October 8, 2010

The Breast Cancer Conspiracy

Cancer is bad.  I get that.  Each of my parents has survived two distinct kinds of cancer.  My grandmother died of multiple myeloma.  I'm going to say that the genetics aren't exactly in my favor here.  Now none of them were breast cancer, but I surely understand the urge to do something about it.  But this Facebook purse crap?  Uh, no.  Last year it was your bra color, this year it's purses.  We're raising awareness by being obtuse and dropping double entendre?  And what the heck do purses have to do with breast cancer anyway?  Women have purses?  And breasts?

Somehow these Facebook status updates are supposed to titillate and get so much attention that we'll all have our awareness raised about breast cancer.  Great!  But even if it works... so what?  What does awareness do in the face of a huge problem like cancer?  Awareness without action or a response is meaningless.  If we are aware of a great  truth but don't share it we haven't done anyone any favors.  As a doctor, if I'm aware of a problem but don't do anything it's called negligence.  We have vigorous conspiracy theories about politicians supposedly being aware of Pearl Harbor or 9/11 and taking no action.  Is breast cancer a conspiracy?  One where we have all manner of awareness but don't do anything about it?  Talking about it via Facebook statuses is the best we can do?

This purse wannabe-meme is ridiculous to me on another level.  It does nothing, and yet is all about  something that can effect real change.  Inside all those purses that women are innuendoing across Facebook lie wallets.  In those wallets lie money.  In money, there lies research and healthcare.  So I say we turn this silly thing on itself.  How much did that purse cost?  Give that much to cancer research.

I replace plenty of functional gadgets and gizmos with newer versions all the time, so I'm no better.  But I'm guessing that the purse replaced one that was still totally functional but out of style.  If we can afford that, we can afford cancer research for better treatment and more cures.  What if everyone gave to the American Cancer Society or some similar organization what their (or their significant other's) last purse cost?  Then you can update your Facebook status with that instead. Heck, you can be as salacious as you want about it.  "I pay $100 to get it." "I charged my husband $75 for it." Whee! We're having innuendo-laden fun now.  Or you could say what I'm about to, no innuendo required:

I donated $160 to the American Cancer Society's breast cancer efforts today.  How about you?


  1. Wow....way to go, buzzkill. First off...I love your style of writing, but not liking your generalizations of women and their purses. I carry around a hand made sling bag I bought at the Farmer's Market in Huntington Beach. My daughter carried it for 2 years before she "gave" it to me. How much do I donate for a secondhand ripped up bag, anyway?
    Secondly...how in the world do you know that women who post cute little double entendre's on facebook, don't also make contributions to the American Cancer Society, or the charity of their choice? Since when does one have to do with the other?
    Cut us a break, Doc. Cancer is an ugly, scary thing and if a world of women want to share a little "purse crap"....(in honor of John Lennon's birthday)...Let It Be.

  2. How do I know that people partaking of this meme don't also contribute? I don't. But it's a safe bet. These memes come along and whether it's posting some status update or altering our Twitter profile pic it lets us feel like we're doing something... without making us actually do something.

    But since you already give then clearly this post doesn't apply to you. But if someone were looking for an amount to give because they have a thrifty purse, I would say that number is entirely up to them. But just $20 would be something. Or, if you give as much as you feel you need to, go spend some time with someone who is fighting cancer right now.

  3. I have a great idea. How about if every person who has ever attended and graduated from medical school, donate a few hours of their time...even once a year...and give even a cursory check up to someone unlucky enough to not be covered by medical insurance.
    Though I understand your post, the time it took to peruse facebook, compose your text, and type, and respond to it, may have been better served by your actual touching of another human being.

  4. I'm not sure if you changed your name from FatChik to look like a different poster, but whatever, it's worth discussing.

    The numbers on how many doctors donate time to see patients is hard to come by. I've seen some studies that put it around 50% or so, maybe less, that do pro bono work. Personally I am a fan of http://www.healthaccessproject.org/ here in Utah. But I think that percentage should be higher. Then again it's incredibly common to find doctors working with patients to find a way to make things work financially. One could also make the argument that most of us spent our residencies in hospitals caring for the underserved, so we've put in 3-7 years of caring for those without insurance. In my continuity clinic I think I had 2 families that had insurance.

    But, this is really a non sequitur. Unless you're an oncologist you spend very little time dealing with cancer. Fewer doctors still are in research. So really I'm in the same boat as you and anyone else when it comes to cancer. I want to help. And I feel pretty sure that there are better ways to do it than merely changing our FB statuses.