Walking, Eating, and Thinking Myself Into Oblivion

It’s the first really warm day of the season here in the Pacific Northwest, and I should be out doing something in the sunshine. Instead, I am reading one woman’s story about why she stopped participating in breast cancer walks. I am also hungry. After I posted my tale about the rigmarole I’m being forced to go through in order to have weight loss surgery, I made some drastic changes to my diet. I had to come to terms with the fact that this is one battle I will not win unless I lose. Unless of course I miraculously find $50,000 in my travels.

Back to the breast cancer walks: October (Pinktober) is breast cancer awareness month; springtime is when all the high-profile breast cancer charities start advertising their runs/walks for the cure, which can be just as infuriating. In the near future, you, I, and pretty much everyone will be on the receiving end of a solicitation or two from people who will be walking in one of these events. They will be asking us to donate money. In my case, the answer will be “no”.

Many people believe they’re doing a great service to women with breast cancer by taking part in these events. The reality is that they’re not. According to my favorite militant feminist breast  cancer charity, Breast Cancer Action, very little of the money raised at these things goes towards research to find a cure. The claim that you will be “walking for a cure” is nothing more than marketing bullshit to make you feel good about participating. Instead, the bulk of the money goes towards useless awareness campaigns and pink ribbon products that do very little to actually help women with breast cancer. So, knowing this, why would you want to go schnorring for money from everyone you know?

When we’re young, naïve and idealistic, we tend to believe we’re doing good deeds when all we’re really doing is shoveling shit against the tide. That’s what these walks are. They’re nothing more than worthless events that encourage a false sisterhood of survivorship. They make women think that swathing themselves in pink, dancing to inspirational music, and walking a few miles is actually doing something. What it’s doing is putting money into the coffers of the corporate sponsors who are there promoting things like energy drinks, yogurt, and other “wellness” products that will contribute to the cure if you use your hard-earned money to purchase them. The only thing you’ll be doing is making corporate fat cats richer; you won’t be doing a thing to help anyone suffering from cancer at any stage.

On April 13, the Washington Post published an article about a $250 million donation made by tech billionaire Sean Parker as part of a project to unify cancer research efforts. Mr. Parker would like to see an end to redundant research, which would hopefully hasten the search for more effective treatments, and maybe cures, for some of the deadliest cancers. If scientists can pool their resources and share their findings, they might be able to play nice, instead of tearing each other down like Real Housewives or Apprentice contestants.

Much of the focus is now on immunotherapy treatments, which have shown to be quite promising. As many of you know, I am participating in a clinical trial for NeuVax, an adjuvant treatment that will hopefully prevent breast cancer from metastasizing. I’ve finished the first phase of treatment, which was a year of Herceptin, and now I am down to receiving an injected vaccine once every six months for the next couple of years. I feel strongly that I am doing my part to help women with breast cancer to not go through the hell I went through. I am taking part in something that might actually do some good, rather than a high-profile event that isn’t doing anything except putting a cheerful façade on a truly horrible disease.

Sean Parker is performing a giant mitzvah for people suffering from cancer. His personal philanthropic efforts are appreciated by nerds and geeks like myself, but not by the pink ribbon-pushers who want the general public to think their philanthropy is superior to his because thousands of people gather to support it. It’s time we all realized that all this walking and running isn’t making a damn bit of difference where it counts. The only thing it’s doing is allowing the CEOs of these charities and their sponsors to grow richer, while the people they claim to be helping grow sicker.

If my words haven’t done enough to convince you, take a look at these four questions before you sign up for yet another run/walk event. No thanks are necessary.

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