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February 01, 2012

I never thought I'd blog

on this topic.  It's a sensitive one in several different respects and not one I have been willing to touch with a 10 foot pole.  However, the time has come as I am sure at least one person is curious out there. If not, for the sake of this post, perhaps you can pretend?

During the fall of 2010, I went to hell and back, quite literally.  From discovering my lump (on my own, thank you very much) to the not-so-good doctor's appointment, to the horrible first 'ogram, sonogram and biopsy and all that followed.  It was a season that was supposed to be filled with changes and colors and instead was filled with misery and change, but not the kind we wanted.  

Despite all of the days that seemed so full of uncertainty, there were several things that kept me going.  I blogged about nearly everything (very cathartic), I had friends come out of the woodwork to help us (and we will forever pay forward the kindnesses) and my husband's employer showed amazing urgency and flexibility.  I would like to make it abundantly clear just how grateful we are, as I fear this post may indicate something otherwise and that is simply not the case.  However, I am so very tired of pink-washing, everything Komen-related and, in a small, sad way, glad that they pulled their funding from Planned Parenthood.

Make no mistake, I am no fan of Komen and I do appreciate the good Planned Parenthood has accomplished.  Oh, and before I go any further, this post is NOT a political debate.  I appreciate everyone else's views on heady political topics and pray for the same respect in return.  This is NOT a debate about abortion (yes, I know some will say it is no matter what) and given that I completely respect other people's views, I expect that I will not be railed for my personal and political views here or in person.  I know there are people who have made up their mind with respect to how I feel on certain topics and I will simply state that they not only have never lived in my shoes, but they might well be wrong.  

I am not glad that the funding has been pulled so that numerous women lose the opportunity to have needed health care.  Yes, Planned Parenthood does offer health care and does not just spend their days trying to "trick" people into abortions.   While I am grateful I have never needed their health care services, I am glad that they exist.  Why on earth would I then be even remotely excited that Komen has pulled their funding?

I am not happy, but simply relieved that many, many people are waking up to the greed of the corporation called Komen.  They beg for money from those who don't have it.  They spend a mere 20% of their received funds on actual research.  They withdraw funds from organizations that actually need the money.  They fund-raise by labeling products with pink ribbons.  Many of these products not only are not necessary for us to survive, but may in fact harm us, and yes, cause cancer.

Shocking?  Not really.  Komen says they want a cure, but they have recently developed a perfume that may well contain cancer-causing ingredients.  The scent costs $59 per bottle, however fewer than $2 goes to research.  I can't imagine anyone purchasing this, knowing that most of the cost is not even going to the purported mission.  

I hesitated to write on this topic, partly because I had so many blogs turn pink for me in 2010.  They did it as a show of support and I appreciated it more than anyone will ever know.  However, turning pink in support and following up with virtual and local assistance is not the same thing as the pink-washing that Komen does day in and day out.  

I spent a good portion of the last year mortified about the type of cancer I had.  I received a pink basket in the hospital (for my original surgery) filled with pink, plastic items that included a poem and a "tiddy" bear. I was supposed to be cheered up by the poem, as it was about another woman and how she received a fabulous new set of breasts.  I was also supposed to be thrilled by the junk in the basket.  Instead I was mortified.  A gift basket of organic fruit would be one thing (and, yes, we did receive those and loved them), but this was just beyond painful.  Rubbing the pink-washing in my face once again.  The basket just reminded me that because I had this recent blip, I was supposed to become a member of another club.  Well, no, thank you.

Please understand that not everything pink disturbs me and I know that many pink ribbons are truly meant as a sign of support. However, Komen is not supportive.  Coloring buckets of fried chicken pink is not supportive.  Putting pink ribbons on products that we don't need or want is not supportive.  In fact, for many of us, it's a reminder of times we'd rather forget.  If anything, Komen was extremely unsupportive when I was diagnosed.

Did they come to my house and cook me meals when I was sick?  No, but my friends ensured we were had groceries and dinners for months.  Did they visit me in the hospital or take care of my kids?  No, but my friends and family made sure that happened.  Well, what did they do?

They stepped up their efforts to get money from me.  It was almost as if my name was on a new high priority list.  As though because I had been diagnosed, I suddenly had the ability and desire to give to an organization that, in my opinion, has done little towards their supposed goal.  It took three letters from me and three phone calls from Peter to have my name removed from their mailing list.  

I do think it is a shame that they pulled their funding, but finally the truth about this organization is coming to light.  Komen, in my mind, has a lot of explaining to do for years and this issue was finally the straw that broke the camel's back.  I am happy to report that all is not lost for PP, as today I read that:

Tait Sye, a spokesman for the agency, said Wednesday afternoon that "more than $400,000 from 9,000 donors came in the last 24-hour period."Add that to a $250,000 "Breast Health Emergency Fund" from Texas oil executive Lee Fikes and his wife, Amy, and the group is closing in on the $680,000 it received from Komen in 2011.

It doesn't thrill  me that the funds had to come from other sources.  If I had any respect for Komen, then it would have been due to them truly understanding that Planned Parenthood is not the end-all, be-all of evil organizations.  However, they clearly don't.  I must say the more I learn about Komen, the more I feel that they are truly evil.  A corporation founded on a promise that, in my opinion, has not been kept and likely can't be.  A corporation that preys on guilt and tries to deny the link between environmental hazards and breast cancer.  A corporation that has a budget just for suing other small non-profits just because they used the phrase "for the cure" without THEIR permission? Well, why wouldn't they, considering the millions in funds they receive?

I am not asking for anyone out there to read this and suddenly desire to support Planned Parenthood.  I am simply asking that if you have contributed to the Komen Foundation, walked in a walk or even thought about supporting them in any way (perhaps by purchasing something pink?) to rethink your options next time.  There are many decent organizations in existence, e.g. Breast Cancer Action that support those with breast cancer and are not in any way funded by pharmaceutical companies or companies who do not have our breast, I mean, best interests at heart.

If you were considering a donation to Komen because of their decision, please reconsider your plan. Support a local organization that helps unwed mothers, perhaps volunteer through your church or donate to deserving organizations overseas, like Mercy House, who truly need your assistance (and, yes, we will be supporting them this year).  Please give your money or time directly to those who need it, not to an organization who has not only ignored its mission, but left behind those who could have truly used its help.




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was wondering how much they actually apply to research... from all the millions they garner from families suffering through the trial of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment... I always feel like I'm being a mistrusting skeptic when I ask the question when I get the phone calls asking me to march, when I send my money off to a group I know actually gives most of their money for research and avoid bying anything with a pink ribbon on it..."race for the cure"...someone one is...evidently Komen would benefit financially if it's never found. Once it is aren't all of them out of a job? If I were them that would be my goal...to no longer be needed...so I would put more than 20% of what I take in into research...and early detection...and treatment... Non-profit...no taxes...are they allowed to take political stands? Should their status as a non-profit be reassessed?

Thank you for writing this post, I've always had reservations about the pink brainwashing and I'm very careful normally about giving to organizations that don't spend their money where they say they do. I stand with Planned Parenthood and will contiue to make sure I give to them-SGK won't be getting a dime from me if I can help it, including through their massive amount of corporate sponsors.

I found this blog post on a link on Facebook. I too dealt with breast cancer in the Fall of 2010. Like you, I found a lump which started the whole process. I found the timing quite difficult, as just when I wanted to be thinking about anything BUT breast cancer, it was October and everything around me was colored pink! Since then I have come to despise pink ribbons or anything pink. A friend of mine, who also had breast cancer, feels the same way and we have both received many pink "gifts" from friends and relatives. We put them right into the charity bin! There's a new movie called "Pink Ribbons, Inc." about the whole "industry" around the pink ribbon campaign. Here's the trailer;
My friend and I will be going to see it on Sunday while our husbands watch the Super Bowl!

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4509 Program Expenses $254,840,077
Administrative Expenses $37,629,831
Fundraising Expenses $23,797,862
Total Functional Expenses $316,267,770 $456,437 0.14% Hala G. Moddelmog Former President, CEO Any charity, no matter how big, that pays its CEO over $450,000 USD a year, is an organization who is in my opinion on the wrong track, who has a leadership who are out of touch with the average person and are unaccountable to any one. What kind of people decide to pay a CEO of a charity that exists to fight against breast cancer almost half a million USD a year? Certainly not everyday working folk. There are a bunch more people working for that foundation making more that $250,000 a year. I mean .14 cents out of every $100.00 donated goes to pay just the CEOs salary? Wow! Their overhead is painfully bloated. And almost $24 million bucks on fundraising? So when someone gives 20 bucks to this foundation, they take that money and spend almost 4 dollars to cover their overhead and to try and raise more money? Over 60 million out of 316 million not going to programs to help women? An expensive organization to be sure. Help for women with breast cancer, a resounding yes. Through this foundation? I think you know my view.

According to publicly released documents filed with the US government, $39,000 USD a month as the head of the Susan Komen Foundation? Is that not just wrong? http://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/Content/AboutUs/Financial/FINAL%20PDC%2012%2022%2010%20FILED.pdf

In the end of all issues, its how we/me choose to get involved and do our part. Its about choice and each of us has a choice to do our part, whatever that might be. We are not robots nor are we automotons. So get involved, somewhere, with someone. The best part of the 3-days were the individuals and their stories. And, if I don't pass that on, I'm forgetting my responsibility to myself and the many others in my life and yours.

Many thanks for sharing this. It made me think A LOT and I appreciate your perspective.

Rockin', Jen. Welcome to the ever-growing group of us I've dubbed 'Grumblers for the Cure.' A lot of us have been blogging about this for years now. Komen did us all a favor by revealing their bankrupt priorities with this stunt & stirring up a lot of dormant outrage. I hope we keep it going.

well said and I appreciate your thoughtful and rational view of this whole Komen/ Planned Parenthood fiasco...my youngest sister died from breast cancer 8 years ago and since then my oldest sister was diagnosed and gone thru treatment for breast cancer (successfully!) along with two of my closest women friends...we have had the largest non-corporate team at the local Race for the Cure for 8 years but I will NOT participate any longer now thta I have learned more about this organization and how they spend the MILLIONS of $$$ they take in every year...I made $500 donation to PP this week and feel that my money will be much better spent in support of their work to serve women who need their services...again thank you for a very insightful blog on this!

I read this the other night after you commented on my blog. I love the way we are all connected. I ramble and joke but this topic was one in which there is NO joke. You are spot on. It seems this mess and the "overturning of the decision" finally gave many of us the guts to open our mouths about how we truly feel. I believe this could be the beginning of real change. Maybe I'm being idealistic-but I need to feel we CAN make a difference. If we stick together, we CAN make a difference.

I totally agree with you. I'm glad they screwed up and cut the funding to PP (which they have now restored), because it's caused people to scrutinize them in a way they definitely never intended!

Personally, I believe in donating to the organizations that are actually doing things on the ground, where you can be much more sure that your dollars are actually being put to work.


I've enjoyed reading the supportive feedback just about as much as loved reading your view on this! Wow. Just. Wow.

I'm sure the Komen Foundation started as a great idea, but really (obviously) got lost along the way. I feel badly for those who have donated their time and money not realizing how very little it all meant. But I feel even worse for those who have suffered through their blip and have been exploited by this.

Well stated, Jen. You opened a valve for lots of unexpressed or unclear feelings towards this double faceted organization, which strayed a long time ago from its original mission. Thank you!

I am a 23-year breast cancer survivor/activist who has followed the breast cancer advocacy movement since 1989. Komen never inspired me. Not only do Komen’s pink ribbons, commercialism, and lavish race fundraisers obscure and sugarcoat the harsh reality of breast cancer, the organization’s scientific positions are often not rooted in current evidence. In terms of funding a cure, if you follow Komen’s money, you may be surprised to learn that some Komen community grants have nothing to do with curing breast cancer. (For example, “In this workshop, participants will learn how to tell the difference between whole grains and processed grains, as well as delicious and simple ways to prepare them.”) Given Komen’s high profile and enormous size, the results of their efforts are unremarkable. Alternatively, I have admired and supported the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) from its inception in 1991 because I find NBCC to be intelligent, focused, and relentless in their mission to end breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Coalition’s marketing budget is small, but their results are significant. The National Breast Cancer Coalition and its grassroots network of trained advocates have produced major changes in the breast cancer research community, increased federal funding for breast cancer to unprecedented levels (far beyond what Komen has raised) and have changed our nation’s health care system so that thousands of uninsured and low-income women are guaranteed breast cancer treatment. The National Breast Cancer Coalition is aggressive in its mission. Recently, the National Breast Cancer Coalition launched Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®, a bold initiative backed by a comprehensive strategy, to change the breast cancer conversation from one of awareness to one of ending the disease. Please visit the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s web site, www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org, and join us in supporting Breast Cancer Deadline 2020®.

Your post makes me wonder about other large charities. I've always been leery of Komen, ever since I read how much of the money they raise actually goes to research, and this was years ago. Now I feel like I have to research March of Dimes/March for Babies, which has been my charity of choice ever since my baby was born three months early. Of course, I didn't get a purple basket full of baby items, nor did I suddenly turn up on a mailing list for March of Dimes. I'd be extremely upset if I had, and I can understand how it must have been for you. As it was, I was flabbergasted just reading about it. My first thought was "How dare they?"

With SGK's decision to withdraw their grants to Planned Parenthood, it only raised flags in my radar. What other large charity is misbehaving in this way? I have not given money to SGK nor bought into the pink ribbons, but the company I used to work for did, and many other large corporations give oodles of money "for the cure." It's enough to make one want to cringe, because even if people stop walking "for the cure" or sending money in, they will still get their funding.

Are they all like this?

I love reading your posts. They are always so thoughtful and well-informed. I've learned so much from you. Thank you, thank you again for sharing good information and speaking out!

Great post. Hope you don't catch too much flak.

Keep talking, keep writing, and keep up the hope that people will listen and take action! I have done the AVON Walk for Breast Cancer and if you look up where there money goes (it stays local to each city that has the walk and grants are awarded AT the walk so you KNOW where and HOW the money is spent). Congratulations on writing this and spreading the TRUTH! :)

You hit the pink nail on the head. BC is not cute, feminine or pink. It's a horribly unpredictable killer without a cure. I'm a survivor who is seven years out, but i watch my mother die of BC brain mets 20 years ago. In those 20 years, the mortality rate for BC has not changed an iota. Someone pleas tell Komen that we are all AWARE of BC already. Enough with the ribbons, races and the parade of stupid pink crap and CURE this b*tch already...

You've opened my eyes, and the links are very interesting. Thank you for writing this.


Yes, thank you for writing this. The more people are willing to share their discontent about what the SGK organization has been doing, the more we will have an opportunity to demand something better. The tide IS turning now that the organization has been exposed. Let the investigations continue, the truth be told, and something better result in its place. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Gayle Sulik

I 100% agree with you. I am a supportive of Planned Parenthood and also worked for them for a time. I know the painstaking lengths they go to for a host of services. My grand mother died of breast cancer, my mother carries the gene and I do not have health insurance to be tested to see if I carry it. Planned Parenthood is currently the only health care provider I would be able to go to for a much-needed screening.

I applaud you for the way you wrote this, your tone, the seriousness, the realness of it all without (as I would) be angry and use four-letter words. Komen, sadly, is a corporation. They stopped being a non-profit that cared about women ages ago.

From one VOTY to another, this post had to be written. Thank you!

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