Pink Ribbon or Red Alert


Pink paraphernalia was strewn about near the trash bin. Nancy hadn't had the strength to drag it all out to the curb since Breast Cancer Awareness Month had ended last October.

"We sure have 'em 'aware' of cancer now, don't we?" she said to her mother as they surveyed the cluttered garage. "Well, they can take that awareness and shove it up their ass."

The 42-year-old leaned on her mother's shoulder as she gingerly walked back inside the patio door. She said she had to throw up again and doubted she'd make it to the bathroom. The kitchen sink was closer, and she fell against it and puked.

"Jesus Christ, I can't take any more of this," she cried as her mother held her in place and the two wept.

Twenty minutes later in bed near the living room window, Nancy held a cool, damp rag against her cheek as her mother cleaned up around the sink. Nancy pressed a button and brought the head of her bed to a 45-degree angle.

"Wonder what they're up to at the American Cancer Society this afternoon," she said, staring blankly out the window. Her mother begged her not to 'start in on that again,' but Nancy continued. "Counting money, no doubt. They're good at that. World's wealthiest 'nonprofit,' you know."

The wind outside blew the leafless hydrangea branches against the frosted panes of glass, and Nancy reached out her hand as if to comfort them in the bitter chill.

Forty years earlier on just as cold a December day in Washington, President Richard Nixon had declared war on cancer and signed into law the National Cancer Act. Much like the declared war on drugs, it would prove to be an embarrassing failure, and like the war on drugs it would put healthy amounts of cash into the pockets of thousands. Cancer treatment became big business in America.

"Can you believe it, Ma?" Nancy said, closing her eyes. "Only a year ago I had the energy to actually run in that Susan Komen Race for the Cure? I tell you, if I could do it over again I wouldn't waste my time."

Nancy's mother came into the room and pleaded with her daughter to rest.

"Getting agitated again isn't healthy, honey," her mom said. "Please try and sleep."

"I think I'd have taken that time running around in my tacky pink outfit and visited my neighbors instead, passing out information on the toxins they're all taking in every day, the carcinogens they're unknowingly putting in their bodies and their kids bodies, and how they're laying that runway for cancer's sweet little landing sometime soon; all the stuff the Susan Komen foundation and the American Cancer Society avoid talking about because it upsets the cash flow.

"They've made a devil's bargain, Ma. They're pushing high-profit mammograms and expensive treatments when we all know damn well they could be helping people to avoid the disease in the first place."

In lectures across the country, Nancy's words were being echoed by Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, MD, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, and Liane Clorfene-Casten, an investigative journalist and author of the book Breast Cancer: Poisons, Profits, and Prevention.

Both researchers were sounding the same troubling alarm: This year, 120,000 American women are going to develop cancer caused by environmental poisons—manmade chemicals and radiation that have been produced and distributed worldwide. The pair argues that the leaders of the war on cancer have known this for years and have either covered it up or refused to deal with the information. Medical and industrial stonewalling from the "cancer establishment" is now leaving thousands of children without mothers and many mothers without daughters. The reasons come down to money.

Under the leadership of the ACS and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the "pink ribbon" campaign has become a multimillion-dollar business, Dr. Epstein argues. While people are buying hundreds of products and services under its banner, he says, the dollars aren't going to actually saving lives as much as toward a misinformation campaign that ignores the environmental and industrial sources of cancer. In the shadow of the streamers, the placards, the runners, and the uplifting speeches, the logos of Chevron, Ford, and that health food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken wave prominently. And their generous donations dry up the second anyone talks carcinogens, pollutants, or known causes and effects.

Nancy's own message flies from a smaller banner these days: "Stop jogging, ladies, and start investigating. Your sisters' lives depend on it."