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And furthermore…

It’s been said before, but I find it particularly distressing that some of the products being marketed with the pink ribbon may actually be tied to breast cancer. I’m given to understand that the Yoplait yogurt no longer contains bovine growth hormone, but many Estee Lauder products still contain ingredients that are linked to cancer and birth defects. Estee Lauder lobbied against legislation in California that would require companies to disclose these ingredients to the public. Yeah, they’re clearly really concerned about ending breast cancer.

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More on pink

Here’s an article on why some people are conflicted about all the pink. It’s not just that it forces us to think about cancer when we’re just trying to buy Triscuits, it also seems vaguely exploitative to use a serious disease as a marketing tool.

On a related note, the Olmsted Parks Conservancy is planning to install a “tribute grove” in Delaware Park. Family and friends can buy pink flowering plants for the grove to “remember and pay tribute to their loved one” (no mention is made of survivors, but maybe that’s just because buying a shrub in honor of oneself seems peculiar). I am a fan of the parks, but I find this idea distasteful. Perhaps I am simply being a poor sport – people buy trees, which helps the park, and 25% of the money raised goes to the Komen Foundation, which does many things. I’m sure it’s well-intentioned. But I’m not looking forward to running past the cancer grove – especially in spring.

Big Pink

Normally, I find the ubiquitous pink-for-breast-cancer swag annoying. I am making an exception for the NFL’s pink gloves and cleats – both because it is a less insipid shade of pink than most of this awareness crap, and because I find the thought of burly men donning pink for the cause rather adorable.

My mom and I were in New York for a couple of days last week – she had business to attend to, and I came along for the ride. It wasn’t a terribly eventful trip, but it was fun, and I got to drop by my favorite comic book store, Jim Hanley’s Universe, which is right near the Empire State Building.

In the mini-comic section, I found an effort by a high school pal, which strengthened my resolve to put out a mini of my own. If she can do it, there’s no reason I can’t. My purchase of her comic hopefully redeemed me somewhat in the eyes of the clerk, since I also bought the latest New Mutants and the third installment of Marvel Divas.

The New Mutants have switched artists – it’s now being drawn by Zachary Baldus, and it’s quite pretty. It looks as if he used colored pencils – it’s an attractively muted palatte, and Karma actually looks Vietnamese for a change, which is kind of neat. (Roberto daCosta seems to get whiter and whiter, however. He’s actually biracial – Brazilian, with a white, red-haired mother and a dark-skinned father, but in the original series he was much darker-skinned. I doubt that this is intentional, but it’s rather annoying, and it’s hardly the first time.)

I am distressed by the teaser for Issue 6 – it looks as though they’re bringing my poor beloved Cypher back from the dead – again. This will be, I think, the fourth resurrection – why can’t they let that poor boy rest in peace? And why have both the recent New Mutants storylines – first Legion, and now this – been retreads of New Mutants storylines from the 80’s? Are they assuming that the people reading this new series were fans of the original New Mutants and will enjoy the familiarity, or that they can get away with stuff that’s been done because it was done so long ago and no one remembers? All in all I have rather mixed feelings about this series, and I’m very apprehensive about the next issue. Doug Ramsey was the first great love of my life (because I’m schizophrenic). I wish Marvel would leave him alone.

My feelings about Marvel Divas are, on the other hand, comparatively straightforward: I pretty much love it. Sure, there’s the shame of buying it, and yeah, it’s kind of embarrassing to gush about it here, but it must be said – it’s the best pop culture portrayal of breast cancer I have ever seen. It blows Sex and the City out of the water (unsurprisingly) – it’s even better than DtWoF. Firestar is having chemo, and it’s … it’s totally realistic!

Dr Strange’s nurse explains to Firestar that chemo attacks the fast-growing cells in your body – cancer cells, of course, but also hair, blood, mouth, nail, and intestinal tract. Intestinal tract! There’s actually a panel where Captain Marvel is standing outside the bathroom door while Firestar is inside, either puking or pooping her guts out, it’s unclear, but either way not something you expect to see based on such a cheesecakey cover. There’s also a panel where all the Marvel Divas stay in watching Gerard Butler on Netflix, Firestar wrapped in a fuzzy robe, drinking ginger tea. That is what chemo is like!

The only thing that gave me pause was when Hellcat, in a narration box, says “I think we were all secretly hoping that the worst wouldn’t happen. That somehow, Angelica would be an exception.” She’s talking about hair loss. Really? Hair loss is “the worst”? Whatever. Like me, Firestar decides against a wig and just shaves her head. Hey Firestar, now that my hair’s growing back, I have a hat you can borrow!

As Hellcat points out, Firestar is tough – she fought the Juggernaut once. Nevertheless, chemo seems to have knocked her for a bit of a loop. I find this reassuring. I’m looking forward to the stunning conclusion, in which, I hope, we will learn that her lumpectomy was successful and everything is … well, super.

Fail.

This ad grosses me out (and not only because that guy is eating a hot dog in the swimming pool, although yeah, ew):

Sure, breast cancer can kill you and everything, but (mostly) only if you’re a chick. So who really cares, right? Except that, as this ad gently reminds us,  dudes like looking at sexy sexy bosoms! And breast cancer poses a serious threat to said bosoms! What if the lady in the commercial got breast cancer and had to get a mastectomy – what a loss to dudedom!

If I were a guy, I’d like to think I’d find this kind of thing rather insulting.

Twinges

“For the rest of your life, whenever you feel any kind of twinge, you’ll think it’s cancer,” said Dr Edge at our first meeting, displaying an uncanny insight into my psychology. There was the brain cancer fiasco, of course, and then on Saturday when I went to get my eyes checked, the optometrist found something strange in one of my eyes. “Because you have breast cancer, and because the breasts are pretty near the eyes, I think you should get this checked out,” she said. “I’m referring you to a retinal specialist, just to be safe.”

And of course before she was even done talking I had imagined going blind, having my eye removed, the inevitable spread of the cancer to my brain, and my death.

My meeting with Edge yesterday calmed me considerably; he thought it extremely unlikely that I would have ocular cancer (which is very rare) or metastases in my eye. Still, I was glad today when the ophthalmologist told me my eyes were perfectly healthy and nothing was wrong. Crisis averted. Everything is super.

Every time I feel a twinge, I think it’s cancer. And I will for the rest of my life.

It’s going to be a long eighty years.

Anger and Death

Last week I attended a support group for young breast cancer survivors, at which the moderator talked at some length about accepting our mortality. In particular, she argued that we must let go of the belief that we are entitled to live for a certain amount of time.  Each day that we live, and all the things that make each day worth living, are blessings – presents – not our birthright.  We should feel gratitude for what we have been given, not resentment over what we lack.

I’m on board with all of that, I really am. I am glad I am alive, and grateful for a thousand things. And that’s true despite the fact that sometimes my anxiety about the future and my grief and frustration at what I’ve already lost drown out those other, more user-friendly feelings.

We can, and must, acknowledge both sides of this experience. I thought Barbara Erenreich’s essay was interesting because it expressed reactions to breast cancer that I’ve rarely heard expressed. Is anger my primary reaction to cancer? No. Is it a legitimate response? Absolutely.

You know, it’s not all vegan cupcakes and frozen margaritas over here in Cancerland. I’m sorry if that comes as an unwelcome surprise.