Happiness is an empty fruit basket filled with cat.

August 1, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness FB Game? Who are we Kidding?

And what a day I had today!

Birthday, homework, work, Facebook, get spat upon by people claiming to care about breast cancer awareness, state my case, get unfriended by said people who claim to care about breast cancer awareness....and so on.

People are weird.

But, the whole thing did turn out to be quite the sociological experiment.  I am an anthropologist at heart.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, there are these insipid FB games going around that are supposed to raise awareness for breast cancer.  But for those of us who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, they can be pretty insulting.  And for those who have not been diagnosed, they seem to offer a non-challenging, albiet well-meaning, feel-good, "oh look at how wonderful I am," easy thing to do that doesn't cost them anything.

The first time around we were asked to post our bra color.  Um, really?  For a bunch of women who no longer have breasts, this can be kind of hurtful.

Then there was the one where we were supposed to say, "I like it on" and then list where we put our purses.  "I like it on the kitchen table."  Or some other stupid nonsense.  Mildly risque?  Because NOTHING says sexy better than mutilated bodies!

And now we're supposed to list our shoe size.  So, women's FB statuses will say "7 inches," etc.  Again, could be mildly suggestive.  And shoe size has EVERYTHING to do with whether or not you will survive cancer.  EVERYTHING

(Edited to add the new game) The latest game has women state their birth month number as weeks and then say they are craving their favorite candy.  So, mine would be "I'm 8 weeks and craving Reese's Peanut Butter Cups." This is supposed to make people think you are pregnant.  What, exactly does this have to do with breast cancer awareness???  Here's some awareness for you: young women undergoing cancer treatment often lose their fertility due to surgery and/or the side-effects of the treatments.  So after having their ability to ever have children taken away from them, you want them to now participate in this awful game that makes people assume these women are pregnant.  WTH?  Grow up, Facebookers!

(Back to the original post)
So, here's where the sociology experiment comes in.

My cancer chick friends like to post about these games and, oh how we laugh.  We post something in response about how these games do nothing to raise awareness and help no one and how they are often hurtful to those diagnosed with breast cancer - to trivialize the deaths of our friends, etc.  And after posting, wow!  Sit back and watch the fireworks go! 

You see, people support breast cancer awareness, just not actual people with breast cancer.

Today I posted what I thought was a well-worded, but strong (in order to get attention) response to the shoe size absurdity.  The result was a whole lot of people jumping to support the person who had posted the game, and not one single person saying, "Oh!  I had no idea."  Not asking for an apology, or anything, just trying to, I don't know...RAISE AWARENESS FOR ACTUAL BREAST CANCER

I was called bitter and angry (I'm not).  And then, the woman who posted the game unfriended me.  Because, apparently, it was all my fault (I assume).  How dare that breast cancer survivor tell us our breast cancer games are offensive!  The nerve!  We know better than those breast cancer survivors!

And don't think this was an isolated occurrence.  It has been the result for most of us who have posted a "please don't" response to these games.

So, here's the real deal - those games do not raise money for breast cancer research.  They do not save lives.  They don't do anything.

If you want to show your support for breast cancer awareness, donate money to charities that are helping actual people get mammograms/ultrasounds/MRIs.  Donate your TIME.  Clean a cancer patient's house, cook them some food, take the children for an afternoon.  But don't think that saying "7 inches" on your FB page is doing anyone any good.  One person said that "it's better than doing nothing." 

No, it isn't.

Here is exactly what I wrote that inspired the craziness:

As a breast cancer survivor connected to hundreds of other young
women diagnosed with breast cancer, I can tell you that we hate
these games.

Our lives are not games. Our friends have died.

These games do nothing to up awareness for breast cancer.

Instead of participating in these so-called games (that often
offend cancer survivors), please donate money to charities that
are out there working hard to help those diagnosed with cancer.
The Pink Daisy Project is a grass roots charity that helped me
when I could no longer pay my bills after (Edited for privacy) all because of cancer.

Don't trivialize our struggles by making them a game. Shoe size
has nothing to do with breast cancer awareness.

If you've read this far, then take a look at what this woman wrote. She's a much better writer than I am:


  1. Arlyn, clearly you are better off being unfriended by so-called friends who are utterly clueless. What gets me is when actual breast cancer survivors think this is "cute" and "fun." Not. I don't know if it's really that they just don't want to be accused of having no sense of humor or don't want to be accused of being bitter, like you were, or what. I certainly won't be unfriending you anytime soon! We're on the same page on this one, sistah. And for those who think we have no sense of humor, I refer them to my profile photo in which I am wearing my prosthesis on the outside of my clothes. Kind of an 80's Madonna look, I think...but then, I'm an Aries, so I don't really give a rodent's derriere if someone accuses me of being bitter either. I've been accused of much worse. As have you, I'm sure.

  2. Huh! I remember those games. I didn't participate because I thought they were stupid. I think the raise awareness thing is pointless in general, whether it's cancer or fluorescent popsicles made by impoverished beekeepers. One of my favorites is those "Support the troops" stickers on people's cars. What the hell does THAT mean? Oh, I look forward to the time when you expose all the pink things in that cancer awareness month, Arlyn. ;-)

  3. Bethany, I don't think I will be able to out-do the Pinktober event that my friend Tasha stages on her blog. I'll have to find some other sarcastic outlet that month. :)

  4. Kathi, well, I can't speak for others, though I do frequently. :) I think that many breast cancer survivors lie in order to keep on keeping on. And other truly just don't see a problem with it. A few years ago, I would have just ignored the whole thing. But now that I have a circle of survivor friends, I'm exposed a lot more to what others think and feel, and that has shaped my opinion, too. But if I were just some lone survivor without a sistahnet, I wouldn't think twice about it.

  5. If they really wanted to raise awareness, why don't they just say "Hey, as you put on your shoes today, think about walking to your gyno and making that all important appointment for a mammogram...if you have, great! If you haven't....get going!" That would raise awareness.... and really, in this day and age, who isn't aware that 1 in 4 women will experience breast cancer?

  6. You hit the nail on the head, girlfriend. Well said.

  7. I am a breast cancer survivor and even before I was ever diagnosed, I found cancer no matter to laugh at or play games with. I had many people praying for me, making me meals and taking me to and from treatments last year. Maybe we should start a breast cancer awareness blog/post that just says I agree to pray, make a meal, run and errand or just lend an ear to a person who is going facing/going through cancer and treatments. I think sometimes people just don't what to do and they really think they are showing support. We just need to educate them~

  8. Missy and Teresa - those are excellent ideas. The next time one of these games starts going around, we can post a message like those mentioned.

  9. I really think people mean well, cancer is a very scarey word.... many people just do not know what to do or say when they find out someone has cancer. I am certainly not knocking the many family/friends that were there for me throught this fight. My breast cancer was caught very early because I do have annual checkups. Yes, I still had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation, but now I am one year out past chemo and will be one year out at the end of September for radiation treatments.... and yes, I still have friends who are not going for their annual checkups!! That's one thing I will never understand.

  10. Teresa, I found out at my 3 year mark that my best friend had not had a mammo in 10 years. WTH? And, she has a family history. Cancer is just too scary for many. Anyway, I wish you tons of healing success.

  11. "The first time around we were asked to post our bra color. Um, really? For a bunch of women who no longer have breasts, this can be kind of hurtful."

    Arlyn, when I saw the bra-color game the first time I was furious. I said to my wife (a 5-year survivor) it was the same as asking for "awareness" of child abductions by listing the names of your own children. You have brought up some wonderful points here, and I hope it makes people think before they participate in such games... Dave, husband of Cathy <3

  12. Thank you, Dave! I took a lot of flack for my post in the group that was promoting the shoe-size game. One woman said that me and my friends should be excluded from receiving any benefits from the money raised through these games. Who says things like that?? Anyway, you sound like a very supportive husband.

  13. As a stage IV gal, I am sickened by the ignorance of that woman! Does she know that I have a terminal illness? Does she know that breast cancer will kill me, be it now or 5 years from now? Does she know that I am deemed "incurable"? Does she know I will be on some form of treatment for the rest of my life? Does she know that most of the money raised through any organization goes to prevention and early detection? Does she know that I pray every night for the chance to see my 18 month old son start school? I hate to ask for more because I know I'm asking for a lot when I hope for 4 more years. She does NOT know. All that most people know are the things the media (and Komen) want her to know. My story is seldom heard because you can't tie my life up in a pretty pink ribbon and call me cured. Cancer has destroyed my security.... Am I bitter? Maybe a little but I am living my life the best way I know how with the time I have left. Thanks for an awesome post. That woman doesn't deserve to have you as a friend and she lost someone wonderful when she unfriended you....
    Thank you for trying to educate people! ~Cristin

  14. Love to you, Cristin. I can't even begin to imagine what living with stage 4 disease is like. I support YOU. (Not your shoe size)

  15. Wow! Arlyn, your original post didn't read angry or bitter to me at all. I would have been as surprised as you at the response. I'm so sorry that they were "snitty" with you (for lack of better words on a blog :). It's funny to me when people who say they want to support a cause about health don't actually want to hear from the people who have the disease.
    ~Stephanie (YSC-er)

  16. God bless you Arlyn! My mother (I can say with much pride) is an 11 year survivor!!! I do not participate despite the numerous requests I get to do so. I listened to her vomit all night trying to hide her illness from us and then watch her rise in the morning before her children only to pretend as if all was OK, go to another treatment, and then WORK in the afternoon! My mother, as all cancer survivors, are the amazing and should be honored for the battle they have fought. I honor you and your circle and may you have continued health. I hope that someday all people will see your perspective! Blessings!

  17. Thank you, Allismom! And tons of love to you and your incredible mom.