I’m going to ask you all to do something for me right now. I want you to pretend you were diagnosed with breast cancer. Chew on that for a bit. Think about it. Maybe you looked at your doctor and cried. Maybe you said What?? Because clearly you heard that wrong. Maybe you said nothing, but just stared at the person who delivered that news, feeling the burn of tears behind your eyes.
You drove home. Everything looked different. What was once familiar, comfortable, was now a fun house, mocking what used to be normal. Has the Starbucks always been so green? Is the drive into my neighborhood always this long? I guarantee you thought about how to tell your family and friends. Some of you called someone on the way home, some of you waited until you had a plan, a grasp, a foothold.
Think about how you told your kids. Did you sit them down on the couch for a family meeting? Did you go to your favorite restaurant? Or did you say, Hey kiddo, I want to talk to you about something in the middle of play-doh or a video game. Your child, your sweet, sweet child, unable to meet your eyes, asked, “Mom, are you going to die?” And you said, No, baby, and wrapped your child in a hug … while silently asking yourself Oh God, Am I?
You treated. Radiation, chemotherapy, hours and hours in a clinic, waiting for tests and results and Please let me live on repeat in your brain. You cleaned up your diet, you bought a wig, you bargained with God.
Some of you died. Some of you said goodbye to everything you know and love and hold dear. You left big, gaping holes in the hearts of those around you. You are now a crinkled photo in a wallet, a bedtime song, a memory.
Most of you, thank God, lived. You’re not the same, but you’re alive, and for this, you are unbelievably grateful. Sometimes you stand topless in front of the mirror and think about what you went through. You pray for the word recovery because you really don’t think you could do it again. But you know, without a doubt, that you will if you have to. Those implants are saline, but they might as well be made of steel.
Reader, are you still with me here? This is not pink and pretty. This is a real person. This is about 300,000 real people this year.
When I see SAVE THE TATAS, my stomach hurts. When breast cancer is reduced to “boobies” and “hooters” and sexualized Facebook games, I want to shout STOP IT. Just please stop it.
When I was deciding whether to undergo a preventative double mastectomy, I did not spend time soul-searching about my tatas. My sister, my dad, my umpteen friends did not carefully consider and select treatment options for their boobies. Women do not sit their children down for a discussion of chemotherapy for their hooters. Whether we mean it or not, trivializing these struggles is offensive.
The intentions are good, I know, but there is a point where awareness efforts become so common that they lose all meaning. We are so “aware” of breast cancer and its pink ribbon that we are not really aware at all.
You might be saying, “Aw, Becca, chill out. Humor makes everything better.” You know I agree with that. But guys, there is a line between humor and minimizing breast cancer patients into a junior high school joke. And I think we’ve crossed that line.
Rebecca Masterson is a writer, speaker, and an advocate for children. For more from Rebecca, follow her on Instagram.