Some aren’t tickled pink by breast cancer campaign

Author and breast cancer survivor Apryl Allen abhors awareness messages such as “Save the ta-tas” that focus on the anatomy.

Breast cancer survivor Carrie Beebout of Richland Township wants to give more women the chance to survive.

Diagnosed in 2009, Beebout continues to be involved in breast cancer awareness events. She said she appreciates the local pink-out efforts, and takes it one step farther with a mobile message on her car.

“I have a bumper sticker that my husband hates,” Beebout said. “It says ‘Check your boobs. Mine tried to kill me.’ ”

Beebout understands some people may be offended by the tone, but she likes the bumper sticker as an attention-getter.

“I can put a pink ribbon on the back of my car, and that’s not going to do anything,” she said. “But with this, someone might go to work and say, ‘I saw this funny bumper sticker ...’

“If that prompts one woman to go home and check, it has done what it’s there to do.”

Author and breast cancer survivor Apryl Allen has a different view. The Stockdale, Arizona, woman said she abhors awareness messages such as “Save the ta-tas” that focus on the anatomy.

“Forget the ta-tas,” Allen said. “What about my life? I think it’s heartbreaking, and demeaning to women in that sense.”

While Allen was treated in 2013 with minimally invasive lumpectomy, she knows others who were not so lucky.

“That, to me, is not looking at the individual who has the disease,” she said. “I think of the women who don’t have a choice and lose their breast. You have to give up part of your body as if you are broken, and you are still fighting for your life.”

Allen, a former Miss Arizona-USA, has written “A Tango with Cancer: My Perilous Dance with Healthcare and Healing.” The book describes her cancer journey and struggles with health care and insurance systems. 

Philanthropy and awareness

Many October pink breast cancer awareness campaigns have come under fire in recent years. 

Some of the “Ten Things Wrong With the Pink Ribbon” in survivor and blogger Nancy Stordahl’s 2012 Huffington Post column are:

• Pink products don’t always benefit cancer patients or prevention efforts.

• The focus on women leaves out the small number of male breast cancer patients.

• Some promotions are seen as demeaning to women.

• It has lost its effectiveness.

Tom Kurtz, president and CEO of Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center and Windber, said the hospital tries to be sensitive in outreach by the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center, but he stressed that awareness is the key to understanding and action.

Windber breast surgeon Dr. Debra Sims agrees. 

And, she says, the pink is working here.

“Nationally, 40 percent of (eligible) women have not had a mammogram in two years,” Sims said. “I think we are getting more, locally. It’s because of all the awareness.”

Fundraising efforts such as the Girls’ Night Out events also help Windber provide services to more women who could not afford screening, she added.

“The other thing that helps us is the philanthropy from the community,” Sims said. “We are so blessed and so appreciative of all those little fundraisers.”

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.