Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I recently saw an interesting article on The Huffington Post. A young woman still being treated for cancer shares about her dating experiences and five critical things she tries not to do. She humorously and poignantly explains her situation. I recommend reading it here.

It got me thinking about the type of people who are willing to date someone with cancer. Aisling Carrol, the author of the Huff Post article says one of her five 'dont's' for dating with cancer is waiting too long to tell someone.

I'm pretty sure there is no right time on a date to tell someone you've got cancer. Especially if you like the person. When I finished treatment and was finally even willing to consider the idea of dating, I had no clue how to do it...When should I bring it up? How much should I tell? It all seemed so daunting. Not to mention that cancer (and a pre-treatment relationship that broke up during treatment) left me feeling damaged and undatable. Whether it was suitors or health insurance companies, no one could possibly ever want me. I was broken; a liability.

Luckily, I've lived long enough to learn that none of that is true. I've met a lot of people with cancer, and plenty of them find relationships...I'm one of them.

I think a key characteristic of an individual willing to date someone with cancer is that they have some sort of a connection to the disease. This isn't something hard and fast, but I can think of a fair amount of survivor friends who are with someone whose family has been affected by cancer. Maybe it's the familiarity that makes it less frightening. I also think there's a compassion that comes from knowing someone who has had cancer.

After a string of dates for the sake of dating, where I worked toward carefully disclosing my diagnosis; building rules to determine when and what to disclose, it turned out it was all for nothing. One winter night, I met with a guy at my favorite dive bar. I broke all my rules and cancer just sort of came up. Seriously. It just happened.

And like that, he knew. When we said goodnight, I was pretty sure I'd blown it and wouldn't hear from him again. It was a shame. He was cool. But really? Who tells someone they have cancer on the first date?!

But then he called. He kept calling. And texting. And wanting to see me. Once I got past the idea that there had to be something wrong with him for wanting to date me, I started to think that maybe it was possible to be uninsurable, and still be datable. More than three years later, I fully believe it.

It takes a special person to love a young adult cancer survivor, to get into a relationship knowing that your partner's body has been occupied by enemy cells who could potentially come back, and all the other crappy things that come along with being lucky enough to survive.

But the most important thing to know if you live to date again is that these people exist. And they aren't crazy. They're compassionate, understanding, loyal, and open to
the idea of dating you based on who you are, not what your prognosis is. Be yourself, cancer and all, and you might be surprised what- and who- you find.

Hope, Love, Run,
Marathon Girl

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Unless you've been living under a rock for the last eleven days, you've probably noticed that just about everything is suddenly a shade of pink; the front page of a newspaper, the lights shining on the White House, the cleats NFL players are wearing, t-shirts for sale at Walmart, chocolates, cereal, everything from yogurt lids to prescription caps. If no one's told you already, it's October. Which means it's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

October comes but once a year, so everyone is trying to get in on a piece of the pink action while they can. All in the name of cancer awareness. What a wonderful thing. How generous; companies, supporting a worthy cause....Or is it?

In October of 2006, I was in the throws of the most intense phase of my treatment. I did not have breast cancer. I lay on the couch most days and each day in October, The View told the story of an amazing breast cancer survivor and Ford gave a car to each of them. I liked the stories, but in between the show segments, there was an inordinate amount of Ford 'Warriors in Pink' commercials begging viewers to purchase a scarf, hat, or shirt to support 'the cause'. I couldn't place what bothered me so much about this...Was it the fact that one specific cancer was getting so much press while I suffered with another? Perhaps. But there was more to it. Something felt sneaky about these 'awareness' ads. Were they raising breast cancer awareness, or brand awareness? What did Ford get for giving cars to cancer survivors? Were they exploiting survivors to gain consumer approval?

I'm not the first person to notice this. Just last night one of my survivor friends posted this in response to the breast cancer movie event 'Five' featured on the Lifetime channel: "Kill me. I just watched that vomitous Lifetime movie "Five"...It was a gross exploitation and sponsored by Ford and Walgreens. Ooo, they make all of their prescription caps pink during the month of October. Frickin fantastic. Woop de do."

I watched the movie, and while I found the stories moving, the use of Ford and Walgreens' names and merchandise not only during commercial breaks but actually in- yes, in the movie was over the top.

Google "Breast Cancer Awareness Month Exploitation" and you can learn more about this.

One article states:
"Corporations push breast cancer in October because it works to sell more products. Women worry that some day they will face breast cancer or already know someone who has. They want to help. And what way is better than to buy something that promises to do good? The reality is that very little of the amount women spend on the pink products wind up at charitable institutions. An ABC News Report from last October pointed out that Campbell's donated a whopping 3.5 cents for every can of soup it sold. To raise a mere $36 to fight breast cancer from the Yoplait campaign, a person needs to eat three cups of yogurt a day for four months."

You can even find criticisms on the Wikipedia page for 'National Breast Cancer Awareness Month':
"The breast cancer advocacy organization, Breast Cancer Action, has said repeatedly in newsletters and other information sources that October has become a public relations campaign that avoids discussion of the causes and prevention of breast cancer and instead focuses on “awareness” as a way to encourage women to get their mammograms. The term pinkwashing has been used by Breast Cancer Action to describe the actions of companies which manufacture and use chemicals which show a link with breast cancer and at the same time publicly support charities focused on curing the disease. Other criticisms center on the marketing of "pink products" and tie ins, citing that more money is spent marketing these campaigns than is donated to the cause." Remember when Susan G. Komen briefly partnered with KFC and had pink buckets- filled with carcinogen laden chicken? Um. Yeah.

Another article details the misuse of the pink ribbon logo:

"Daily Finance, the AOL finance resource center, sought to find out how many of these pink products actually benefit breast cancer. Procter & Gamble’s pink-packaged Swiffer sweeper told buyers that, “Early detection saves lives,” but what does that have to do with donating money? Eventually, it was found out that the company donates a mere two cents to breast cancer research only if the buyer uses a coupon from the Procter & Gamble brand coupon book.

This is a perfect example of how Breast Cancer Awareness Month is being exploited by large companies looking to make a profit. This overuse of the pink ribbon logo stems from the fact that no one owns the image. Also, no one has the right to control its usage. This means that any company anywhere can put a pink ribbon on the packaging to persuade buyers to purchase their product."Link

My parting words of warning are this: Think before you pink. Want to show a survivor in your life that you care? Leave that pink spatula you don't really need on the shelf. Donate your five dollars instead to one of the reputable charities out there (To find one, check out CharityNavigator).

Hope, Love, Run,

Marathon Girl

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Livestrong Day!

In 31 minutes, Livestrong Day officially starts. It also happens to be my sister's birthday, so happy birthday, #1!

While I celebrate my cancerversary (the date I was diagnosed with cancer) each year, Lance Armstrong has taken it to a whole different level. He has an entire country celebrating the day as not only the day he became a survivor, but also as a day of awareness, remembrance, and honor for those who have been affected by cancer.

I'm a long-time fan of the Lance Armstrong Foundation's resources and awareness campaigns. They've also made an effort to support the young adult community through their partnership with the Ulman Cancer Fund (which supports young adults). They also produced notebooks and binders that made it possible for cancer survivors to create a detailed record of their treatment history. However, I am more than excited about the newest LAF initiative that's arrived locally. It's called Livestrong at the Y.

I heard about it for the first time at the triathlon. There was a table with information about it, so I went over to see what the deal was. The representative explained to me that they were starting a small group exercise/wellness program for cancer survivors that would meet at the Y a few times a week.

My first reaction: Awesome...But about four years too late.

I was seriously looking for this program when I finished treatment in September 2007. Unfortunately, it didn't exist then, but thankfully, it does now. Since I've returned to the gym after the tri, there has been a table set up in the entryway of the YMCA advertising the program, and I spoke to the coordinator last week. She let me know that the next session begins (the first to be offered on evenings and weekends) and put my name on her list of participants. I can't wait to start!

In the meantime, this LAF and YMCA partnership is bringing together two of my favorite things...the gym and all things Livestrong. When I went to the gym today, I found a paper chain of encouraging statements to cancer survivors strung along the main hallway. beyond the Livestrong table in the entryway, the gym featured Livestrong banners with inspirational statements, and on each of the kiosks on the strength circuit machines was a tiny sign that reminded patrons to wear yellow if they visited the gym tomorrow, on Livestrong Day.

The whole thing feels kind of like a party honoring cancer survivors...and what could be better than a party at one of my favorite places- the gym! On my way out, I signed up to come back tomorrow and bike for an hour, and you can bet I'll be wearing a bright yellow shirt...maybe even with my bright yellow shorts. I also took a minute to write on one of the narrow slips of yellow paper that were being used to extend the chain. I wrote one of my favorite statements, which comes from this 1 minute Nike video from the 2008 Olympics (Click).

I hope you'll wear yellow on Sunday, October 2nd in honor of Livestrong Day...because it's not just Lance's cancerversary, it's honoring all cancer survivors who keep on living strong.

Hope, Love, Run,
Marathon Girl