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Giant hibiscus (with color effects)

Giant hibiscus (with color effects)

“In my view, you cannot claim to have seen something until you have photographed it.” —  Emile Zola

Giant pink hibiscus in the gardens at the Center for Urban Horticulture

Giant pink hibiscus in the gardens at the Center for Urban Horticulture

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Like Zola, I seem to see better through my camera lens.  I can frame details that are harder to zero in on when I gaze with just my eyes. I was amazed to see such joyful, spring-like pink in the late summer gardens at the Center for Urban Horticulture. These giant pink hibiscus were in all stages of bloom — from bud to fallen petals.

 

 

Jello Mold Farm

Jello Mold Farm

While I was up in the Skagit Valley, I stopped by Jello Mold Farm to wander around the flower beds.  On this early June visit, I was especially taken with the red poppies and the pink peonies.

Garden shed with pink peonies, Jello Mold Farm

Garden shed with pink peonies, Jello Mold Farm

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Bells of Ireland

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Cerinthe

Pink, Pink, You Stink

November 1, 2012

Let me warn you in advance that many of you will not like the message in this post.  Read it at your own risk!

We have just finished another National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM).  This past October was the 27th annual observance of this cause.  NBCAM has grown into a movement, in a flood of pink, that now seems to have a life of its own.  I think it is good to take a moment to reflect on what is happening here.

I have always hated the label “survivor” applied to women who have had breast cancer.  Why should breast cancer survivors be placed on a pedestal more than:

  • parents who survive, day by day, after the death of a child;
  • women who survive, day by day, after rape or other physical violence;
  • people who survive, day by day, with depression, post-traumatic stress, or other invisible and chronic illnesses;
  • people who survive cancers to parts of their bodies other than breasts (what’s so special about breasts, anyway, in the scheme of health);
  • and on and on.  We are all survivors, in some way or another.

And, as much as breast cancer treatment is uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating, I can think of many other far more painful experiences.

Why suddenly, all this attention and interest in me simply because I have had breast cancer?  If I don’t die from breast cancer, I will die of something else.  And so will you.

After almost three decades of fund-raising and research, the chance of women getting invasive breast cancer during their lifetimes is one in eight.  This statistic does not seem to be going down in spite of all the millions of dollars raised and spent on research.  Why are we no closer to eradicating this disease?  It’s as if we’ve settled for the “good news” that this cancer is treatable, and have lost sight of making this disease preventable.  This is unconscionable.  I don’t want my daughter and future grand-daughters to ever get breast cancer.

The movie Pink Ribbons, Inc.

If you are concerned about women and breast cancer, I urge you to watch the movie Pink Ribbons, Inc.  (Your library may have this DVD.  If not, ask them to purchase it.)  It investigates the pink ribbon movement, who is really benefiting from the corporate sponsorships behind much of the fund-raising, where our donations are going, and allows women with stage-4 breast cancer (who will not be survivors) to speak their minds.  The movie reveals that just 5 percent of all of the millions of dollars raised for breast cancer research goes toward investigating possible environmental causes of breast cancer — research that might lead to learning how to prevent breast cancer in the first place.  Five percent!

The movie also suggests ways to become more informed and effective activists — beyond walking and wearing pink.

I know that I’m attacking a sacred cow, but wearing pink is not my cup of tea.  I’ve never been a pretty  in pink princess and I can’t imagine becoming one now.  I’ve never been much of a joiner.  I am actually suspicious of organizations where members are supposed to dress in a certain way (in pink) and are under pressure to act a certain way (positive attitude, smile!).  I don’t want to join a club simply because I’ve had a disease like breast cancer.

I do accept that you may want to be part of the pink ribbon club, however.  Go for it!  But just know what you are doing.  Be informed.  And make sure that the money you are raising is being spent in the ways you want — for a cure.

A quick summary of some of the issues can be found on Wikipedia, and I’ve copied it here:

“Corporate Sponsorship

It has been alleged that “the BCAM idea ‘was conceived and paid for by a British chemical company that both profits from this epidemic and may be contributing to its cause…'”.[13]

Sometimes referred to as National Breast Cancer Industry Month, critics of NBCAM point to a conflict of interest between corporations sponsoring breast cancer awareness while profiting from diagnosis and treatment. 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.[14] 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.[15]

Cure as “Treatment” vs. “Prevention”

The Cancer Prevention Coalition has criticized the basic message of NBCAM as a form of victim blaming because it focuses on “early detection and treatment” while ignoring environmental factors.[16] According Aaron Blair, Ph.D., chief of the Occupational Epidemiology Branch in National Cancer Institute‘s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, For breast cancer, hormone use is one of the major factors affecting risk.[17] According to Rose Marie Williams, a columnist for the Townsend Letter, drug, chemical, and biotechnology companies have a vested interest in treating the disease rather than finding ways to minimize its rate of incidence.[18] Recent studies show that breast cancer is linked to several environmental and genetic factors which can be controlled or mitigated.[19]”

Bucket of peonies at the U-District Farmers’ Market

Peonies, ruffle after ruffle

“Imagine the hard knot of its bud, all that pink possibility.  Day by day it visibly swells, doubles, until one morning in June, it unfolds, ruffle after ruffle, an explosion of silk.”
— from “Peony” by Barbara Crooker

 

Souls in Bloom

June 22, 2012

Pink roses in bloom

“Summer: to be for a few days the contemporary of roses; to breathe what’s floating around their souls in bloom.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke

How lucky we are to be alive in June, the contemporaries and companions of roses!  This time I am air-drying a bowlful of soulful rose petals so that their special beauty will linger into fall and winter.

Rose petals from Carol’s fragrant bouquet

A potpourri of multicolored rose petals