Blog Contributors

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The Pink Ribbon Blues Blog is a platform for exploring and analyzing issues related to breast cancer and pink ribbon culture. In addition to Gayle Sulik’s essays, the blog has a growing list of contributors who share their creativity and critical perspectives.


Christie Aschwanden is an award-winning freelance writer and editor. She is a contributing editor for Runner’s World and was a contributing editor for Health from 2000 to 2010. She has been a contributing writer for Skiing and her articles and essays have appeared in more than 50 other publications including The New York TimesThe Los Angeles Times, The Washington PostO—the Oprah MagazineMen’s JournalSlate, NPR, Mother Jones, National Wildlife, Backpacker, Reader’s Digest, Self, WebMD, Science, Cell and New Scientist. Christie has also written and edited books and reports for the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health and other national and international organizations. She has been interviewed about her work by the BBC and other media. Christie’s coffee table book about chicken breeds, Beautiful Chickens, was published in 2012. Christie Aschwanden lives in western Colorado. Pink Ribbon Blues is pleased to republish her essay, “The real scandal: science denialism at Susan G. Komen for the Cure®,” which was originally published on the science blog, The Last Word On Nothing. Christie Aschwanden’s followup, “The false narratives of pink ribbon month, redux” is also republished on Pink Ribbon Blues, originally posted on The Last Word on Nothing.


Barbara Brenner, former executive director of Breast Cancer Action, spent the last 15 years of her life as a breast cancer activist and now faces a different illness, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”). A leader in the breast cancer movement, Barbara Brenner recently received a Smith College Medal for her exceptional professional accomplishments and outstanding contributions to the breast cancer community, which, in the words of the college, exemplify the value of a liberal arts eduction. She is highly sought after by the national media, and has appeared in the New York TimesUSA Today, the Washington Post, ABC News, and CBS Evening News. She is co-author of the chapter, “Cancers,” in Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause (The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, 2006). She is also the author of the chapter, “Sister Support: Women Create a Breast Cancer Movement,” in Breast Cancer: Society Shapes an Epidemic (Palgrave, 2000). You can read more of Barbara’s thought-provoking writing on her blog, Healthy Barbs, which is intended to encourage people to learn to think in new ways about illness and health, and to prompt them to be critical of the mainstream coverage of health issues.

Here is Barbara Brenner’s, “Context is Everything — Framing the Film Pink Ribbons, Inc.


Molly Brenner graduated from Vassar College as a Media Studies major focusing on representations of women and gender in the media. She wrote her senior thesis on niche marketing and gendered audiences on cable television. In 2010, she worked as a Program Operations intern at Strong Women, Strong Girls in Boston, and the previous summer, she was a Media Relations intern at the Global Fund for Women in San Francisco. While at Vassar, Molly was also a member of CARES, a student-run group dedicated to both counseling and campus education on sexual assault, relationship abuse, and other forms of personal violation, and was on the editorial board of Feminink, Vassar’s Women’s Studies journal.

In light of her experience with youth education programs and her exploration of pink ribbon culture, Molly Brenner wrote an essay for Pink Ribbon Blues called “Rethinking, Reclaiming, and Remaining Compassionately Pink.”


An Anonymous Writer’s Collective concerned about the lack of progress being made in the eradication of breast cancer wrote a compelling essay about a recent event (in the form of a fashion show) to raise money for the cause of breast cancer. Hosted by a Susan G. Komen for the Cure affiliate in Pennsylvania, the event and others like it strike a dissonant chord with many advocates and concerned citizens about the lengths fundraisers will go in the name of the cause. The Collective believes that it is time to look beyond the feel-good messages and demand real change has given advance permission to anyone who would like to reprint the essay in its entirety.

On the Pink Ribbon Blues Blog, here is “A Valentine’s Day Special: “Miss Pink Elegance.”


AnneMarie Ciccarella was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer in July of 2006 after four months of imaging, in office biopsies and ultimately, the surgical biopsy that found what is known as the *sneaky* cancer. She has a family history of breast cancer, including five diagnoses among her mother, her sisters, and her.  Four of these diagnoses were pre-menopausal. Currently with no evidence of disease (NED), AnneMarie suffers from long term/late term difficulties that are a direct result of her cancer treatment. These forced AnneMarie to step down from a high functioning accounting position. She began to reach out to other women in similar situations, volunteer, and engage in advocacy. Presently, AnneMarie writes the blog Chemo-Brain and is utilizing social media to raise awareness about the lack of progress in the treatment of breast cancer despite the billions of dollars spent each year in the name of a cure. AnneMarie resides in a suburb of New York City.

Pink Ribbon Blues is honored to publish her essay, “Survival and Cure are NOT Interchangeable Words.”


Photo Credit: Wendy Marxen Marxen Consulting LLC

Colonel “CJ” (Dian) Corneliussen-James was an Air Force Intelligence Officer for 24 years before she took a Senior Analyst position in the Deptartment of Defense. Slowed down by the diagnoses of both metastatic breast cancer and systemic lupus in 2006, she then retired from the government, but she was soon busy running a support program for metastatic breast cancer. Her quest to fund much needed research for the disease led to the establishment of a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, METAvivor Research and Support Inc., of which she is President.

The Pink Ribbon Blues Blog shared an insightful essay CJ wrote for The Cancer Culture Chronicles titled, ”Research on Metastatic Breast Cancer: ‘Trying to Stay Alive on Two Percent.’” For more on CJ and METAvivor, read Dian Corneliussen-James: A Woman On A Mission.


Krisanne A Dattir, an aerialist on hiatus, is an award winning poet who has been published in various print and on-line venues. She is presently working on her Master of Fine Arts thesis, a memoir hybrid, which includes how her diagnosis of breast cancer and its treatment interrupted both her training and also an aerial silks performance. She is a Registered Nurse in a Birth Center where she works directly with breasts in a nutritional capacity. In summers, Krisanne is often found tending to her gardens and dabbling in the kitchen.

Pink Ribbon Blues is honored to publish Krisanne Dattir’s poem, “My Path Report Leads Me to a Poem.”


Claire Festel is a writer from British Columbia. Her new book, Remarkable Yukon Women, shares the profiles of fifty women over the age of fifty who were born, or who settled in, the sparsely populated Yukon territory of western Canada. Illustrated with portraits of these women by artist Valerie Hodgson of Whitehorse, Yukon, the book captures the lives of everyday women in a harsh, dry climate with long cold winters and short summers. The written and visual portraits in this book reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary.

On the Pink Ribbon Blues Blog Claire Festel shares her profile of Carol Murphy, an English-born woman for whom cervical cancer is another part of an effort-filled, inspired, and creative life.


Beth Gainer is an author and breast cancer survivor who writes the blog, “Calling the Shots.” She frequently posts excerpts from her upcoming book with the same title, Calling the Shots: Coaching Your Way Through the Healthcare System. The book is a primer for how to advocate for oneself through a difficult medical landscape. It includes information about finding the right doctors, how to deal with difficult medical administrators, and how to empower oneself by seizing the reins of one’s medical care, whatever the medical outcome.

Pink Ribbon Blues republished an excerpt from the book last year, titled “Breast Cancer and the Blame Game.” Her essay, “Faun and Me” shares a story of friendship and loss, both forged in breast cancer.


Susan Hertzberg is the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Breast Cancer Action Montreal (BCAM), the editor of the BCAM Bulletin, and a been a member of BCAM since 1998. BCAM is a non-profit group directed by women who have been sensitized to the trauma of breast cancer and who are committed—long-term—to eradicating the disease. BCAM believes that the focus of breast cancer research must move beyond its current emphasis on treatment to also embrace a serious search for the causes of the disease and its prevention. Ms. Hertzberg has a Master’s Degree in library science, and her expertise is in fundraising, marketing, and meeting facilitation.

In her essay, “Money, Marketing, and Ethics: Can They Work Together?” she explains why BCAM’s operating principles are important to her personally and why they are vital to the eradication of breast cancer.


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