Speaking of being controversial, here’s a guest post from my friend Bev. Actually, I read it on her facebook page this morning & asked if I could steal it. I thought that it would be appropriate in light of the decision that the Susan G. Komen Foundation made to defund Planned Parenthood.
Bev & I went to high school together & when we reconnected on facebook I learned that she is a breast cancer survivor. She’s a fabulous feisty friend, who wants to save the world and her own life. She’s also a fabulous artist – go here to check out her work. And buy something! Her current job status is “Environmental Activist at Indentured to Breast Cancer”
She wrote this for her running community in 2009. (The emphasis added is mine)
I see it everywhere I go. It’s a race for something….
In 1996, shortly after my 2nd child was born, I realized there was a time-bomb in me. At 33, it didn’t have a name yet, but it got me running. It started with entering a local road race. I had so much fun that I wanted more. I lived in a small town and road races were few and far between. So, I found myself driving an hour to Charlotte, NC for the chance to run more races.
I didn’t care what for. I wanted that coveted prize – the T-shirt! Okay, when I got edged out on an age group award, I became obsessed. But admit it! We all do. We all stand around with our buds to the end to see if we got it. We have all checked with race chairs to make sure our times were right. But that’s what we do! We run in the rain, hot sun and slushy snow for a chance at the 3rd place medal. I couldn’t wait to be a master runner because there’re more chances to go home with something!
I found myself running for everything imaginable. But I never imagined any of it would ever affect me.
Then it happened. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35. One of my running buddies said, “You’ll have to run one of those races now where they hand out pink hats.”
What? A pink hat? I need to get me one of those! So, with the power of the Internet, I found one! A race that vowed to find a cure for breast cancer. And I would get a pink cap! Sign me up! Six weeks after a mastectomy, I drove the kids and myself to Raleigh to run in my first Race for the Cure. I stayed overnight with cousin Joel and the adventure began. The next day, my world changed forever. I won! I won 1st place breast cancer survivor!
You know I was hooked! I have two containers of T-shirts from everywhere to prove it!
That was 10 years ago, and though I must say, there have been some advances, changes in theories, enlightenments that have lead to pink ribbons on everything you can imagine, and scores of runners, walkers, fundraiser and even MEN, yes, MEN, adorned in pink, not much has changed. I am a runner who had t-shirt envy. Now that I’ve run out of storage for my t-shirts, and I have a few medals strung with pink rather than red, white and blue, I need another motive to run through slushy, cold water running down the curb. You know. The kind that soaks your entire shoe and makes the rest of your run miserable.
Don’t get me wrong. We all owe a lot to everyone who pinned a bib onto that t-shirt. But advances in treatment and detection of this ailment are not doing what we first embarked to do – find a cure! I have since learned that the pink ribbon and Breast Cancer Awareness Month are both ingenious marketing ideas by companies wanting to further their cause. Although today it stands as a symbol of the stalwart and gallant women, and men, affected by this disease, full of stories that tug at your heart, it is a well designed strategy invented by companies looking for product promotion, better known as cause related marketing. The goal of finding a cure is somehow masked by this flurry of pink.
I live in the real world. It is a hard blow to someone who is looking with child-like wonder at the pomp and circumstance, delighting in the participation. But after the last water bottle is picked up and the volunteers are gathered from the intersections, we still have a disease that is life-threatening. We are still burdened with a long-term illness that we’ll have to continue to provide for in terms of medical care and costs. That’s a lot of t-shirts on the shelf. They just remind me, day in and day out, that the game of Russian roulette with insurance, medical bills and rogue cancer cells is still on. Which one will get me first?
This tends to get me thinking along the lines of prevention. It is time we dug out that relict saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Wow. How much have we given to that cure?
Is it not time we got back to basics and started looking for the prevention? I feel like we, as runners, the leaders of the pack in this evolution of marketing, can help round the corner on redirecting efforts, and not just for breast cancer, but for autism, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, birth defects, and let me go through the closest and all my t-shirts for more reasons.
We can start simply by becoming aware of our environment? What is in our drinking water? What are we doing to our lawns and homes that affect our water sources? What chemicals have we become dependent on that are more for convenience? What are we exposing our children to for the perfect lawn? The perfect apple? The perfect home?
Is it worth all this to prevent a weed? To prevent a bug? To prevent a germ?
Hey, we as runners should say we want to prevent (insert disease or condition of your choice), and until you start to seriously consider this, we don’t want your t-shirt.
After all, would it not be nice to pass me on a trail wearing a t-shirt that says, “Fun Run Just Because”?