Deconstructing Pink: Do Something For the Women in Your Life

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) is a little bit like that local band you loved until they got famous and turned you off. The NBCAM is a thousand-headed hydra of a behemoth buried inside a labyrinth of 10,000 tentacles, each representing another 10,000 conflicts of interest.

It is truly a whale of an organization, followed by a million remora suckerfish ranging in size from your local hair salon to the National Football League.

Come the first of November, we're like Kramer after the Kenny Rogers' Chicken Roasters opened up across the street:

Rods and cones all screwed up, pouring Pepto Bismol into cereal bowls.

The backlash against it grows by the year, even if the motifs don't change. Over the next week or two I'll look at some of the common motifs associated with this formerly normal month, and offer fresh ways to not only cope with it all, but be a productive member of society along the way.

Before I get started, let me introduce you to an African proverb worth remembering:

If you think one person can't make a difference, try spending the night in a small room with a mosquito.

MOTIF: "Do Something for the Women in Your Life."

We all have women in our lives. Buying a pink bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, or overpaying for a pink-themed one-off professional sports team jersey, will not do anything of any value for them. If you disagree with me, then buy something pink-themed, don't tell anybody about it, then ask these women if they feel the love.

Or better yet, the next time you're sick, or if you have a chronic illness, and someone says they want to help you, tell them to buy a $20 product whose marketers say that with each purchase they will donate $1 towards research into finding a cure for your ailment. Feeling the love?

If you want to do something for the women in your life, then actually DO something for the women in your life.

Arrange for house cleaners to clean the home of someone with breast cancer. Or send them to a day spa focused on oncology aesthetics, which you can do through organizations like the unfortunately named Heaven's Door Cancer Foundation (steer clear of their link to super-quack Robert O. Young and his alkaline garbage) or do a local search for a cancer day spa or oncology aesthetics.

Put in the simplest terms, get in touch with the primary caregiver of a woman with breast cancer and find out how you can help. Make no assumptions about what help might be needed, just ask and do.

OR ….

Here's an idea that I can't personally and directly recommend because I'm not a health professional, but that I can at least find a way to encourage.

Think Ahead

Think about the young girls (and boys too), in your life—kids, kids' friends, nieces, nephews, neighbors—and ask yourself this: If you could prevent them from developing at least a couple subtypes of cancer decades from now, would you do it? Yes-- you wouldn't encourage them to start smoking right?

There are other ways.

It is possible to prevent some cancers, for example, by way of the HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix.

Simply put, these vaccines prevent infection by viral strains known to cause cancer—specifically, HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18, which cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and nearly half of all vaginal, vulvar and penile cancers. The evidence is mounting that HPV infection can also lead to anal cancer and oropharyngeal cancer (head and neck). Vaccination prevents infection, thereby preventing the subsequent cancers caused by infection.

It isn't the first vaccine to do this.

The three biggest known causes of cancer are:

  1. the sun
  2. smoking
  3. the hepatitis B virus

The hep B virus infects roughly one-third of the planet, doing little to most people but devastating others, leading to deadly cirrhosis and liver cancer. In 1986, a yeast-derived hepatitis B vaccine arrived and whether you're aware of it or not, it has fundamentally altered the populations of much of the world. As Dr. Paul Moffit details in his book Vaccinated, this vaccine has cut the incidence of hep B infection among children and teens by 95 percent in the United States.

Potentially tens of thousands of people who would have otherwise developed liver cancer in the next decade onward because of HBV infection, now will not. It has also significantly boosted the number of livers that are suitable for donation, thereby saving even more lives.

Dr. Kenneth H. Kim, an assistant professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill writing for MedPage Today, put it simply and bluntly: The HPV vaccine can prevent the majority of HPV infections that lead to cervical cancer … if you could vaccinate against it, wouldn't you do it?

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that every year 21,000 cancers caused by HPV can be prevented with vaccination.

If helping to prevent some cancers from developing in the girls in your life 40 years from now isn't doing something for them, I don't know what is. If you know someone with any of the aforementioned cancers, ask yourself whether, if given the opportunity some decades ago, you would have encouraged their vaccination.

Of course you can't get your kids' friends vaccinated, and I'm not encouraging anything like that. I'm only encouraging an end to the ignorance surrounding HPV vaccination.

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