Finally – Awareness Month Action For Realists

I believe in disease awareness months. I do. They raise a lot of attention and a lot of money. They may even save lives by encouraging screening and early detection.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since Labor Day, you can’t have missed that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Because I’m a woman I understand the importance of the pink season. But because I’m also a ten-year breast cancer survivor, I feel brave enough to say that the passionately pink marketing tie-ins have lost some of their luster for me. Breast cancer seems like the “safe” choice for companies that market products to women. “BCAM” – as it’s come to be known by marketers – is as firmly fixed in the marketing-to-women promotional pantheon as Christmas and Mother’s Day. In certain New York City shopping districts entire buildings appear to have been hosed down with Pepto-Bismol, so great is the “pinking for the cure” effect.

Just once in October I would like to buy plain white paper towels, without a border of pink ribbons. I don’t want the pressure of mobilizing my friends and acquaintances to walk, run, or raise money. I would like to walk through Bloomingdale’s this month without having to dodge pinked-out makeup artists pushing Cosmetics for the Cure.

That’s why it was such a relief to stumble across a breast cancer awareness month product that doesn’t seem to trade on the hope hoopla but tells it like it is – honestly, and with a wink.

“Thinking of you,” begins the elegant cursive script on the greeting card.

“As you bitch-slap cancer.”

What??!! Rewind. Read that again?

“Bitch-slap cancer.” I roll the words around in my mouth like full-bodied cabernet. Yes, that is EXACTLY the attitude you’d need for the biggest fight of your life. The design is perfect too – a gorgeous, muscular mermaid’s tail coiled to unleash an epic smack-down no disease could withstand. This is a dream card – beautiful, authentic, fierce and funny. It says, “Give as good as you get. And win.”

How many of us send greeting cards when we hear that a friend or relative has been diagnosed with cancer? Probably not many, based on what’s available online. The affirmations, the angels, the rainbows – they seem inadequate for someone facing the fight of their lives. Magical thinking is not helpful to those who stand and fight, day after day, treatment after treatment.

Eventually, someone you know – a family member, a friend, a co-worker –will be diagnosed with cancer. You won’t know what to say. You may leave them an awkward voicemail message, or send an email. You may feel uncomfortable and avoid them.

Let me tell you something. Cancer patients are tough. They have to be. Raising money is essential but at the moment of diagnosis, pink ribbons don’t help. Guts and attitude are everything. It’s a lonely journey – but you can let your friends know that they are not alone. Buy a card – buy several – and keep them in your drawer for just such an occasion. Fifty percent of the proceeds of each sale go to The Young Survivors Coalition (, which should assuage the guilt of those of us who haven’t walked, raced or shopped for the cure this year.

Help a friend bitch-slap cancer.

To see more great greeting cards visit