By Pamela Grossman
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Giddy little "awareness" word games on Facebook tied puzzlingly to Breast Cancer Awareness Month can be horribly offensive to young survivors. Sally Drees got so upset by one that she decided to start something important: the 31-Day Project.
(WOMENSENEWS)--If you're a young breast cancer survivor and on Facebook, you might not be happy with the loopy little fill-in-the-blanks word games or "memes" that annually make the rounds in the name of promoting Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
This year's meme plays on the theme of pregnancy.
Women are asked to write "I'm ____ weeks" (fill in the blank with the number corresponding to your birth month) and craving ______ (a list of snacks is given; fill in the blank with the one next to your birth date). I would have been "one week and craving chocolate cake" had I chosen to play this game, which I decidedly didn't.
Many survivors have instead chosen to post something like, "I'm three years [out from diagnosis], and I'm craving a cure for the whole damn thing."
Pregnancy can be a painful subject for those of us who've faced or are facing breast cancer during our childbearing years. Chemotherapy often brings on premature menopause, which may prove permanent. In any case, as my survivor friend Julie wrote in her blog, "even if it's temporary, the years spent fighting our disease may have been the years we needed to start a family."
I'll add that the money often needed to adopt or to pursue surrogacy is not generally plentiful in the wake of huge cancer-treatment expenses.
The odd idea of these games is to be cagey: Never mention breast cancer, but instead make everyone who sees your Facebook status wonder what it's all about.
I have seen three memes so far, one leading up to each of the Octobers during which I've had a Facebook account. It's impossible to figure out where these things come from. Hell?
"Don't tell the guys," the memes say for some reason--as if the stated purpose of raising breast cancer awareness should be a coy secret.
I've never joined in these games, and neither have the vast majority of my friends who, like me, are young survivors of this disease. Some who do join, fill in the blanks with a bluntness not recommended by the saccharine-jokey memes.
Last year's game was about where you "like it," meaning where you like your purse: "I like it on the floor/kitchen table/wherever I can find it," etc. My friend Kim blew open the kittenish sexual subtext with a full-on, well-expressed description of ways and places she likes to have sex. Then she ended on a not-sexy note: "And also: Breast cancer kills tens of thousands of people in this country every year. It's generally more aggressive and more deadly in young women. Do your self-exams."
Putting aside the fact that cancer of any kind is not a game and that talk of or actions regarding cancer shouldn't be one, there are other specific problems here. These memes don't mention breast cancer, so their awareness-raising claims are questionable at best. The note I got this year insisted that "the constant updating of status reminds everyone why we're doing this and helps raise awareness!!" (punctuation theirs).
The games are also quite seriously off-target. The first one I saw instructed women to post the color of their bras as their status. Really? Many survivors who've had mastectomies--even if they afterward chose reconstructive surgery--don't wear bras at all, finding that surgery on the area has rendered a bra uncomfortable, ill-fitting and sometimes even painful.
One of my favorite comments on the bra game was from my friend Tammy (age 32; diagnosed Stage 2; now Stage 4): "My bra is black. It covers my huge [expletive deleted] lumpectomy scar."