Sink the pink – breast cancer ain’t pretty

by Julie Frayn on November 16, 2013 in  Bric-a-brac

My systir has stage IV metastatic breast cancer. That’s not news. The original cancer was diagnosed in 2009 followed by mastectomy, lymph node removal, chemotherapy, radiation. Last year that same breast cancer found its way into her C6 vertebrae. Well, it found its way there long before last year. That’s just when ‘they’ found it. You know, ‘them.’ The medical community. They try hard, and we’d be screwed without them. But sometimes they just mess up in a big way and read scans wrong. Sometimes more than once.

The news is that cancer has found its way into the lymph under her other arm, around her neck, and she has inflammatory breast cancer in her other breast. Her only breast. Soon there will be none left. I guess the good news is she can’t get breast cancer more than twice.

But fear not! All is well. Why? Because breast cancer is pink! It’s all shiny and pretty and soft and happy. It’s all hope and sunshine and rays of rosy light. So let’s get this pink party bus on the road and let the good times roll!

Fuck that shit.

Cancer is not pink.

Sambeau brown

Sambeau brown

Cancer is brown. Not chocolate brown, not Sambeau brown. Not even dirt brown. It is the ugliest of putrid shit brown. The slime of goo that works its way into the crevasses of the soles of your sneakers when you tromp through the dog-shit infestation that is your back yard without paying attention. The vile smutz of crap that makes your gut lurch with nausea that no amount of soaking and scraping will ever clean away. It is the sewer sludge of filth and waste that oozes into clean rivers and lakes because someone, somewhere, is not being diligent with our world. Yes, cancer is shit.

Brown is the new pink.

Ming Sue the Elf

Ming Sue grey and Santa hat red

Cancer is red. Not cherry red, or strawberry red, or tomato red. Not the red of the fake cranberries that circle our atheist Christmas tree, or red of the Santa hat perched atop it. Cancer is the red of flashing ambulance lights. It is the red of blood and mangled flesh, of skin burned by radiation and eyes burned by tears and frustration.

Red is the new pink.

Cancer is puke green. ‘Nuff said.

Puke green is the new pink.

Cancer is grey. Not the soft, silky grey of Ming Sue’s long coat, nor the seven shades of grey that speckle my mother’s braid that hangs down to the middle of her 81 year old back. It is the shades of grey between black and white. Between what is known and what can be determined beyond a shadow of a doubt. It is the unknown. It is the shadows. And in its own way it is dull and boring and I’m sick and tired of it.

Grey is the new pink.

My Buddy black

My Buddy black

Cancer is black. Not penguin black, or cat black, or tuxedo black. Not the perfect black purse black. Not even my favourite blazer black or blackest-black mascara black. Not my Buddy black. Cancer is the black of a darkened room you are unfamiliar with. The black that sends a chill down your spine and makes your pulse race with uncertainty and fear. It is the black of deadly mold spores spreading and growing and reaching for your throat, choking the life out of you from the inside out. It is black hole black. Black that claws at the edge of the event horizon with nowhere to go but into the vortex. The deep unknown from which there is no return black.

Black is the new pink.

Most people mean well. They buy pink to support a future without breast cancer because the folks selling all this pink stuff promise that ‘a portion’ of the proceeds will go to that cause. So it has to be true. Right?

Wrong. Mostly it doesn’t. Mostly it is a marketing tool. Or even a marketing scam. The portion, if any, that does go into finding a cure is tiny at best. And then it is donated to some organizations that spend more than 80 cents on every dollar on administration and awareness campaigns. Yup, more marketing.

Breast cancer can’t be beat by shopping.

Do I sound pissed off? Well, I am. So please stop bombarding me with memes about save the tatas and go braless for breast cancer. I know your hearts are in the right place. But let’s save the women instead. Tatas be damned. And for crying out loud, if you need a bra, wear one. If you don’t want to wear one because they are uncomfortable objects of torture, then by all means, go braless. But breast cancer doesn’t want you to take off your bra for it. More importantly, breast cancer sufferers don’t want you to either. It doesn’t help anyone with cancer. Or anyone who loves someone with cancer. Or anyone at all except the pervy guy on the street corner who always has his hands in his pockets. It doesn’t.

Pissed off is the new pink.

Read my systir’s cancer rant here… she has insider information.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Susie Clevenger November 16, 2013 at 11:17 am

Julie, you are a voice that needs to be heard. So many times we buy into hype, pat ourselves on the back cause we are all “pink” with marketing and feel we have done the right thing. My heart goes out to your sister and to you.


Julie Frayn November 16, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Thank you Susie. We will take that little piece of your heart with great appreciation.

Carolyn November 16, 2013 at 11:26 am

♥ ♥ ♥


Julie Frayn November 16, 2013 at 4:43 pm


Kathi November 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

This made me tear up. I’m just so glad your sister has a systir like you. Love & hugs to you both. Sharing this post for sure. xoxo, Kathi


Julie Frayn November 16, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Thank you Kathi. I only know these feelings from the sidelines. But even that is too close. No one should know what cancer feels like. Not with all that pink money clogging up the fundraising airwaves. Yeah, right…

karen somethingorother November 16, 2013 at 11:57 am

Yeah! You’re right! We need a new colour for the campaigns, because that pink cotton candy idea is bullshit. When I went for a mammogram I had a what the fuck moment when I noticed all the little plastic purses we’re supposed to put our clothes in had a little cheetah embellishment on the top. Like I was at the glamour spa. I’m so, so sorry about your sister. My sister is everything to me. I really appreciated your post, and your honesty.


Julie Frayn November 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

The only time I like any of the pink ribbon stuff is November 1. Toilet paper and paper towels with ribbons go on sale super cheap! We’ve had a lot of WTF moments these past four years. I’m sure there are more to come…

Lisa Kramer November 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm

What a powerful post, Julie. I have long been disturbed by the pink-washing of something that should not be hidden away by platitudes and self-congratulatory pats on the back. Know that my thoughts are with you and your sister. I know that’s not enough, but it is what I have to offer right now. Hugs.


Julie Frayn November 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Lisa, it’s a lot. Thanks for the thoughts and the hugs, and for being disturbed by the pink.

Carolyn Frayn November 16, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Glad we share a love for AC/DC… among all those other things we share. Like, the love of our children, literary license, hiding under blankets, and red wine. Thank you sweetie… xoxo


Julie Frayn November 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm

And inappropriate humour. And flipping off cancer… :) LLL

Nancy's Point November 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Hi Julie,
Nice job articulating your thoughts on this. And as you mentioned in one of your replies, even the side lines is too close to view this stuff from. I’m so glad your dear sister has you in her corner. Thanks for writing this. Sharing as well.


Julie Frayn November 18, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Thank you Nancy. I’m glad she has the community of warriors she’s met online also. It gives her strength to know she’s not alone. Which is also terribly sad – to know how many are suffering.

Elizabeth J. November 18, 2013 at 12:42 pm

So sorry to hear about your sister.
Very accurate and colorful description of cancer, although the vocabulary did bring back childhood memories of the taste of pink camay soap.
I know people who are all into running the races and wearing pink ribbons, and now they do it in my “honor.” Most of them were busy when I needed help. But, I have other friends who drove me the 100+ mile round trips for treatments. Who offered help wherever they saw the need. I had an acquaintance (I now count as a friend) whose religion requires her to cover her hair, who loaned me a very nice wig and scarves just before chemo, a friend who had been a beautician who invited me to come to her house to cut my very long hair (and cry) in privacy, a friend who lives near the cancer center who has opened her home to me numerous times when needed.
The real faces of the war on breast cancer has little to do with pink ribbons, and much to do with actual caring.


Julie Frayn November 18, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I know many who take part in the runs and the walks. Recently the CIBC Run for the Cure held their annual event. Despite the pink, I went to the website to support a friend who was running. The one place that the funds raised was not going was to find a cure. They should call it the CIBC Run For Yet More Awareness and Administration. I didn’t donate. Saw no point.

Glad that you do have the kind of support you need. That’s how you really honor someone – by being there. Thanks Elizabeth. My most positive vibes coming your way.

EAK13 November 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm

All I can say reading this made me so bloody pissed off, the writing was BRILLIANT!!

I will keep you sister in my thoughts…


Julie Frayn November 19, 2013 at 6:23 am

Thank you Alli. Pissed off seems to be the prevalent emotion in the wake of pinktober. But lately it seems to just stay there, never ebbing. Kind of like Stage IV MBC.

Brenda November 20, 2013 at 11:35 am

Well said my friend! your emotions come through your words, this hit home for me – having been on the side lines one too many times in my lifetime for loved ones! You made me cry at my desk……… but thank you! Powerful, so true, love your honesty.


Julie Frayn November 25, 2013 at 6:57 am

Brenda, darling. I miss our dinners. Will try to do one of those before Christmas? The sidelines suck, but I admit I’d rather be there than on the front lines. That scares me. ♥

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