The Language of Breast Cancer

These word magnets came in the mail from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, along with an appeal for donations. What I find striking, in addition to the words themselves, is the order. Do you see any interesting patterns?


Be Sociable, Share!

16 comments to The Language of Breast Cancer

  • Patterns? I am very short sighted this morning as I’m preparing to go to a funeral for a 39 year old friend. I see lots of hope and plenty of words that I feel place a weighty expectation on breast cancer patients anywhere along that continuum to fit within a certain mode. Oddly enough, I wrote a blog that I posted today that starts, “Words matter.”

    We are missing the target. No amount of hope nor oceans of passion will change anything. Linking mothers, sisters (daughters, too in plenty of these type of target marketing mailers) as if unity among women will effect change is ridiculous. That may have worked with the right to vote and issues surrounding equality in the work place but in fighting a disease? Not so much. Not AT ALL.

    There are plenty of “fighting words” and yet, where are the words that will truly effect a change? Words like research….. words like the fact that the last months for some are spent in excruciating pain…… How about scared? Or, how no amount of hope will stop the progression of aggressive disease….. What about “survivor” which has fast become a word that I want to banish from my vocabulary. Survivor, yes; but at what price? There is fallout from treatment that rains down upon some and it can be debilitating.

    A pretty pink picture is woven within those words. What I read through my very persona and admitted very narrow prism and my highly sensitive point of view on this day in my own life?

    Our love and hope should inspire us to band together as women. In unity is strength and that will make us a powerful enough force to claim victory so women can survive fearlessly. If we just open our wallets and throw more money (in the same direction that has brought little progress in over thirty years)….. we will be poised to claim victory.

    And again, the reality of the 40,000 women who will die STILL and those who live in constant treatment because we still can’t figure out how to stop the spread of disease? That simply has NO place in this conversation. I’d love to ask the woman who is burying her child this morning if this makes HER feel warm and fuzzy. Or the broken hearted fiancĂ© and especially, the eight year old who will miss her mommy for the rest of her life. True reality sullies this particular marketing campaign. Personally, I think it would be more powerful if the damn thing said, “Women are STLL dying.” “Women are being cut and burned and poisoned to become survivors.” “Let’s stop this NOW.”

    Gayle, I thank you for raising your voice on behalf of so many of us. Stopping here…… I could turn this into a 2000 word rant in another five minutes…..

  • ok… the “L” is sticking….. My pretty pink paragraph…. it’s my very “personal and admittedly very narrow prism” ….


  • I find the 2nd line from the bottom especially interesting. Must give now today forever.

    There are also subtle messages – breast cancer no more, stand together, thank team, etc. Lots of rah rah cheery pink stuff. Be hopeful, get everyone involved, empower patients, thank the team and give, give give. As Anne Marie said, a weighty business for patients.

    I don’t like to use ANY words that associate this with a war, and there are plenty of those. Interesting that “army” is omitted (a word that also makes me cringe, btw), associated with the Love/Avon research effort, but not in the Komen lexicon if i am not mistaken.

    So interesting in commission and omission. Definitely thought out for fundraising (she said cynically).

  • Kate Weber

    The second from the bottom line of words has, in order:

    must give now today

    Nice subliminal message…

  • Denise

    You again have brought me to tears”those little drops of humanity”
    This so resonates with me.
    Thanks for this post.

  • Magnets from Komen, not sure what I’d do if I received these in the mail! The entire “Komen pattern” seems to be continuing here. They continue to over use words like hope and imagine. They continue to “partner up” words such as fight/strong and battle/victory. The most interesting pattern of all that I see is how they managed to sequence in order the words, “must give now.” Hmmm…no accident there. That just might be the most interesting pattern of all here.

  • There are some glaring omissions here. Let me fill out the picture:

    chemo nausea loss abandonment ? sadness depression
    early menopause surgery mastectomy side-effects !
    radiation burns fatigue lymphedema pain physical therapy
    permanent damage compromised function metastatic
    tumors ! no known cure unknown causes

  • They left out abandonment, isolation, loneliness, financial distress, fear, anger and outrage.

  • Jen

    I’d likely send them back if they deigned to send them to me. I’d include a note asking them how much the magnets cost and why they were wasting money sending them to me. I’d ask why AFTER my dx, they begged me for money instead of offering to help. Where were they when I needed rest, a real solution to the problem (not just the current slash and burn), care for my kids and dinners that I was too tired to make?

    AFTER my dx in 2010, it took three letters from me and three phone calls from my husband to get us off their mailing list. I was not a fan to begin with and I find their mission now questionable (at absolute best). In what, 25 plus years?, they have done nothing (IMHO). Nothing about the entire ‘cure’ has really changed in 100 years. If they really cared, they would be looking at more non-invasive solutions instead of supporting big Pharma and begging for money…from those of us who have little to no extra money thanks to being drained by this God-awful diagnosis and ‘cure’.

    If Komen and Avon truly cared, they would quit mailing out crap, they would quit wasting oodles of money on walks that are (in my mind) meaningless. They would stop with the jewelry, with the perfume and would recognize the link between issues in the environment and bc. You want to walk to prevent bc? Go out and walk each and every day ON YOUR OWN! You don’t have to spend money to support a group that is going to give you nothing but a made in China t-shirt with God only knows what sort of chemicals in it.

    Just remembered that I received an Avon mailer the other day; must tackle being removed from that list next!

  • jeff

    You have nailed it. The philosa babble has to stop.

  • Carey

    At least the list does NOT include: ta-tas, boobies, jugs….

  • uvmer

    It amazes me that their biggest branded word, the one they sue or muscle little foundations over, the word that drives their marketing, the word they so want to protect….CURE…is nowhere to be seen. Seriously??? Whats that tell ya?

  • UGH. I received four . . . count ’em FOUR requests in one day via email form Komen asking me to give them money . . . two of their money requests came an hour and 17 minutes apart. They make me sick.

    @uvmer – isn’t that something, that they don’t include the word “cure” . . . wow, so very, very telling. They have all but given up on that idea. I have felt for some years now that they are simply about money and lining their own pockets and keeping their pink machine moving . . . there are far too many people whose livelihoods are dependent upon the continued success of the Komen brand.

    @Chemobabe – sad, but, true, those are all words I would use if I was going to put together word magnets for this breast cancer escapade 🙂

    On another note, this past weekend I was invited to participate in a pub crawl where the proceeds (from t-shirt sales and other donations) were to be donated to a breast cancer organization. Fortunately, because I have been telling my friends all about Komen, they decided to donate the proceeds from their event to a different breast cancer organization. I did not participate (partly because I don’t drink, but, certainly could have joined them and had juice or tea) but, mostly because the t-shirts for their event had breasts drawn on them and beer mugs with the slogan” “Mugs for Jugs” . . . needless to say, even if a pub crawl were an event that I would attend (which it really isn’t) I definitely would not, could not wear or purchase a t-shirt that said “Mugs for Jugs” on it. I know they meant well and I hope that they were able to raise some money and am glad that the money raised went to an organization other than Komen. But, I just wish the WORDS surrounding this disease could be less sexualized. Saving the tatas etc. is so ridiculous . . . we don’t have a cure, so there is no saving breasts . . . you either get this disease or you don’t. As Chemobabe said – “no known cure” and ” no known cause”.

    I find these slogans annoying at best . . . given that my only cure (if I have one) came from losing my tatas . . .


    Thank you for sharing the word magnets . . . I attend Komen events from time to time and stay on their email list simply to stay informed of their latest tactics.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Lisa (cancerfree2b)

  • Giving a shout out to our buddy Rachel for picking up on this “where is the cure” thing (literally and figuratively in her blog a few weeks back…..

    Good work to all the detectives…. touchĂ© …..

  • Oh my. Yes, I see lots of patterns, particular the “empowering women” kinds of slogans. Komen does anything but empower women, who are dying in such incredible numbers. I would like to send magnet words to Komen, but they are not fit for printing here.

  • Kel

    So they have the words “Breast cancer” but no way of completing the thought “sucks”? How extraordinary.

"women urged to get screened because it might save their lives. But that’s only 1 possible outcome, and it’s the least likely one" @cragcrest

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

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

Praise » 

Flyer »

Press Release »

Hardback Cover »

Paperback Cover »

Request Review Copies »

Order the Paperback »


"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

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

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' 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?

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