My journey to shoot for the moon.

Pink Makes Me Want to Puke is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Not that you could miss it with all the Pepto-bismal pink – hundreds of products in the grocery store have it, NFL players are wearing it.  And please don’t misunderstand, breast cancer is serious and impacts the lives of many, many people (women and their families).  But when caught early, breast cancer is 98% curable.  That is right, 98% CURABLE.

There are reminders for women all over the place to, “check the girls” and to go for their mammograms after turning 40 (and yes Mom, I’m scheduling mine this week).  And breast cancer is a diagnosis that makes a women question many things in her life:  Am I still beautiful?  Should I have reconstruction?  Who am I without my breasts?  Society is still very materialistic and judges beauty by what is on the outside.  The emotional impact of breast cancer can be huge.  I really understand that.  I know women who are breast cancer survivors.  I know women who are in the process of dealing with this diagnosis.  And I understand that it isn’t easy.

But pink makes me want to puke.  The Komen Foundation has done an excellent job of making sure that we are all aware of breast cancer.  The Foundation has taken fundraising to a level never seen before and they should be applauded for their efforts, which have resulted in many successful treatment options for women with breast cancer.  And while I don’t have daughters (and yes, men can get breast cancer – but it is not the same issue), I hope, no I pray that my future daughter-in-laws and my future granddaughters (or granddaughter-in-laws) never have to deal with breast cancer.
My problem with pink  is that it is focused on one single type of cancer to the exclusion of all others.  I understand that for the Komen Foundation to be successful they needed to focus on breast cancer.  But that success has escalated to a nauseating level.  The money that the Komen Foundation raises is money that is not going to other types of cancer.  And breast cancer is not the number 1 cause of cancer deaths.  According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 40,000 people in the United States died from breast cancer in the past year.  However, nearly 157,000 died from Lung Cancer in the same period, 49,000 people died from colon and rectal cancer, and 38,000 people died from pancreatic cancer (statistics found at

The difference is that there isn’t a Lung Cancer Awareness Month or a Colon and Rectal Cancer Month.  The public is unaware of the “colors” representing these cancers (FYI – colon and rectal cancer can be either blue or brown and lung cancer is pearl).  There isn’t a huge foundation raising awareness of these cancers and soliciting corporate donations and backing.

Why not?

This is the question I ask myself over and over again when I see the pink that represents breast cancer.  Chris says that it is because, “Lungs aren’t as stylish as boobs.”  I’m not sure that I totally disagree.  However, I think there are many other contributing factors.  Is it because lung cancer is caused by smoking and therefore people who have lung cancer did it to themselves?  It is true that many people who have lung cancer smoked.  However, if you have a heart attack because you ate high fat foods, do we blame you?  Do we blame someone who gets skin cancer because they didn’t use enough sunscreen?  No, we don’t.  And while we have known that smoking causes a number of diseases, that has only been confirmed in the recent past.  How many mothers smoked while they were pregnant and had low-birth weight babies?  My mom did.  Did she know conclusively that smoking would cause this?  No.  Did she know that smoking caused cancer?  No.  So, while I may buy into the feeling that those who smoke should know better, they didn’t know better 40 years ago.

AND, what about the non-smokers who have lung cancer?  How can we possibly blame them?  They didn’t smoke and they still got lung cancer.  And trust me, they are paying for it.  Lung cancer isn’t usually found early.

The American Lung Cancer Association has this posted at the top of their home page:

Lung cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women. However it is still the most common cause of cancer death.(

In 1979, 98,541 people died from lung cancer.  That number has been steadily increasing.  The 5-year survival rate for lung cancer in 1979 was 12.7%, while it was 75.1% for breast cancer.  Now the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is 90.1% – which is a significant increase.  However, the 5-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 16.3% (statistics are from 2005, the latest year I could find reliable statistics for).  This is pathetic.  After nearly 30 years, the survival rate for those diagnosed with lung cancer has improved less than 4%.  (

Why is this ok?  It isn’t.

So why isn’t someone doing something about it?  I think that the answer to this question is quite complicated.  For one thing, the families of people with lung cancer are so busy trying to deal with the cancer and the not-so-good prognosis that they don’t have the time or energy to be national advocates for lung cancer research.  I know that I don’t have the time, energy or the resources to fund-raise for lung cancer research.  I am too busy trying to pay the medical bills.  The other part of the answer, I think, is that there are so few survivors of lung cancer, they would be difficult to mobilize.  One reason that I believe that the Komen Foundation has been successful is that they can tap into breast cancer survivors (there are many).

As the spouse of someone who has lung cancer, it is very frustrating.  And in the end, results in me wanting to puke whenever I see pink!


Comments on: "Pink Makes Me Want to Puke" (10)

  1. Growing up I always thought that the American Cancer society was ALL about lung cancer. I remember their horrifying commercials and demonstrations on how cigarettees destroy lung tissue. I never understood why my parents still smoked despite seeing that horrible stuff and what it does to their lungs, let alone surrounding us with second hand smoke. I have a co-worker who has lung cancer and I believe a customer died from lung cancer even though she never smoked a single day of her life.

    As for pink, I hated pink from the time I was about 16 until I got divorced at 38. I felt like a gigantic pig, swine, hog if I wore pink because I was overweight as a teen. I completely cut that color out of my life so I wouldn’t offend society with my presence in it. And then, when I got divorced, I embraced my inner beauty and began to love pink. I am surrounded with pink in just about everything I do now. I love seeing the positive in such a lively color that I once could only see such horrible negative things in.

    Having a parent with the blood cancer multiple myeloma has shown me that all those years of cancer research have made a huge difference in the life expectancy and quality of life for cancer patients. I hated all their fund raising when I was a kid growing up, but I was so happy that the American Heart Association was there after my dad’s heart attack to explain to me WHAT IS GOING ON? And he has survived much longer and made amazing strides with his cancer, which I fully credit to all the past cancer research.

    It is amazing what we learn as time passes and how our attitudes change. Wishing you puke free days!


    • Jessica –

      I actually like pink and was wearing a hot-pink shirt today. It is the pink that is the symbol of breast cancer that makes me want to puke. And I don’t know that will ever change. To me, it represents a society that believes that breast cancer is the only cancer that we should be supporting. I know that it isn’t the reality – it is my perception. And that is why it makes me want to puke – because Chris has a terminal diagnosis and society doesn’t seem to be interested in lung cancer.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings! And you are right, attitudes change as time passes.


  2. Almost 90% of all the funds collected in the name of PINK go to research . Not one dine of that money goes to treatment . I won’t even log on to facebook right now because I know I will piss someone off . No insurance , no help . I have a 5 by 9 mm tumor in my left breast . I will never know if it is cancer until it is too late . Got my Mamo, ultra sound , and now I owe 2400.00 for my Breast MRI . Two surgeons later and the blood that leaks fom this breat is my fault , medication . No wait , Inflammation . No, stress . They won’t take it out or do needle biopsy it . They might have to treat it , if it is cancer . On the scale they set I am a 3 out of 4 . Four is cancer . So to me pink is not for the cure , it’s for procuring millions of dollars while avoiding all other cancer research {really they have more than enough funds to grant to other cancers} and making us all feel compelled to feel bad if we don’t buy the pink crap . One more person tells me my state will help me , I might have to punch them . There is no help , all the funds from pink are funneled into grants and frankly I think funneled into anything but help . I say a prayer that no one else have to be treated the way I and many others have . My last draw with the doctors i my area {surgeons} was when the last one asked me if I wanted him to cut off my breast . I can be a real smart ass when I get mad I can be way worse than that . What in the world is happening to the doctors in the Midwest that one should ask me such an appalling question ? I was so mad I was either gonna cry or say my piece .I told him No , I do not want my breast cut off . I want to know Dr. — when you lay your head down tonight to go to sleep you know for sure 100% that there is no cancer in my breast . He sure didn’t like that . Too bad !!!! I have the tumor that no amount of pink can help !


  3. Lung cancer is the #1 cause of death from cancer. It is caused not only by smoking but exposure to asbestos. My David had not smoked for 22 yrs., yet tests revealed asbestos in his lungs.

    I also have a problem with the “pink” cancer being the privileged one.


    • Maxi –

      Chris had no known risk-factors. If they hadn’t found his cancer because of his difficulties with the fluid around his lung, they never would have looked for it.

      I had some concerns that this post might not be received well – I am glad that I am not the only one with “pink” issues.


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