By Starfoxy

When I was in 5th grade a new girl moved to my town and was put in my class. She had short brown hair, glasses and bounced as she walked. My teacher asked me to show her around, which I am very glad for because we quickly became best friends.

She had horses, I had horses. She had dogs, I had dogs. I had pet lovebird, she had a pet cockatiel and a pet rat (something I was willing to forgive). We also had a shared love of  acting goofy and making others stare.

I remember playing tether-ball with her. Once the ball hit her in the face and broke her glasses. She started crying not just because the glasses were broken, but because she was worried about her mom. She was certain that her mom couldn’t afford new glasses for her and would be mad at her for breaking them. Her mom wasn’t mad, but it did take awhile before she got new glasses.

I remember when we had a substitute teacher who called her by the wrong last name during attendance. She explained it was because her parents were divorced and she wanted to go by her mom’s last name even though the school had her dad’s last name on the rolls.

I remember staying the night at her house and her mom making us blueberry pancakes with orange juice. She let ‘us girls’ eat it off the nice china in the ‘dining room’ that they never used.

I remember hiding with her in her backyard and eating a sugar diorama egg that her grandma had sent her for easter. It was a big one the size of a softball. We ate the whole thing.

I remember when she met my older sister for the first time. She snuck up next to my sister while she was reading and snorted really loudly. It startled my sister and we both ran away giggling.

I remember her telling me, in passing, that her mom had breast cancer. She acted nonchalant about it.

I remember when she told me about how her rat killed her cockatiel. I was too entranced by the gory details (The same details I am sorely tempted to share right now.) to feel appropriately sorry for my friend.

I remember her 11th birthday party. We were playing a board game in her living room while her mom rested on the couch. Her aunt was there to help. Everything seemed perfectly normal. All of a sudden it was time to go play outside, right now. I was the last out the door and looked back just in time to see her mom being sick in the bucket next to the couch.

That summer her mom died. The funeral was held somewhere else, and my friend was whisked away to live with her dad. I was a stupid kid and just let her go. I haven’t had as good a friend since. When I was younger I regretted letting her go like that because of the friendship that I missed out on. As an adult I feel terrible regret for not being a better friend to her during a very hard time in her life.

Breast cancer is not sexy. Breast cancer is not smiles and roses. Spending money on pink merchandise does not help fight breast cancer. Breast cancer funding is a media darling that helps brands improve their image and increase their appeal to middle aged women. The same middle aged women who are constantly reminded to live in fear of breast cancer by campaigns to raise awareness. Meanwhile the treatments for cancer have not improved or even really changed at all in the past 50 years.

The fight against breast cancer isn’t fought by being coy and sexy or by just raising awareness or by lining the pockets of corporate executives. The fight against breast cancer is fought by bringing affordable health care, especially preventative care, to all women. It is fought by holding corporations to higher standards for the use of chemicals in their products and byproducts. It is fought by creating a society that values innovation and discovery more than profit which would lead to real funding for research.

I don’t care what color bra you have on. If you want to fight cancer write your representatives.


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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10 Responses

  1. ZD Eve says:

    Thanks, Starfoxy, for a far more realistic view of breast cancer than we’re usually treated to. It amazes me that it’s gone from unmentionable embarrassing disease to chic consumer cause celebre in just a generation or two.

    A few years ago Barbara Ehrenreich had a trenchant critique of breast cancer culture in Harper’s:


  2. I had read yout blog Hannah the story is really tragedian and its true that in 2009 (192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer)(40,170 deaths from breast cancer).

  3. John Remy says:

    I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t get the memo, but this is the first connection between the color meme and breast cancer that I’ve seen. The awareness-raising had dropped out by the time it got to me. Maybe that’s a good thing.

    Thanks for focusing attention back on breast cancer. I’m married to a survivor and watched two people I loved very much die from cancer. Their cancers began in various parts of the body, but the treatment and human misery have much in common. You’re right. There’s absolutely nothing sexy about it.

    We are not big supporters of the pink ribbon campaign in our family, but it’s easy to get cynical in the face of these campaigns and do nothing, so I appreciate your suggestions for action towards the end of your post. Here’s my contribution:

    Think Before You Pink, which raises awareness of the hypocrisy of manufacturers who use bovine growth hormones linked to a variety of human cancers, including breast cancer, while also claiming to fight cancer. Apparently they successfully lead a campaign for Yoplait to go rBGH-free.

  4. mb says:

    “When I was younger I regretted letting her go like that because of the friendship that I missed out on. As an adult I feel terrible regret for not being a better friend to her during a very hard time in her life.”

    You were 11 years old. You did exactly what a good 11 year old can do; provide sincere friendship, play and a sense of normalcy when everything else seems tenuous and uncertain. There were adults in the picture who had adult perspective who were doing all they could to provide your friend with the support that adults can provide. (Though you probably weren’t fully aware of them and what they were doing. Eleven year olds aren’t aware of such things, it’s just not there on their development curve yet.) You did an excellent job at what an 11 year old can provide. And I’m glad you were there.

    It also sounds like you have allowed that experience to teach you well as an adult. Some day you will be the adult in similar situation who is supremely grateful for another child’s good, happy, role in an extremely difficult situation, just as those adults were grateful for yours.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    I can’t think of a better piece of writing to get me to write that letter to my reps. Thank you, Starfoxy.

  6. John Remy says:

    Just one more comment, maybe to help increase the effectiveness of any letters to Congress, here’s a link to National Breast Cancer Coalition’s legislative and public policy priorities (for 2009). They don’t mention it, but there’s also H.R.1691 – the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2009, that requires insurance companies to provide basic coverage and hospital stays for mastectomies and lumpectomies and was last in subcommittee hearings in October (I’m not sure if it’s getting absorbed by the health care package). I’ve learned (from congressional staffers) that letters are much more effective if they mention your rep’s positions on specific pieces of legislation that are on the table.

  7. anon says:

    I agree with you, but since my child of a rarer, more unheard of disease, I really wish we had the awareness, celebs, and support that breast cancer does. It is helping, and research is being done for new treatment, even if new ones haven’t come out yet. Also, just having more people aware of the symptoms and being more supportive of it is directly helping those who suffer from it. I wish more people understood what we went through and how they could help.

  8. Kelly Ann says:

    Starfoxy, thank you for this story and take on the issue.

    I was reminded of a good friend I had in fifth and sixth grade who I too let go … Granted it was no where like what you described, but I regretted it for years. I found her blog a few years ago and while we made ammends and have even become facebook friends (of all things) and keep in occasional contact, I realized that some friendships are seasonal and that is ok. All we can do is do our best.

    As for the color bra phenomenom and increasing breast cancer awareness, I posted a link on my profile today stating that the chain letter should have never excluded men. They too can be affected by the disease. I hope people will consider the proper ways to raise awareness for this and many other types of cancer. But maybe at least it has gotten some people talking as evidenced by your post.

  9. Thank you for your thoughtful post. It is definitely time to insist our government provide afforadable health care for all–and it is definitely time to clean up the chemicals and other pollutants in our environment which cause cancer.

  10. cchrissyy says:

    that’s strong. good work starfoxy

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