I am a breast cancer survivor or, better stated, a term I recently learned, a breast cancer thriver. I live with this reality every day of every month and I am proud to say that I am indeed really living…and thriving. I’ve got a lot on my mind about the month of October and here’s why…
The month of October is Breast Cancer 'Awareness' Month. It is an entire month dedicated to all things breast cancer. It has become more of a Hallmark Card holiday than anything else... just my opinion. We are all 'aware' of breast cancer. Nobody doesn't know someone touched, affected, altered by breast cancer. It is my opinion that this month has become more of an opportunity for retail sales of pink merchandise than anything else. Sure a ‘portion’ of sales may be contributed to some cause somewhere that has something to do with breast cancer. But do you know where your money really goes, where it’s needed?
I had stage 0 breast cancer. I really don't even get to come to the table to discuss, participate. I'm like the kid's table at Thanksgiving....JV breast cancer. But I still had a diagnosis and an operation... and another operation, and a couple more. No, I did not need chemotherapy or radiation and for that I am grateful. Because I am the proud owner of a pathology report that says ‘cancer’, I do get to have a say in the matter.
I recently searched for what cancers have an ‘awareness month’ dedicated to them. Indeed, it is a long list and many, many cancers are represented. I think most would agree that breast cancer gets more attention during the month of October than, say, Brain Cancer Awareness Month…which happens to be May. I wonder why that is? I have known many people diagnosed with brain cancer and many people that have lost loved ones to this disease.
It seems to me that October has evolved into a marketing blitz by so many: buy and wear pink in the month of October and a portion of proceeds will be donated to someone, somewhere. I believe people are generous by nature. If something is advertised in this month and all indications are that your money will go to a good cause, many don’t think twice and make the purchase. You’ve done good, no questions asked, and your heart was in the right place. Is your money in the right place?
When I was proceeding through the system to work through my diagnosis and planning for surgery, I was really surprised how unfriendly the system is for the patients and their loved ones. I am a surgeon: I am on staff at the hospital where my mastectomies and reconstruction was done. Yes, there were some small concessions made for me on the day of surgery for this reason. But for the most part, the experience was sterile and scary and lonely and it pissed me off. I have had surgery before, many times. Mostly my history is elective cosmetic surgery because, let’s face it, I’m a female plastic surgeon and I believe in all of it. I was in control, for the most part, for the other surgeries and the experience was relatively effortless.
BoobieQue was born from the desire to help others navigate the unknown, to be very general. A surgeon having surgery...a reconstructive surgeon having reconstruction...is an anomaly. Breast cancer lit a fire in me...a fire that doesn't just burn in the month of October. I did not set out when my biopsy results came back to launch a fund raiser and a nonprofit organization. As the process unfolded and I emerged on the other side of surgery, I was compelled to do something to try to make a difference for those experiencing what I did. Our inaugural event in 2016 was created literally over the course of 6 weeks. Through the generosity and support of many friends and this amazing community, a fun day came together and a lot of money was raised. $85,000 to be specific. Wow. Who knew what we were capable of?!?
Cancer Care Services came to my attention at the time we were creating the event. If you set out to raise money, you must have a plan for what you will do with the funds. A nonprofit that has been in Fort Worth for over 70 years, Cancer Care Services is the epitome of putting your money where your mouth is. With the desire to organize as a nonprofit of our own…having realized our potential and with big expectations for the future…I started researching nonprofit organizations to learn more. Charity Navigator is a website dedicated to ‘grading’ nonprofit organizations. It looks at many parameters for each organization but the bottom line is the overall score and rating. Cancer Care Service’s rating is excellent: they have 5 stars. If you know nothing else, which is generally my reality, this helps you appreciate that funds donated to this organization are indeed used for the intended purpose.
The nonprofit that was created after the success of BoobieQue is Fighting Right. Our mission is to raise awareness for women’s issues in a very general sense beyond ‘just’ breast cancer. From education, preventative measures for health and wellness, cancer support and awareness and domestic concerns, our goal is to establish a reputation for consistent fund raising through a series of events hosted annually with funds distributed to a variety of worthy causes. Broad spectrum? Perhaps. We are up for the challenge.
Breast cancer as a disease has tremendous support nationally. When I bristle at the term ‘Breast Cancer Awareness’, this is the root of my angst. Pink has become the color of breast cancer. I don’t wear pink because I survived breast cancer…I choose pink, when I do, because it was my mother’s favorite color. If her color had been chartreuse, I would embrace that so guess I’m lucky it was indeed pink. In the month of October when pink is utilized as a marketing tool for everything from license plate covers to beanie caps, I always follow through to see where the ‘portion of proceeds’ is donated. I check that organization’s rating on Charity Navigator to assure the funds have historically been properly utilized.
For all the attention that breast cancer as a disease gets in the month of October what does not have enough support is research for metastatic breast cancer…the breast cancer that actually kills women and men. There are many organizations dedicated to research exclusively for metastatic breast cancer. METAvivor is one such organization. They are not yet graded on Charity Navigator because they are too ‘young’: you must have at least 7 years under your belt to qualify for grading. This is also why Fighting Right is not yet listed. Give us 6 years: I guarantee you will see a 5-star rating. In the meantime, we align ourselves with established, successful and above-board organizations that use funds donated for just what they say they will…in our case, Cancer Care Services.
BoobieQue is not retail sales of pink merchandise...it's a party for a purpose: to get funds to those that are completely 'aware' of their cancer but just need more resources. Maybe it’s assistance with paying for medications, insurance premiums. Maybe it’s care for the support system of the warriors battling cancer. Maybe it’s a simple as a day of play for the children of those ‘aware’ of their cancer diagnosis…an escape from reality. Fighting Right has aligned with Cancer Care Services because we know where the funds are going and how they are utilized.
So many in our community, our world, need so much and it takes relatively little to make a tremendous difference. Please come to BoobieQue for a fun day of barbeque and beer, live music, live and silent auctions, raffles and games. You can rest assured the money you spend is going to an established, appropriate organization that supports all cancer patients and their caretakers locally.
You can wear pink to BoobieQue2 but you don’t have to. We acknowledge that you are ‘aware’ of why you’re there and we are grateful in advance for the generosity of everyone participating on every level. Let’s raise a glass to survivors and thrivers, loved ones and their support system with my battle cry: Fanculo al cancro!
Here’s up to it!