Pink Ribbons = Profit For Charities Too

Lucy looks at charities and awareness campaigns - from a survivor's view.

As I said in last week's column, the pink ribbon stands for breast cancer; but for many businesses, it represents huge, huge profits. Sadly, some of the charities that purport to want a cure have lost their way and they, too, are making money hand over fist in the name of breast cancer.

For example, I truly believe that the Susan G. Komen Foundation started out with the best of intentions. It’s also mine (and many other breast cancer patients/survivors) opinion, that they’ve lost their way. When the organization began, “for the cure” was its battle cry. To this day, they covet that phrase and spend lots of money suing smaller, grass roots efforts that dare use “for the cure” in their name. Feel free to fact check me by Googling “Susan G. Komen sues”.

When you donate money to Komen, do you want your money going to sue small organizations whose sole intent is to help? The Huffington Post had an interesting article regarding this; you can read that here.

The other problem I have with them is that their purpose has changed drastically, so why would do they fight to keep “for the cure”? The sad fact of the matter is that their latest financial report states that they brought in $492,557, yet out of that, only $75,302 goes for research. Or, to find the actual cure; you know, the one they claim to be looking for. That’s only 16 percent of their entire budget. How can you say that you’re working for the cure when such a paltry amount of the hundreds of thousands you take in goes to finding one?

There’s a Web site called KomenWatch.org; they report even more disturbing facts. It’s also interesting that CharityWatch.org doesn’t have Komen listed as being a “top rated” cancer charity; in fact, it doesn’t even make the list.

Planned Parenthood has received quite a bit of money from Komen, implying they help women find low- or no-cost mammograms. I have zero problems with anyone who believes in their mission. But taking funds from Komen rankles me. On their own Web site, Planned Parenthood admits that they don’t provide low- cost or free mammograms. In fact, they don’t provide them at all. If you read their list of Q&A, you’ll see that they list the American Cancer Society as being the go to source to get information about low-cost or free mammograms.

We need to stop all the “awareness” campaigns. We’ve lost thousands of women to breast cancer while millions of dollars are going into campaign coffers. Seriously, who isn't aware of breast cancer? Why not funnel all that money into research so we can get something that’s pretty damned important - a cure.

I would rather have gone through life unaware of breast cancer, but when it was found, had access to a cure. One that didn’t almost kill me and wouldn’t have resulted in the loss of one breast and half of the other. What about pouring money into mammograms, or financially helping women who are dealing with stage IV metastatic cancer? Think of the millions of dollars that were spent in the name of awareness instead of a cure.

Something else that has become a bone of contention for me (and a host of other women) are campaigns that say things like, “save the boobies.” The problem is that many women, like me, lost ours to save our lives. Shouldn’t the campaign be to save WOMEN? Are we nothing without our breasts? 

I have wonderful Facebook friends who’ve been amazing cheerleaders. But a campaign telling women to post the color of their bra in support of women who no longer have need of one, no matter how well-meaning, wasn’t thought through. Again, the emphasis is on the breasts, not the woman.

In October, the whole world turns pink; but what about women (and men) with other cancers? I often wonder how they feel during “Pinktober,” while they’re dealing with a cancer that’s just as deadly but, unfortunately for them, isn’t trendy.

The point is, too much money is being funneled into cutesy campaigns for awareness. Trust me, breast cancer isn’t pretty and it isn’t cute and it isn’t pink. It’s scary and disfiguring and painful and leaves emotional scars in addition to the physical ones - and it kills.

We need to hold charities accountable for the money we’re giving. More than that, don’t buy a product because it’s been turned pink for a month; very little of your donation is going to a cure. Maybe if we stop supporting the pink campaign every year, businesses will notice that we’re on to them. Wouldn’t it be nice if a bladder cancer patient could go shopping and not be assaulted with the pink nightmare and feel that their cancer is somehow less important?

The bottom line is cancer isn’t cute, even decked out in pretty pink ribbons. It kills; period. Now let’s start insisting on a cure. For everyone.

You can follow Lucy on her Facebook page, or check out her breast cancer blog.



Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 01:08 PM
When companies make profit from cancer and other diseases, what is the incentive for finding a cure? For-profit health care is a lot like for-profit prisons. There is no incentive in finding cures, or in keeping prison populations low. It seems it is time to consider not-profit healthcare. All this time, and still no cures? Not very believable.
Linda Costello November 04, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Great article. I agree with everything you wrote. People shy away from donating because they do not know where their money is going. I am also a breast cancer survivor meaning I survived but my breasts did not. I am embarrassed by the "save the tata" campaigns as well. Cancer should not be used as a profit maker for these companies. Very sad.
Jane November 04, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I couldn't agree with you more. I have been disgusted by the ads for the Five Hour Energy "Pink Lemonade" offering, for sales of which the company promises a paltry $75,000 donation to an Avon breast cancer charity. It seems to me that the company has simply planned a marketing strategy for a new product offering, and is attempting to increase success with a healthy dose of pinkwashing.
Cheryl Saul November 04, 2012 at 11:44 PM
This is very well written. As a breast cancer survivor myself, I do what I can to steer my family and friends to the best organizations that use they money given to them for researching for cures and for treatments, and also for assisting patients with various support methods. I've found the Komen Org. to be greatly lacking in all those I've mentioned. The upper echelon is grossly overpaid, lawsuits against smaller orgs who use "for the cure", and very little of their yearly income goes to research. They are misrepresenting themselves to the public.
Ralph Lydick November 05, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Another great article, shedding some light on this often overlooked topic. Something to consider before we spend our hard eanred money that many times goes to line the pockets of the executives of these "charities". Indepth research into these charities is needed before the leap to support is taken. If the charity is not forthcoming with where the money goes that is a red flag for me and it is time to move on.


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