Breast cancer awareness is more than skin deep

Anna Wagner

There are few events that I deem traumatic enough to change me as a person. One of those moments was when I was 10 years old. My grandmother (whom I call Oma, due to my strong German heritage) was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, I did not understand exactly what that meant. My parents had no idea how to prepare me because it was new to them as well.
It wasn’t until I saw her for the first time after a few treatments when the realization hit me with mind bending force. As I walked into her living room, it wasn’t my Oma. Her beautiful, full head of white hair was replaced by a faded bandana. Her eyebrows were gone, as well as a majority of her muscle tone and mass. She looked sick. She looked like she sat in a chair for hours, while chemicals that nauseated her were pumped into her body. My Oma looked like she had cancer.

Flash-forward to 2013, when Zumies and other stores geared to teenagers and young adults sell shirts and bracelets that encourage everyone to “Save the Boobies.” There are men down in California motorboating women to “spread breast cancer awareness.” Everything from soda to toilet paper has the pink ribbon on its label, including the products that could potentially cause breast cancer. There are campaigns that use commercials of women laughing, dancing and marching for the cure. We only think pink and we only think of the “boobies.”


Do not misunderstand. These breast cancer awareness campaigns are incredible. Everyone in America now knows that this is an extremely important matter that affects many families and individuals.
The Susan G. Komen foundation is sitting on more than $1 billion for breast cancer research. Without these funds and without this awareness, so many more women would be victims of breast cancer. I’m just not buying this idea of the “boobies” needing to be saved.

What is more concerning is that as a society, we have replaced the identity of breast cancer patients with a set of knockers, which is disgusting, demoralizing and just simply sexist. We do not need to “Save the Boobies.” We need to save the women in which those “boobies” are killing. There are dying women attached to those “boobies.”

As far as the frollicking women are concerned, that is not the real image of breast cancer. Breast cancer is an ugly, horrific, deadly disease. It kills people from the inside out, and we should never associate this disease with a color we paint our daughter’s bedrooms. We should never associate this disease with fashion, or pink ribbons, or greek philanthropy. I love that Quinnipiac honors breast cancer awareness month. I think it is a wonderful time to truly raise money for a great cause, but tread lightly. Breast cancer is an extremely personal matter that should not be used for profit or for mockery.

This is not a month about collecting pink, but to consider the victims and the survivors. I was lucky enough to have a grandmother who beat breast cancer, but some are still struggling.

Before you buy pink or buy anything that talks about “Saving the Boobies,” think of how ugly this disease really is.