16. Loss and Remembering: A Story of Heather Beyer

After Pink Ribbon Blues came out, Bill Noren periodically sent me photos, news items, and other tidbits about pink ribbon culture that concerned him. Several of the images and photos that are sprinkled throughout the Pink Ribbon Blues Blog and in the ever-expanding photo gallery came from him. Last Spring, Bill sent me some news stories about Heather Beyer and told me how it represented, for him, a turn in public culture that not only glorified survivorship but actually hid the real difficulties people faced. I said: “Why don’t you write about it for Pink Ribbon Blues?” He did. Here is Bill Noren’s essay: “Loss and Remembering: The Story of Heather Beyer.”

Heather Beyer

Last Spring, I came upon a sad story that stuck with me for some time. A young woman named Heather Beyer died on April 30, 2011 at the age of 27 from an aggressive form of breast cancer. Though Heather was young, she touched many lives during her grievously short lifetime. The story I recount here comes mainly from the Orange County Register, which followed Heather’s story and the support she received.

Heather Beyer was a cheerleader for a professional sports team, the Los Angeles Angels. In 2009 she began coaching cheerleading at Tesoro High School. When she married Deputy Nate Beyer of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department soon after, Heather had nine cheerleaders as her bridesmaids. Only five months later Heather was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. She received treatment and everyone in her midst hoped for remission. Then, she died. It still breaks my heart to think about it. Young. Newly married. The picture of health. It’s tragic.

Heather’s story was sad enough, but when I read articles about her experience and saw the numerous photos and slideshows that accompanied them I felt even worse. I saw a sick young woman in a headscarf in the midst of festive crowds, pink ribbons, and fund-raising banners. I wondered how she felt. Had she been uplifted by the fanfare? Did anyone around her understand what she was really going through? Did she know she wasn’t going to survive this ordeal? I cannot know what Heather thought, but I do know what I thought. I was sad and repelled.

In this photo Heather was surrounded by dozens of happy faces. There was a bake sale, tents, balloons. It looked very festive. You wouldn’t know that a desperately sick young woman was suffering from a serious disease. The group photo was taken beneath two banners: “The Fun Bags” and “Making A Difference.” Was the stylized image of the young woman surrounded with pink stars supposed to be Heather? Were they holding a bake sale to save her fun bags? I’m still stunned at the vulgarity of the image and the blatant, discordant festival spirit of the event.

Heather seemed to be the duly appointed cancer célèbre. There seemed to be a clamor to be photographed with her. Did she sign autographs? I wondered if the celebrants really understood the seriousness of her condition.

Throughout the varied photo records Heather’s appearance changed. She became thinner, lost the color in her face, and eventually required an oxygen tube and wheelchair. She continued to smile. She was surrounded by others who did the same. When I look at the pictures of Heather, I can’t help but wonder if she was really up to attending such merry undertakings. I can’t imagine the conflicting and heartbreaking pressure to have to look cheerful and happy in the face of such monstrous incongruity.

Here’s what Heather, strong and athletic, said about undergoing chemotherapy treatment,

“It’s been rough,” she said. “It’s a lot more taxing on the body than I expected. I expected to be more functional at a much quicker rate. But I’m exhausted all the time. I can’t really stand ever. I constantly feel like I’m going to get sick…”

People handle chemotherapy and other treatments differently depending on a whole lot of things. But could it be that Heather also did not expect her treatment to be so taxing, exhausting, and sickening because society doesn’t really show that side of cancer? Especially breast cancer?

Even after Heather died her memorial was just as festive as the events that surrounded her diagnosis and treatment. The OC Register reported:

“Six cheerleaders from Newport Harbor High, where Beyer had been a coach from 2004 to 2008, welcomed more than 350 mourners to the memorial that began at 1 p.m. They made pink T-shirts, a glittery “H” and Beyer’s middle name “Faith,” over their left-breast pockets. They handed out programs fronted by Beyer’s photo from her November 2008 wedding and asked everyone to sign pages that will form a scrapbook.”

I get it. Cheerleaders are cheerful. I don’t begrudge them that. But still, it seems almost a requirement these days to parade around with pink “for the cure” activities while populating them with designated cancer celebs like Heather to somehow make them seem legitimate.

Bill Noren's Mother

I can’t think about Heather Beyer’s publicly portrayed experience in pink culture without remembering my own mother who died of breast cancer in 1986 (pre-pink dynasty). If my mother were alive today she would have been mortified by the weird and vacuous breast cancer culture. She would’ve eschewed the mantles of both “warrior” or “victim.” In a million years I could not imagine my mom wearing a pink ribbon. Part of this is generational. She wasn’t of the generation that wore buttons, badges, ribbons, or rubber bracelets. And she certainly wouldn’t have affixed a pink magnet to her ’68 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Like others of her time, Mom kept her thoughts to herself. But as a nurse she knew all too well the grim statistics of her disease.

Times have changed. I’m not suggesting that breast cancer should go back in the closet, that people shouldn’t rally for one another in support or raise money, or even that symbols are a bad thing. But something strange happened with the pink cause. It must be very difficult to avoid the vortex of the “be happy!” demands of the Pink Ribbon Culture. At my mother’s funeral we didn’t make any scrap books or wear glitter. It wasn’t our way. We all just cried.

Post Script by Gayle Sulik:

Marcia Smith of The Orange County Register wrote a story about Heather Beyer’s last days, “Cancer hits Angels Strike Force member,” that is a lucid account of the devastating realities of metastatic disease. It is, as Breean Carter shares in a comment below, not “sugar coated…glorified…[or] full of ‘pink sparkle.’” Instead it conveys a deeply personal tragedy, one that is marred by a failure of the medical system, a system that has failed far too many.

Chief medical and scientific officer of The American Cancer Society, Dr. Otis Brawley, exposes in How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America, that there are numerous cases of doctors who choose treatments that are not based on demonstrated scientific evidence, and hospitals and pharmaceutical companies that seek patients to treat even if they are not actually ill.

Where does this scenario leave people who are dealing with metastatic disease?

In The New York Times article, “A Pink-Ribbon Race, Years Long,” which spoke about Elizabeth Edwards’ death from breast cancer and the limitations of medical progress, statements from notable medical doctors acknowledged that, despite the fact that stage 4 patients “enjoy a higher quality of life than patients did in the past, because treatments are better focused and have fewer side effects,” these treatments add only an “incremental amount to the length of life.” There has been a 20 percent rise in cancer survivorship overall from 2001 to 2007, yet The New York Times also reports statistics from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute which show that “the death rate from cancer [all cancers combined]…has stayed virtually the same as it was in 1950.”

We must do better. For all of the Heather Beyer’s of the world. If pink sparkles are the pathway to that future, I know many cynics who would easily jump on board. That said, identifying the unintended consequences of any approach to breast cancer is vital to moving forward. That is the only way to calibrate our efforts efficiently, effectively, and with the honesty and compassion that everyone touched by cancer deserves.

My deepest appreciation to the advocates, cancer rebels, general readers, and friends and family members of Heather Beyer, who shared their feelings in the comments section below. My condolences to all of those who loved Heather and continue to grieve her death.

— 

Bill Noren at his drums

Brief Biography:

Bill Noren lives in New Jersey and works for an insurance company. He is also a professional musician. He can be found jamming on his drums nearly every weekend somewhere in New Jersey with his jazz group, The Bill Noren Group. You may leave comments for Bill Noren here, or contact him at njjazz2002@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

For more consciousness raising essays, check out “30 Days of Breast Cancer Awareness.”

Be Sociable, Share!

22 comments to 16. Loss and Remembering: A Story of Heather Beyer

  • Bill – I suppose we can never really know how Heather felt about all of these events. But I certainly agree with the point that you make about how “pink” has become synonymous with good cheer, celebration, and lots of razzle dazzle, with no real thought about the realities of what it is to live with metastatic disease. The treatments are grueling and relentless, and sadly often patients continue to seek treatment right to the very end and suffer greatly. Some do it under pressure from families, and others, well who knows? But I can’t help think that the image of the “fighting warrior survivor” that the pink culture has bought us, might have something to do with some patients (and families) being unwilling to say enough is enough.

  • Good to see such a passionate post by a man. There must be many of us who instinctively loathe this positive thinking pink thing. But the story of Heather Beyer puts the pressure that younger women, in particular, must feel, to conform to the happy pink stereotype, into sharp focus. I just hope that somewhere in all that mayhem, all that rampant denial of metastasis, she had at least one friend she could properly talk to.Thank you for this, Bill. And you too Gayle for suggesting it.

  • Bill Noren

    The pressure on women who are afflicted with breast cancer to conform to the pink culture must be intense. I think it can short-circuit a lot of emotional issues…thank you for reading this and for your comments.

  • Gayle & Bill,

    First Gayle, thank you for shining a light into the sea of pink. We are all trying to make a difference. Your voice is strong and powerful and for that, I thank you.

    Bill…. You can not know how your words both comfort & frighten me. I have a daughter who is 26 and UNDERSTATING her risk for developing breast cancer, she’s at 1 in 4. I had my own oncology check up today so it’s already a “rough” time. The thought of how such a young GIRL lost her life to this disease saddens me in ways I can’t begin to describe. For Heather-and now for her loved ones and for all of the women who die every year, I join the fight against the pink. I demand better and I’m not shutting my big NY mouth until I see change.

    Pink ribbons do not make me happy. They upset me. They are a reminder of my disease. Thankyouverymuch Pinktober, but I am reminded daily. I don’t need to be reminded every single second of every single day. Just like Christmas, October starts in September and goes into November. There is no end to the madness. I’m just waiting for the American Flag to change, too. “Pink White & Blue” …. Why not? The pinking has already alienated the breast cancer community from the rest of the cancer community. We are superior. Why not piss off the military, too? Comparisons are always made; “She lost her battle after a valiant fight.” We are in a war, but the war is not going to be won with glitter or ribbons or hope or pink capped smiling faces. In fact, those things stopped us from trying to push further. The world looks and until the whole world reads what Gayle has to say, (just my own non scientific but pretty certain opinion) “Hell, they are all pretty in pink, our job is done.” Except it’s not. And under the status quo, it will never be……

    AnneMarie

  • Oh no… you just gave someone a great money-making idea, I’m sure… a new pink, white, and blue American flag!!! There will also be a theme park and a pink ribbon mall.

  • From an email I received about this post:

    “Interesting thoughts from the male perspective. Thanx for posting it. Unfortunately, the color pink brings up the saying: She’s in the pink! which means someone is healthy, which people with cancer are not. It’s good to be hopeful as well as realistic. Chemo is exhausting & all the pink ribbons won’t really change much unless we go to the root, which I believe that BCA does.”

  • Breean Carter

    Bill!
    Wow! This is the first time I have seen your post. My name is Breean. I was one of Heather’s best friends and the captains of “The Fun Bags.” (Her Relay for Life team) I gave the Eulogy at her “festive” (as you called it) memorial. It took everything I could muster not to sob and drip snot all over the mic while I spoke. I’m sure the paper didn’t write about that.

    Your essay, although entirely inacurate, was very well written and I am glad it offered you a forum to share your own deeply wounded feelings about losing your mother to breast cancer. It’s nice to see that Heather’s story touched you in one way or another. She certainly touched everyone who knew her.

    I know it’s hard for a man to imagine why a young woman, who is very ill and about to lose her battle, would want to surround herself with upbeat slogans, her cheerleading peers and pink accessories. That’s certainly not how a man would handle his feelings! You will never know what that feels like since you are much older than she was when she passed.

    1) It’s important for our community of Human beings to bring awareness to breast cancer. Breast Cancer, although not always, is mostly a female disease hence the pink. When you think of pink, you think of ladies! If pink gets your attention, so be it! Heathers doctors ignored her first notice of the lump because they dismissed her as too young to have breast cancer. Even doctors need to have more awareness.

    2) Heather planned her own memorial. For some of us, the thought of planning our own memorial is incredibly disturbing. She couldn’t stand the thought of a morbid depressing ceremony, so she asked us to wear pink to the memorial. Some family members and friends felt wrong about it, but they did it because that’s what she requested. It was important that if she couldn’t save her own life maybe she could save another woman’s life.

    3)The pictures of the “parade” of celebration at the Relay for Life was entirely made up of friends and family. Not random people who wanted to take pictures and get her autograph as you suggested. The Fun Bag team at the Relay for Life, who we irreverantly named by her, was to gather attention to the cause and it worked! We raised $30,000 for Cancer Research in two years.

    Most importantly, before Heather passed, she felt loved in a way that many of us never will. Her bed was surrounded by love, prayers and blessings all the way to the very end. Isn’t that what we all hope for. I know I do…pink and all!

  • Breean Carter

    PS-We did bake some things to sell since we were going to be at the relay for 24 hours. The “Making a difference” sign had the 30+ logos of our team sponsors that donated raffle prizes that helped us collect 30k. So yes, if that’s baking to save her “fun bags” HEll YEAH! At least we did something instead of just crying!

  • Breean, Thank you so much for writing. Your comment speaks to the complicated aspects of cancer, survivorship, friendship, and the pink culture that many people worry is more focused on celebration and profits than anything else. It is heartening to know that Heather was instrumental in planning the events that would mark her life, and that her family and friends wanted to turn their grief into something tangible that extend beyond Heather’s experience. What we’re all working toward is an end to this disease. On this side of the table, there are numerous individuals and organizations who are urging the public to think deeply, and reflectively, about our efforts; to make sure that funds go toward projects that will help people in tangible ways and make a dent in the epidemic; and call on organizations and companies that claim to be supporting the cause to be transparent and accountable. There are too many people dying from cancer. It isn’t fair to anyone. Thank you again. –Gayle Sulik

  • After having lost a friend to breast cancer in February I can relate to the desire to speak without crying. I managed. But, the tears came before and after. I hope we can acknowledge the grief and work toward actions that will be meaningful to those we love and will have an impact on the broader epidemic. Our hearts are in the right place. There is no doubt about that. Now we just need to make sure that our good will is not exploited by those who would profit from this disease. I so appreciate your commenting here.

  • Breean Carter

    Gayle,

    Thank you for your comments. I like that you have started a conversation about this.

    In Heather’s case, we didn’t have time to reinvent the cancer charities that were available to us. We did our research quickly and raised what we could while she was still alive because that’s what mattered to her.
    American Cancer Society empowered her in a time of powerlessness. Raising the funds for ACS was not just about cancer research, it was about showing her we could do something that seemed impossible, just like her disease.

    I agree that there are billions of dollars going towards countless Cancer non-profits and yet people are still dying. It’s ugly and painful! But….no one can save these people anyway if they don’t get early detection….so first things first. Hold doctors and researchers accountable by being our own advocates, demanding test results in a timely manner, getting our regular check-ups, doing our own research and participating in our own health. Agree?

    Love and Blessings to all those suffering!

  • Corbynn

    Bill obviously doesn’t know Heather. She had the lyrics to Smile – Nat King Cole printed on the program for her memorial. I think they describe her attitude perfectly. She was above feeling sorry for herself and only cared about bringing awareness to others. It is extremely hard for most people to understand because it was selfless, and most people just can’t imagine being so selfless- especially in such a hard time. She was the person who would smile though her heart is breaking just to leave those around her with feelings of peace and hope.

  • Coli (Heather's Sister)

    Bill & Gayle – If I could meet you in a coffee shop right now instead of through a blog, I would do so. I want you to see what this article did to me, face to face. How infuriating it was to read, as Heather’s sister! You dishonored her with your words. How inappropriate for you to use someone who genuinely was in charge of every decision made as your example for your own agenda. You know NOTHING of how my sister felt! And clearly, you also understand NOTHING of what she stood for! She spent the last years and months and even days of her life raising awareness for breast cancer in a way that was SO PERFECTLY HER. She was sunshine and sparkles. And that didn’t change because she was sick. Her spirit got even brighter as her body gave out. You turned that authentic portrayal of her into some media hype. As someone who sat next to her while she was receiving chemo, heard her deepest thoughts about dying, and saw her struggle to breathe as we said our goodbyes … I was forever impacted by Heather’s endurance and strength! She was a fighter, and every other cliche you could think of. The OC Register did an amazing job of accurately portraying her story. You could take a cue from them. They respected her as she invited them in. They journeyed with her, just like her family and friends did. They knew her, unlike you. And they were captivated by her joy in the face of death, as everyone who actually interacted with her was. THAT is why her story got told, for the glory of God. THAT is why her life was memorialized in such a positive, endearing way. How foolish of you to think that we didn’t grieve just the way you did. Or that we don’t to this day, shortly a year after her death. Her memorial was our time to remember her life. Her applaudable efforts with RelayForLife, and her team name, with stand untainted by criticism. As will her legacy. But I will remember what you did to my heart this morning with your presumptions. Next time, ask for an interview before you write an article. Do some research. Be more responsible with your words!!!

  • Coli, I’m sorry this was so hurtful for you to read. It was not our intention to harm Heather’s memory. Bill was trying to give voice to another part of the cancer story, one that doesn’t usually get attention. It was based on articles in mass media, and not on personal interviews. Bill acknowledged that he didn’t know how Heather felt about any of this. But his point was that the culture itself (through media, personal stories, advertising, and elsewhere) creates a story line that, while it fits some people, does not represent everyone.

    Here is a post from Anthony Moro, who recently lost his wife to breast cancer. For him, the pink cheerfulness feels like a mockery.

    http://cancerculturenow.blogspot.com/2012/05/mocked-by-neighbors.html

    My hope is that there will be a greater diversity of stories that make their way into the public discussion. Not to invalidate those that fit the sunshine and sparkles that represent people like your sister and others, but to give voice to multiple viewpoints so that those who feel differently also have a space to be heard.

    Thank you for writing your comment here. — Gayle Sulik

  • To all those who knew and loved Heather,

    First of all, I’m deeply sorry for your loss. I do know what it’s like to lose someone you love to metastatic breast cancer. I have experienced this loss more than once. I also have been diagnosed with breast cancer myself. Therefore, I read this article and all the comments with great interest.

    Everyone’s experience is uniquely theirs. It seems Bill was expressing his experiences/thoughts and those of you who grieve for Heather are expressing yours. There shouldn’t be “sides” in all of this. The problem with all the “pink hoopla,” in my opinion, is that it doesn’t always allow for individuality. It does seem to me there is a certain amount of pressure for “doing cancer a certain way.” I do strongly object to that message. Again, in my opinion, Bill was trying to give voice to those (like me) who choose not to “follow the pink.” He was merely questioning, not judging. There’s a huge difference. Gayle Sulik has worked tirelessly, and with great compassion I might add, to do the same – give a voice to those who aren’t so easily heard. I admire them both for doing so.

    Again, I’m truly sorry for the loss of this wonderful young woman. My best to you all as you continue healing.

  • Breean, Coli & Corbynn,

    It was brave and helpful for you all to comment here. I’ve personally lost many friends and patients to metastatic breast cancer. I work as a healthcare clinician in homecare, and as such, I’ve been part of many hospice teams who help people and their families face the end of life. I’ve also faced breast cancer myself. Each one of the people I’ve known who died of breast cancer faced their mortality in her own way. What’s always important is for the individual to be allowed to face it, in whatever way she chooses, and for the people surrounding her to acknowledge and support those choices. Clearly, Heather was surrounded by many loving people who stood by her and faced it with her.

    Having said that, it wasn’t Bill who dishonored or misrepresented Heather. The media and the smiling face of the pink ribbon movement tends to sugarcoat the grim realities of treatment for metastatic breast cancer, while it minimizes or entirely ignores the misery that women like Heather went through, and the anguish and helplessness you all no doubt felt watching her. The last exercise of control that a person can make in the face of metastatic cancer is to plan her own funeral. And I’m glad that Heather exercised that control.

    Many don’t even get that opportunity. And what I wish, and what I think Bill was trying to express, is that the media would not ignore the ugly reality of what metastatic breast cancer is like for many. It’s not enough to zero in on one particular person’s death, dress it up in pink and proclaim that, by default, we are all brave warriors. You don’t feel particularly brave when you realizes how few options there are for controlling aggressive metastatic breast cancer; when you realize that all the pink hype, the pink corporate merchandising, the ‘hooter hoedowns’ and hokey fundraising slogans have not found a cure, have barely made a dent in lessening the number of deaths from this disease each year; when you realize that only 2% of all the research funds raised go directly to the study of metastatic disease. When you are in constant pain, bedridden, running out of options and facing certain, eventual death; when you do not feel ‘positive;’ when the word ‘negative’ is what you hope against hope to hear as the result of your latest scans; when you and your loved ones fervently wish for a miracle that never arrives, it’s impossible not to feel that the pink media and fundraising tsunami has accomplished exactly nothing. And where do you turn to be heard?

    We need to hear from ALL the voices out there in order to change this equation, else we will keep losing people like Heather and the 40,000 others who keep dying from metastatic breast cancer every year.

  • Coli,

    As one of those who commented on the original piece, I wanted to let you know that I read the message you left on my blog.

    I want to be sure to let you know that if my words were hurtful, that most certainly was not my intent. There is a public apology for you on my blog today. I hope you see it and most of all, I hope it eases anything I may have said that you felt was dishonoring your sister’s memory.

    AnneMarie

  • Crystal

    Bill, I’m sorry that you lost your mother to breast cancer. Everybody handles the devasting news of cancer differently and I’m sorry that you felt that you had to criticize Heather’s choices and those of her loved ones. In your article about Heather (someone that you were not fortunate enough to have met or known), you mentioned seeing photos of Heather and you wrote, “I saw a sick young woman in a headscarf if the midst of festive crowds, pink ribbons and fund-raising banners. I wondered how she felt. Had she been uplifted by the fanfare? Did anyone around her understand what she was really going through? Did she know she wasn’t going to survive this ordeal? I cannot know what Heather though, but I do know what I thought. I was sad and repelled.” No we didn’t know that Heather wasn’t going to survive her ordeal but she didn’t want to sit around feeling sorry for herself. Heather fought hard and stayed positive. She was very brave and wanted to bring the serious issues of breast cancer to the attention of other young women who might think that they don’t need to worry about cancer because they are young and healthy.

    The Relay for Life event was a time to celebrate Heather and show our support for survivors and those still fighting their battles. You weren’t there when we were sitting in Heather’s home, watching her try to breath, you weren’t there when we cried our eyes out asking why? It’s unfair to criticize how we handled our situation and how Heather chose for us to celebrate her beautiful life at her memorial. Like others said, if using pink and glitter brings attention to the serious issue of breast cancer, then so be it. It’s important for young girls and women to understand that breast cancer doesn’t discriminate, it can happen at any age. Heather was young, fit and cancer did not run in her family. It’s important for us to bring awareness to the issue, to hopefully save lives and find a cure. I don’t expect you to understand what Heather went through but I simply ask that you respect that everyone is different, there is no right or wrong way to deal with personal tragedies.

  • To Those Who Knew and Loved Heather,

    I am deeply sorry for your loss. I have lost friends to metastatic breast cancer, as well as other cancers. I have also had breast cancer, so needless to say, this topic is of great interest to me.

    I appreciated your sharing information about Heather so many of us did not know. She definitely sounds like a special person. While I know you are grieving for the loss of this beautiful, young woman, I do not think Bill’s posting was meant to disparage her. I believe Bill was pointing out how the pink culture and media often mask the pain and reality that is breast cancer. I know some people are comforted by breast cancer awareness campaigns. Each person with cancer finds comfort in different ways. It’s not wrong for a person to want to participate in events if it makes her feel better.

    However, what Bill was pointing out was that it is wrong for the reality of the disease to get masked by pink ribbon campaigns that result in only 2 percent toward research for metastatic disease. The problem is that certain corporations are profiting from
    pink campaigns.

    Once again, I am so sorry for your loss. I believe that we all want the same goal: to eradicate breast cancer forever. We are on the same side, here, in that aspect.

    Regards,

    Beth Gainer

  • Breean Carter

    This is for peaceful debate…

    Thank you all for your caring responses. Although feelings have been hurt, I think it’s good to discuss these things. We can’t stop this disease without these important conversations. Maybe this discussion is happening for a reason.

    I understand Bill’s (very well written) message.I just think a good argument has more research. If she is the primary example now it’s a moot point.

    I am attaching an article about Heather which conveys exactly how the last days of her disease were. It’s not sugar coated. It’s not glorified. It’s real! This writer did an incredible job at covering one of the last days of her life and it’s not full of “pink sparkle.” Because of this article, I think the whole argument is a generalization and stereotype about media and the cancer survivors and victims of “pink ribbon culture.”
    You can use this same generalization for just about any charity campaign.

    And I want to remind you that the “pink ribbon culture” has now raised billions of dollars. You must believe some of that is directed towards progress of a cure no matter how cynical you are. The worldwide attention to breast cancer is why the death statistics are dropping dramatically even though the number of people diagnosed continues to rise.

    There is no way to argue it hasn’t done more good, than bad. Just no way!

    http://www.ocregister.com/sports/-297623–.html

  • Thank you for sharing that article, Breean. It is a lucid account of the devastating realities of metastatic disease. It reminds me a bit of Angelo Merendino’s photographs of his wife’s experience of breast cancer. http://cnnphotos.blogs.cnn.com/category/angelo-merendino/

    Indeed, some of the billions raised in the name of breast cancer go to research and valuable advocacy. The second chapter of “Pink Ribbon Blues” reviews the history of the breast cancer movement and what it accomplished. No doubt, all of that work brought breast cancer into the light, increased funds for research at the federal level, engaged the public, and led to some important advances. Then something happened. The cause took on a life of its own. Now, there is even more money raised, but much of it is diverted. Research into the cancer that kills (metastatic disease) is the most underfunded of all while the industry thrives. According to Dr. Susan Love, ”The average survival of women with metastatic breast cancer from the time of the first appearance of the metastasis is between two to three and a half years.” Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much change in this prognosis for decades. Organizations like Breast Cancer Action, METAvivor Research & Support, and the National Breast Cancer Coalition are among those who are working to change that. There are others as well.

    There are many other issues, but too little space here to discuss them fully. If you have the inclination, check out the other essays on this website. Bill’s brief essay was part of a 30-day series on Awareness. Here is the link http://pinkribbonblues.org/2011/10/30-days-of-breast-cancer-awareness/. As a medical sociologist, I’ve analyzed breast cancer culture and industry for more than ten years and have a lot of writing on the topic. I’d be happy to share any of it with you.

    I agree with you that asking tough questions and being willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations is necessary to move forward. In the end, I think we’re working for the same thing.

    –Gayle Sulik

  • Breean Carter

    Good Article and photos Gayle. There are so many similarities between this woman featured in the article and Heather! Those pictures are all too familiar!

"The Cause Marketing Dilemma" by Gayle Sulik on @PsychToday... fb.me/3jBZP1dG2

“Pink Ribbon Blues,” Book

Paperback includes new Introduction on fundraising controversies and color insert with images of, and reactions to, the pinking of breast cancer (2012).


Order the Paperback » 


Read Reviews » 


More »


Recent Sulik Interviews

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception Listen to BlogTalkRadio »

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' Listen to KCRW »

Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer. The New York Times Magazine.

The Story Behind the Pink Ribbon Campaign Sisters Talk Radio

WISH Interview Women's International Summit for Health

Making Cancer About The Patient, Not The Body Part CBS Pittsburgh

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients USA Today

The perils of pink The Daily

Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some Dallas Morning News

A yellow flag for the NFL's pink New York Daily

Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

"Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed" Philly Inquirer

"Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science" Reuters

"The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion? Salon.com

"Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood." In Deep with Angie Coiro

"Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue?" NPR's All Things Considered

"How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health?" America’s Radio News Network

"Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer" The Kojo Nnamdi Show

"The Big Business of Breast Cancer" 
Marie Claire

"Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases?" Slate

"Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red" The Sacramento Bee

"Get Your Pink Off" Ottawa Citizen

"Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions" USA Today

** MORE MEDIA LINKS **
** MORE RADIO INTERVIEWS **