My last visit with Rachel. November, 2011.

It was a year ago today that Rachel Cheetham Moro died. Those who love her, and are inspired by her, continue to absorb this reality and try to keep on keeping on. It’s not easy.

I’ve written a fair amount about Rachel in the last year to convey the significance of her life and her work. Not only for the people who still grieve but for social change.

Like many of us Rachel was committed to rocking the status quo. Rachel was tired of the pink charade. She wanted progress. And she knew that millions (even billions) of well-meaning supporters could only get us so far if resources were siphoned into kitschy slogans and awareness campaigns that do more to misinform the public than raise its consciousness. Rachel knew that following the money would lead to key players in the breast cancer game. What’s more, she knew that their interests had a major impact on the rules and the outcomes. With nothing to lose but her life, she set out to expose it for what it was. She became a change agent.

And a lot has changed in the last year. Many have taken a questioning stance with regard to pink ribbon propaganda and the conflicts of interest between industry and advocacy. Organizations, journalists, health practitioners, and social instigators of all sorts have stepped forward to promote new ways of thinking about breast cancer. Rachel would be glad for that. But she would not be satisfied.

Not yet. Not until we know what causes breast cancer, how to prevent it, how to diagnose it more accurately and without undue harm, how to keep it from coming back, how to treat it with less invasive measures, how to keep people from dying from it. She would not be satisfied until the blinders are off for good and the full realities of breast cancer are revealed for all to see.

So today, I am not unlike the countless others who are trying to grasp life without Rachel. I join them in this day of remembrance. And I hope they will carry her work forward. I know I will.

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11 comments to Remembrances

  • Gayle, I so appreciate that you wrote this today, especially knowing that you also just published the BCC Newsletter. It’s also immensely touching how many of our sister bloggers you managed to link in the text. That alone speaks to Rachel’s influence and prescience. It’s been hard this past year to put one foot in front of the other, to put one word in front of the other, in the wake of her death. But, challenging as that may be, I plan to continue doing just that myself. xoxo, Kathi

  • Gayle, Thank you for writing such a lovely piece. The photo alone says so much to me. We absolutely must keep forging ahead and keep trying to expose the full reality of breast cancer. It’s a challenge for sure, but Rachel and all those lost to this wretched disease deserve nothing less.

    And thank you for including so many fellow bloggers in your links. I found that to be quite humbling, unifying and comforting.

  • Thank you for this, Gayle. I greatly admired Rachel. And her in-depth reports on where BC funds were being spent were incredibly enlightening. Tragically, since her loss, yet another 40,000 or more in the US alone have passed away from MBC. This must stop.

  • Nicely done, Gayle. Rachel enlightened so many of us, and I think you’re right: she wouldn’t be satisfied just yet. We will keep pushing, though, for change. For answers. For Rachel.

  • Thank you Gayle for writing this beautiful remembrance of Rachel and especially because of all of the work all of you are doing to create change. Thanks to her in-depth reports and much of your continued work,as well as others that you have influenced, things are changing. Yet there is so much more work to be done to end this terrible disease. One woman in the US is dying every 14 minutes from MBC. These are not just figures but our friends, sisters, mothers, daughters and the list goes on. We are just going to have to keep on keeping on….for Rachel and so many others.

  • Rachel was such a force, and YES, we must keep on keeping on. Thank you for your remembrance and your commitment. — Gayle

  • Mary

    Beautiful tribute to a remarkable woman and a serious reminder of far we have to go! Thank you.

  • Mrs. Graham

    I discovered painful lumps in my breasts last week, and I haven’t been feeling right for the last few months. I am about to go to my appointment with my GP, who is a woman doctor. My grandmother had a double mastectomy and ultimately the cancer returned to claim her life anyway. My mother has struggled with recurring cancer, and I am moving her out to be near me so I can take better care of her. We are in the middle of closing on a house. My dream house. I waited so long for this.

    I don’t want to go to this appointment. I am afraid to begin this beguine. It’s been 40 years since my grandmother had both of her breasts taken from her, and I Google to find out that almost nothing has changed in those decades. After all those pink spatulas and horrid ribbons? That’s all there is? I am terrified that this means I am going to start on a path riddled with lies and brutality that I won’t be able to stop. I feel like going to this appointment is a gamble against my human agency. If I have cancer, or even the beginnings of what might be cancer some day — I lose. I find myself in the absurd position of fervently hoping this is “just” a staph infection.

    I found Rachel’s blog last night and after reading it, I wanted to write her and thank her for being so courageous. I know how hard it is for women to subject themselves to the public fora, never mind about something as personal and political as breast cancer. But then I saw the posts her husband Anthony wrote. My heart sank as I realized I will never know her. I’m glad you wrote this memorial post, Gayle. I hope Anthony is doing alright, too.

    I have to go to the doctor now.

  • Dear Mrs. Graham,

    I also hope that your appointment does not result in a breast cancer diagnosis. Although little has changed for people with metastatic breast cancer in the last few decades, there have been improvements in treatment that have been responsible for reducing the death rate overall. While the pink industry fails too many of us, I have seen the commitment and persistence of cancer researchers result in improvements. One step at a time. Our hearts do sink for those we have lost, those who are struggling, and their families. But all is not lost. Many, many, many people are working for the greater good. And they’ll keep working. For you. For Rachel. For all of us. For now, just take a deep breath. Find a good doctor. Get a second opinion if find yourself making treatment decisions. And connect with the breast cancer community for support and information. They are a valuable resource. — Gayle

  • I’m so glad that you set aside a post to remember Rachel. She was such a dear. We must keep her memory alive. I feel especially that way now that I have Stage IV. xo

  • Oh, Jan. My heart goes out to you. I’m so sorry to hear that now you too are facing this diagnosis. I hope you’ll keep writing and sharing your experience. The community is strong, and will be with you on this path. — Gayle

"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”

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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

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Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause

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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

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The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

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

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

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The perils of pink The Daily

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Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

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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