yourself in courage desperately borrowed.
I bring profit -
Greedily spawned from your daughters,
Yet you say you know me, with no knowledge.
And you keep coming to me in droves,
Throwing away your intuition,
Innate sense and well being, no longer trusting your own.
You claw at and cling to the coattails of Big Pharma,
Opening your veins up to the corporate dogma.
Good patients burn flesh and sear mind under the guise of a pink banner,
And savor Red Devil cocktails, while
Quality of life becomes nothing but face-book banter, of
Buzz words, fly-bys, statistics, wigs, and trials,
As you uncomfortably nestle blindly in my surreal guile.

Am I nature,
Am I man-made, or
A product of freakish DNA?
You don't know,
You don't ask,
You lock-step on.
You want only to walk on the pink runway,
Fear as your drum.
All the while feeling empowered,
Rallying with the pink-media monster, who
Romanticizes the call,
To join the growing roster forged in my name,
And trust that I am very pleased to shroud you in the nature of my game!

- TCShanker (aka "TC")
February, 2010

# # #

To gain greater insight into the MBC Community; the grass roots movements to educate the general as well the Pink-Public as to MBC; and to make this deadly aspect of breast cancer a priority in funding & research, please explore the following resources. Thank you for taking the time this October 13th, and beyond.


From support groups to funding vital research, our programs sustain the power of hope. Passionately committed patients ourselves, we rally public attention to the urgent needs of the metastatic breast cancer (MBC) community, help patients find strength through support and purpose, and make EVER dollar count as we work with researchers to regain longevity with quality of life.

Metastatic Breast Cancer Network

MBCN is a national, independent, nonprofit, patient advocacy group dedicated to the unique concerns of the women and men living with metastatic breast cancer . We strive to help those living with stage IV breast cancer be their own best advocate through providing education and information on treatments and coping with the disease.
National Foundation for Cancer Research
Even after successful removal of a primary tumor, cancer patients still live under the constant fear that a few cancer cells have escaped the surgery, and that these cells may eventually become secondary tumors in other locations of the body. Presently, there has been insufficient research on the root cause of metastasis, which means that there are no effective medical strategies to prevent or stop cancer once it has spread. Although chemotherapy drugs are used to inhibit the cancer metastasis, this form of treatment often leads to debilitating side effects which diminish the quality of life for patients and their families.

There is an urgent need f or better methods to prevent and treat metastasis. Due to the complex nature of this aspect of cancer, extensive research collaboration among scientists is essential to tackle this problem. Critical as it is, research funding in this field is severely limited. Of the $6.2 billion dollars allocated to the National Cancer Institute for cancer research, less than 1% of that budget focuses on research trying to understand the fundamental mechanisms of cancer metastasis.

The metastasis of cancer cells is the greatest cause of lethality from tumors. Despite this fact, metastasis remains a relatively understudied area with a corresponding lack of understanding of the metastatic process. The research presented above has already provided new insights into the causes and mechanisms of cancer cell metastasis.



  1. Uhhh did you write that? It's pretty incredible, and even if you didn't, you could have - it's that good. Thanks for sharing, and keep it up! The entire internet is waiting with baited breath to see how this turns out!

  2. Yes, I will take full blame for the composition. I was grooving to the Stones, which was my inspiration for the above.

    No one person's breath is more "baited" than mine! ;+P

    Thanks for your thoughts and words.

  3. Amazing. Absolutely stunning. Grotesque. More of this please!

  4. Yes! And where are the voices telling the truth like this out loud? What is the manifesto of Commercica, the home of the naive? We hook into the intravenous of commercial message, our sustenance, our faith!

  5. (The following is UNBELIEVABLE! Any further question as to why I am NOT a good "Pink Warrior"?)

    Dear Tamera,

    Tell KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure to stop pinkwashing!

    We've seen a lot of outrageous stuff here at BCA, but we've never seen pink buckets of fried chicken being sold to "cure breast cancer". KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure are telling us to buy buckets of unhealthy food to cure a disease that kills women. It's preposterous, and we have to tell them to stop.

    KFC's "Buckets for the Cure" campaign is an especially tasteless example of pinkwashing--when a company purports to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribboned product, but manufactures products that are linked to the disease. Make no mistake--every pink bucket purchase will do more to benefit KFC's bottom line than it will to cure breast cancer.

    This pinkwashing is especially egregious because KFC, like most fast food chains, is overwhelmingly present in communities that have poor health outcomes. Susan G. Komen for the Cure knows that social inequities affect breast cancer mortality rates. Given this disconnect, we are especially disturbed by this partnership.

    Pinkwashing has hit a new low. Together we can stop it. Write to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and KFC to tell them what you think of this pinkwashing partnership.
    To learn more about pinkwashing and the problems with breast cancer cause marketing, check out our Think Before You Pink™ campaign.

    Thank you for standing up for women's health.

    Be well,
    Breast Cancer Action

  6. Love the stones; this was one of my favorite songs. You did a job on this that I have no words for. I want to tell my oncologist to read what you have written. Just keep doing what you are doing. I am telling everyone I see, who asks me to contribute to 'pink October", the reasons why I won't do that.
    I noticed your last name; that was my maiden name, minus the 'er' on the end of "Shank".

    1. Hi Ms. Shank! My 11 yr old's nickname on his soccer team is "The Shank" (partly because he is only 4'4"). Pinktober brings out some interesting ideas of "support". A social worker that I have a professional relationship blurted out to me after a court hearing one day: "Oh...I am going to have a pink weave put in my hair for October, In honor of you and [J - a colleague who was diagnosed with DCIS -0-]!" She was so excited, and genuine in this "honor" all I could do was smile and respond, "cool." Keep being scrappy Dee! ;)

  7. I promise that I will keep being scrappy and I know you will be, too!