Dr. Fern Kazlow

Shattering Limitations

Changing What's Possible in the Way We Live, Work, and Age

By Dr. K. on Sat Oct 30th 2010 at 12:16 am

Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) was begun by AstraZeneca in 1985 (the manufactures of the breast cancer drugs Arimidex and Tmoxifen). In 1991, the Susan G. Koman foundation handed out pink ribbons to its participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors. Two years later, Estee Lauder Companies founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and used the pink ribbon as its symbol. Now, Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) is an annual event every October and people hope its effects will last throughout the year. Well, its effects are lasting – leaving us with both the good and the bad consequences.

Yes, I said bad!

Most people think of the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign as a good thing – and it does have its merit. It encourages women to get checked – and check themselves for breast cancer. People have used BCAM to get the message out about the importance of good nutrition, regular exercise, and reducing stress.  It has brought more open discussion, lessening the sense of isolation people with breast cancer and their families feel. BCAM has also encouraged donations, not only for research but to help women and their families struggling with this challenging illness.

So what's the problem here? You may think well, the goal of BCAM is to promote mammograms as the most effective tool against breast cancer – something that is more controversial than in years past. And most of us have heard of the side effects of drugs, chemotherapy and radiation. But that just points to the importance of making informed decisions.

But there are side effects of this annual event and those pink ribbons that are far more dangerous. For many women, BCAM and those pink ribbons are triggering  a state of fear – fear that for some has even become chronic. Not the hoped for bit of fear promoters of BCAM believe will drive women to get checked and treated. But a state of fear that getting breast cancer is all but inevitable at some point in their life. 1 in 8 – sounds very close, frighteningly likely.  We're bombarded by TV, print ads, other media, and pamphlets  in the supermarket or in our doctors' offices encouraging us to look at our circle of friends and wonder if we will be that 1. And according to BreastCancer.org, breast cancer is a fear like no other and the most significant risk factors for this cancer are being a woman and getting older. Hmm… Doesn't give you much feeling of control does it.

Fear – this type of fear is extremely dangerous. It can cause women to put off or refuse to get checked altogether, ignore lumps or other symptoms that  could mean breast cancer. Chronic fear  – even if below our level of consciousness – can effect every organ and system of our body and our health. It affects our circulation, nervous system, immune system. If affects our skin, our weight, our temper, and our ability to sleep. Ultimately, fear can make us more susceptible and less able to heal from the very condition we are trying to overcome.

Fear can also makes us feel vulnerable and helpless, leading to mental, emotional and energetic patterns that make you more susceptible to cancer or any illness and negatively impacts your ability to heal. There are incredible stories of people who lived – and died – in seeming contradiction to medical facts (my father was among them).

Mindset is key to staying healthy and recovering from any dis-ease. Our mindset is affected by conscious as well as unconscious factors including  our beliefs and fears, and the subtle and not so subtle messages around us. We live in a society with huge fears of cancer. Ask and most women will tell you that cancer is at the top of the list of what they're most afraid of. It brings images of losing their breasts, their hair, their desirability, their life. Fear has the power to bring about the very thing we fear the most.  And resistance – we all know the expression, "You get what you resist'"

And those pink ribbons, tee shirts, cell phones and all the rest of the breast cancer awareness paraphernalia  may be triggering way more than a trip to the doctor. In fact,  the prime associations with pink may no longer be girly, frilly things. We may have moved from the "pink of health" to pink triggering our deepest fears of ill health and feelings of lack of control.

So, am I saying – ditch Breast Cancer Awareness Month and put your head in the sand? 

No, not at all. Next week I will blog on how to turn these negatives into  positives and give yourself the best chance of avoiding breast cancer or healing and staying well if you get it.

And in the meantime, go over to my Resource section and read an article I wrote 6 years while sitting with my cousin about to have a biopsy: Genetics and Illness: Truth and Myths.

Categories: Health

13 Responses so far.

  1. You're the first person I've heard talk about the side affects of pink. And bless you!

    For 10 years I have been leading painting support groups for women with cancer (mostly breast cancer), and I am happy and nourished being with these women who are doing so much to restore their health and well-being. I have no problem hearing about their struggles with treatment and recovery. Even the occasional death, while it saddens me, does not frighten me. But yikes, the color pink throws me completely.

    Because of the very reason you mentioned, I've noticed that I now avoid pink things. I won't even use pink paper clips. Last week I bought a pair of pink Pilates socks as a donation to a local breast cancer fundraiser, but I said , "Keep the socks." I don't want to think of cancer every time I get dressed for Pilates!

    Fear of cancer is meant to take us straight into constructive action: eathing right, exercising, getting tests when appropriate, and helping people who are coping with the disease. Period. It's not meant to inform our lives as a vague, sub-space bombardment of low-level terror, which is what I feel as everything gets "pinkified".

    One more thing, I think that we're moving from being a cancer-denying culture to a cancer-identified culture. I'm glad the denial is dissipating, but to become so identified with cancer isn't healthy either. I hope we can figure it out soon. I look forward to your next article!

    • avatar Dr. K. says:

      Thanks Martia for jumping in and sharing your insights and experience. I agree with you – we are moving from a cancer-denying to a cancer-identifying culture. Sadly, this is being created by the very things that are supposed to be making us healthier.

      So many women – and men – are telling me they can relate. Women tell me they are feeling way more frightened about getting breast cancer and find themselves uncomfortable (and feeling politically incorrect ) with their negative reactions to those pink ribbon and other BCAM merchandise.

      Many women are sharing that they find themselves shunning all things pink. Their feelings are right on target because we are being seeped in the cultures (and vibrations) of cancer and fear.

      The good news is that bringing this out in the open, and talking about it, is a good first step to moving away from a cancer-identifying culture toward a culture of health and wholeness.

  2. avatar Lynn Pierce says:

    I find the BCAM story very interesting, but now that you metion it, not suprising that it was started by a drug company that benefits from everyone being afraid of having breast cancer.

    I too am put off by all the pink. I had breast cancer 11 years ago and I don't remember it being prevelant back then. The last few years it's become so politically correct to wear ribbons and dye everything pink, it's crazy.

    And when anything becomes PC, the original thought gets lost. Tomorrow will be the last Sunday I have to watch football players weariong pink shoes and gloves. It looks ridiculous and everyone wearing pink is not the point. For some reason it's always made me feel uncomfortable, like there's something not right about it.

    For some, I'm sure their hearts are in the right place, but I have to wonder how many people go pink because they feel like they have to? It's definitely already lost it's effectiveness as far as I'm concerned.

    How about taking all the money spent on pink shoes and gloves and everything else that either gets thrown away November 1st, or never used again, and donate it to breast cancer research or funding for women who need treatment and have no insurance?

    If you want info and inspiration listen to this radio interview: Breast Cancer Reality on Success Blueprint Radio

    • avatar Dr. K. says:

      Yes,  many "go pink" out of political correctness or pressure from friends, family, or colleagues and struggle consciously -or unconsciously – to tune out the accompanying message and their own feelings of distress.

      To be fair, there are some people that get comfort seeing so many people recognizing the importance of getting checked for breast cancer and supporting research to cure or prevent it. However, Breast Cancer Awareness has now backfired and there are definitely better ways to accomplish their goals.

      Great idea to take  the money spent on producing all those pink items  that are getting thrown away and making far too many women feel scared and dis-empowered and put it directly into research or to help women who need treatment and can't afford it.

      • avatar CJ says:

        Amen!  It is critical that we understand that there is a fine line between the positive and negative.  Being clear about what we are focusing on isn't as simple as it seems.  Often when we are thinking or talking about what we want there is a vibration of the opposite going on.  The "branding" of a color or logo to focus on what we don't want is not beneficial.  Although I admit feeling guilty for not buying into the pink, I have felt strong opposition from the getgo!  Thank you for being brave enough to speak to this issue.

        • avatar Dr. K. says:

          Thank you for adding your voice on this important issue!

          I must admit I that even though I knew that I was expressing what so many women were feeling, I was concerned about an outpouring of angry responses. Nothing could be further from what is happening. I have been amazed at all the emails and comments I’m getting thanking me for bringing this out into the open.

          Women are telling how good it feels to know they are not alone! To “admit” that BCAM has raised their fear, their discomfort with all the pink breast cancer items and the pressure to buy into it, and the guilt they feel on top of all this for their they reaction. They don’t know how to deal with the fear, pressure or the guilt.

          You’re spot on about the problem with ‘branding” a color to focus on what we don’t want – it’s not beneficial and sets you up for a host of other problems!

  3. I absolutely totally agree with you – and was thinking exactly the same thing yesterday when someone – totally well meaning reminded me of breast cancer awareness week.

    Breast health and beauty week would be a much better focus – and teaching women to change their focus in that way as you do is much more useful.

    I have seen far too many women 'fear' themselves into cancer and into unpleasant outcomes.

    I am very glad you are doing what you are doing to help – and highly recommend women take advantage of what you are offering.

    • avatar Dr. K. says:

      Thanks for adding your expertise and sharing your opinion here!

      I totally agree that many women are fearing themselves into breast cancer and unnecessarily unpleasant outcomes. While we do this in other areas of our life as well, here it is the result of something that most people are lauding and promoting as positive and necessary – Breast Cancer Awareness.

      I'm cooking up some plans along just those lines focusing on breast health and beauty  instead of cancer and dis-ease. Would love to connect with you as I'm put this together.

      I'm looking forward to learning more about the healing work you do and teach!

  4. avatar Val says:

    Hi Dr. K.
    I give you credit for saying this. I cringe when I hear people say they are wearing pink for breast cancer. I don't want to bring more energy to breast cancer. Yes, awareness is important. Nor do I want to pour tons of money into the pharmaceutical hole when teaching healthy lifestyle and prevention would no doubt save a lot more lives because there'd be a lot less cancer to begin with.

    PS – Thanks for commenting on my blog. Val

  5. avatar Dr. K. says:

    Yes! I totally agree – awareness is important but what we have now isn't healthy awareness but an unhealthy immersion in the energy of breast cancer. The "pink connection" is now creating subliminal reactions that bring women into this cancer energy – and cancer fear – without even being conscious of it.

    Only recently did I learn that Breast Cancer Awareness Month was started by a drug company that makes breast cancer drugs. Much of the events of BRAM are around donating for research for "the cure". Surgery and drugs have a place, but I too would like to see more focus and more money go to teaching people how to get and stay healthy and for research into other cures that  have less devastating side effects.

    Thanks for bringing your insight and commenting here. I'm glad I found your blog today and will be visiting regularly.


    • avatar Lynn Pierce says:

      This has become an interesting discussion. I'm happy to see that I was not the only one feeling opposition to  everything pink since day one. For me it had to do with the focus on being aware of cancer instead of being aware of breast health. But where's the money in that for the drug companies, insurance companies, hospitals and doctors?
      I'm even questioning all the university studies that find alternative treatments ineffective. I know that's not true of the alternative methods I used to cure myself. Are those studies funded directly by those who benefit from your believing western medicine is the only effective cure? How about donations or money coming in through another door to inadvertently get the supporting documentation they desire?
      It makes you wonder, doesn't it?

  6. This pretty ballsy conversation you've started here!
    I was feeling so bad for harboring these exact same feelings because if you said anything about it, people would look at you like you were some heartless alarmist.
    My mom is dealing with chemo right now for the 2nd time. (Colorectal cancer) It sucks and it nearly killed her 3 years ago. I get incensed when I look through all the "helpful" booklets they give her (written by drug companies who are charging her outrageous amounts to keep her alive). 
    And yes, they're making it seem like pharmaceuticals are the only solution.
    When you look at who is behind these foundations and pink ribbons, the trail inevitably leads to big drug companies. What can we wear that points people's focus to healing and empowerment instead of victimhood?
    P.S. Love the comments from Martia, Lynn, et al. 

  7. avatar Dr. K. says:

    Thank you Pam for speaking out about these crucial issues! From the role of “Big Pharma” to doctors calling patients who disagree with them stupid, you have raised many topics warranting extended and thoughful discussion.

    Thanks for speaking out about not walking for cancer, wearing pink or forwarding those emails. So many women have told me they feel the same way but are afraid to speak about this for fear of others reacting negatively to them. They’ve shared their very real concern that voicing their feelings about this issue could permanently damage friendships, business connections, and family relationships that are important to them.

    The more we bring this discussion into the open, the closer to the tipping point for positive change we get!

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