October is breast cancer awareness month, and Marcia Strassman has died after a seven year battle with the disease. The actress, best known for her roles as Julie Kotter in “Welcome Back, Kotter” and as Diane Szalinski in the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” franchise, was 66 years old. She was originally given two and a half years to live. October is breast cancer awareness month, and I suspect Marcia’s family is very aware of the insidious nature of breast cancer. What, exactly, are we doing about it?
We live in a nation where money is the bottom line. Above all else – above health, wellness, and doing the right thing – our first concern is how can we make money off this? This has never been clearer than with the emergence of the color pink in reference to breast cancer. All year long you can find pink ribbons emblazoned on your yogurt, water bottles, phone cases, and apparel. Companies and products have a constant rotation of promotions – 1% of this purchase goes to breast cancer awareness, or the option to donate $1 to breast cancer awareness at the checkout of your grocery store – never more so than they do in the month of October. Employers may offer their employees the option of wearing jeans to work for a week for a $5 donation that will be donated to breast cancer awareness. You can purchase limited edition products from every retailer you can imagine, all with some portion of proceeds going to fund breast cancer awareness. Okay, well, now everyone is aware of and can associate a pink ribbon with breast cancer and we are still losing people to breast cancer.
Where is this “awareness” money going? Hopefully to research, right? Wrong. A simple Google search of the major breast cancer foundations will bring up some disappointing stories. Who can forget when, in 2012, Susan G. Komen, major proponent of “early detection is your best protection” campaign, pulled hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from Planned Parenthood – one of the nation’s leading providers of preventative health care services for low-income women. The National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc has been unable to avoid controversy, either, with reports of hiring family members for nondescript jobs like “senior consultant” and paying them six figures for all that “consulting.” And don’t even get me started on “Save the ta-tas” and “Save the boobies.” No. SAVE THE WOMEN WITH CANCER. Remember that time Angelina Jolie went public about her desicion to have a double mastectomy in an effort to avoid the very disease she watched kill her mother? Remember how everyone lauded her for her sound decision-making and for being proactive with her personal health? Yeah, me neither, since what actually happened is hundreds of thousands of idiots lost their minds and spent weeks frothing at the mouth in outrage that a woman would have the audacity to remove the very breasts that make her a woman. Those campaigns are distracting, objectify women, and overlook the most important part of cancer: the person who has it.
The bottom line is that being aware of and acknowledging breast cancer will not cure breast cancer. We use words like “battle with breast cancer” and “cancer survivor” as though those who succumb to breast cancer were weak – were quitters. For all the awareness we have about breast cancer, Marcia Strassman still died. She leaves behind her sister, brother, daughter to grieve for her while the rest of us eat yogurt and pat ourselves on the back for our commitment to women’s health. Think before you pink and always be aware of where your money is being spent. Lives depend on it.