Stop the madness! We need to get serious about curing and preventing cancer

Putting cancer research and prevention under the microscope

This has been a tough year when it comes to loss. I just found out today that yet another wonderful friend, Cyndi Wenck, passed away from breast cancer. In September, I lost another dear friend Ashley. In July, Evan Mattingly (who was featured in my book) died. In December, it was my close friend Nevine. And that’s just the people I considered close to me. It is one of the occupational hazards of being involved in the cancer community. And it really, really sucks.

With all the pink hoopla that is October, all the millions of dollars supposedly going to the  cause, why have we not found a cure? Why does it seem that more and more people are getting cancer? And why aren’t more people furious about it and demanding action? These are questions I’ve asked myself for years.

When the AIDS epidemic hit, the gay community organized and demanded that a cure be found.  By 1988 frustration was growing over the length of time it had taken to approve AZT, the drug proven to slow the progression of AIDS, and the FDA’s slow progress in improving access to  other experimental AIDS drugs. On October 11, 1988, more than a thousand ACT UP demonstrators descended on the FDA headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, demanding quicker and more efficient drug approval. Eight days later, the FDA announced regulations to cut the time it took for drugs to be approved. People took action and made things happen. Why do people seem so complacent about cancer?

I wonder if people who are walking for the Susan G. Komen For the Cure know that only 24 percent of their massive funding goes toward research, and only a fraction of that to metastatic breast cancer. They have made a huge contribution to be sure, but they need to contribute more to trademark the name, “For the Cure.” Or that many of those “pink ribbon” marketing campaigns you see on everything from fried chicken buckets to cosmetics actually make more money from capitalizing on the pink bandwagon than what they contribute. Even more maddening is that a lot of these products have cancer-causing properties. Take cosmetics that contain parabens and plastics that contain BPA, both are known to mimic estrogen, a known breast cancer promoter. When exposed to these synthetic chemicals, the noncancerous breast cells started acting like cancer cells. Organizations like Breast Cancer Action have done a great job warning people of dangers and asking people to Think Before You Pink. Click HERE to read about a study that shows how these chemicals interfere with the drug Tamoxifen, which treats hormone-fed cancers.

Which brings me to my other point: there are environmental links to cancer. And we, as proactive individuals, can be careful about what we put on or in our bodies. Too bad the FDA isn’t doing much of that. They claim there is not enough evidence. I’m grateful that my daughter is in a groundbreaking study called Growing Up Female to study what might be leading to what I see as a cancer epidemic. In the meantime, I use paraben-free personal care products and makeup, truly clean cleaning products and buy organic.

Finding a cure is just as important. We need to get serious about eradicating breast cancer! That’s why I’m supporting the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) to reach their deadline to find a cure by 2020. I think one reason we haven’t found a cure is that research is going off in all kinds of different directions. NBCC is promoting collaboration among all scientists to find a cure once and for all.

Next weekend, I am honored to be a participant in the Bright Starts Pink Power Mom weekend. They are donating $5,000 to the charity of my choice and it’s going to NBCC. I’m also donating 10 percent of my proceeds from From Incurable to Incredible to this organization. I encourage all of you to do your part to be informed and fight for a cure. I am tired of saying goodbye to good friends.


  1. tamilb
    Nov 14, 2011

    Thanks Dusty. Didn’t mean to sound defensive; we’re all in this together.

  2. Dusty Showers
    Nov 14, 2011

    I thought you may have been referring to Ashley : /. I have lost two others since Ashley and I too understand the anger.

    I cannot, nor should I argue with anything you have said. I do get skeeved when I see pink on everything from forks to batteries and it IS exploitative and is in very poor taste at times. It is up to us to discern what we will and won’t support.

    Regarding your book, you have full right to a profit and there is nothing wrong with that. My point was not to infer that you were exploiting anything in any way. If you have a product that people want to read, just because it has to do with cancer does not mean you shouldn’t earn anything from it. It doesn’t make sense that someone can write a book about murders and make millions while someone writes a positive book that can benefit so many and not be compensated for it…

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friends, keep up the good fight.

  3. tamilb
    Nov 14, 2011

    Oh, thanks for the clarification about funding. I looked up their financials and you are right. I made the change in my post.

  4. tamilb
    Nov 14, 2011

    Thank you Dusty for your thoughtful remarks. I was very angry when I wrote this because I just lost another friend, and I’m trying to determine why so many millions of dollars are raised with no cure in sight. And I know you have lost people too as I see you were friends with Ashley Oehler, who was another friend who succumbed to this disease.

    I would agree that Komen does a lot of good in the community, and did wonders to bring awareness to the forefront, but they need to change their focus now. To trademark “For the Cure” and not give the majority of funding to research is misleading. We are all very aware of breast cancer. You’d have to live under a rock not to be! And I give Komen credit for being a pioneer in that. But if they really want to be for the cure, they need to up their research funding or change their name. I take issue with them because they are leading the way, as far as recognition and fundraising goes, and should be held accountable. If people want to support early screening or education, fine. But if they really want to support research, they should give directly to research institutions or organizations like NBBC, which makes it their focus.

    I did not mean to paint such a broad stroke when it came to pink marketing, but there are alot of businesses taking advantage of the pink ribbon and profiting from it. All I suggest is to be aware of who really gives a substantial amount to breast cancer or even gives at all. I have heard of bogus claims to support breast cancer. And absolutely, we should not support products that contain cancer-causing properties. As far as my book, I am not making a profit from it. I have given many books away to non-profit organizations and have always supported LIVESTRONG with a 10 percent donation and now adding another 10 percent to NBBC. I am not big business like Yogplait or KFC. I’m just an independent author and blogger trying to make a difference.

    Yes, we all need to work together, and if Komen doesn’t listen to their detractors, they will not have any reason to change.

  5. Dusty Showers
    Nov 14, 2011

    I agree that it is time for a cure. I was on Oprah with a gentleman curing AIDS and breast cancer in Africa. There is also Dr. Burzynski that seems to have an interesting tale. I’m not convinced that our problem is finding a cure but rather bringing it to the forefront.

    You suggest that we give so much to finding a cure yet we can’t find one. Then you suggest that Komen does not give enough to research. According to Komen financials, they actually give 24% to research, not 18%. Then 34% to education, 7% to treatment and 15% to screening. The remaining 20% is admin and fundraising according to their 2010 statement. Those do not seem to be bad financials.

    I understand there is some heat between Komen and NBBC. I support them both. This summer has been the worst for people telling me false things about Komen then telling me why they support another organization, normally ACS. If we as the collective little people can’t get along, how can we expect the giants to get along?

    I agree, the exploitative “Pinking” of the world is distasteful yet do we really want to come down on Komen for squeezing money out of things you do not correlate with breast cancer? Would you feel okay if these proceeds went to NBCC? Just like you make 90% of the profits of your book and 10% goes to breast cancer, is it not okay if someone buys batteries or yogurt that some of that money goes to a breast cancer non-profit? I believe it is okay.

    Komen has brought breast cancer to the forefront. They have beat everyone when it comes to marketing. If not for Komen, millions of people would still not be aware of the impact of breast cancer on women and families. NBCC helped them do that. We all need to be partners and supporters. I understand that Komen talks so much about a cure yet only gives 24% but some will argue the money is there and the cure is there so it is neither here nor there.

    We all need to work together, support whatever organization we want to support and understand if we prefer one organization over another, then we should just support it and not worry about the others. Politicians act like that, not us.

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