Breast Cancer Survivor Explains How 'Pinkwashing' Hurts Those With Breast Cancer


This month, instead of wearing a pink ribbon or donating money to a cause that may or not use your money for breast cancer research, take a moment to look at Tracie Marie’s Instagram post. Not only does the breast cancer survivor bravely reveal her double mastectomy scars, but she also shares some honest insight on the “pinkwashing” culture surrounding the disease.

“While the majority of people believe that Breast Cancer is a pink ribbon, a pink Pom Pom, a pen with a pink ribbon, a tote with a pink ribbon, an encap at your local Walmart engaging you to be a ‘part of the cure,'” she wrote. “First, a hard reality, you are not being part of the cure, you’re just throwing your money away to propaganda, uniforms for NFL cheerleaders, and kiosk after kiosk with items from handbags to ziplock bags. It’s all a hoax. They are not trying to fight the cure. Most of their funding goes to advertisement, 6 figure CEO salaries.”

While the majority of people believe that Breast Cancer is a pink ribbon, a pink Pom Pom, a pen with a pink ribbon, a tote with a pink ribbon, an encap at your local Walmart engaging you to be a “part of the cure. First, a hard reality, you are not being part of the cure, you’re just throwing your money away to propaganda, uniforms for NFL cheerleaders, and kiosk after kiosk with items from handbags to ziplock bags. It’s all a hoax. They are not trying to fight the cure. Most of their funding goes to advertisement, 6 figure CEO salaries. And when I asked for help, I wasn’t given any, DENIED. Denied by the very people who claimed they would help me in their “advertising”. A pink ribbon isn’t the men and women fighting for their lives with metastatic breast cancer. I cannot comprehend how people can not grasp the simple concept that if you cure stage 4 you cure them all. It’s that simple. You will not have to worry about dying because, there’s a cure if you get to that point. Breast cancer is often very sexualized. Showing models with fake scars, beautiful bodies and breasts with the strap so perfectly dangling from her shoulder. That’s not what Breast cancer is. It’s CTs, surgeries, amputations, biopsies, MRIs, X-rays, radiation, chemo, IVs, blood tests, fear, worry, hate, anger, confusion, sadness, loneliness, medications, check ups, anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain. It’s so much more than a pink snickers bar because it “supports us! We do not receive free brown jobs. We have reconstruction. Expanders places to stretch your skin to fit the implants, complications, tram flap surgeries, sometimes our bodies reject the implants, some choose to go flat, some reconstructions are amazing and look fabulous, some look completely deformed. However, in no way did any of us receive a free boob job. We amputated them and had foreign objects placed in our skin to resembles the breasts we once had. We tattoo our nipples on, we get prosthetic ones, or we go with out. But none of it was free. Save the Tatas, save 2nd base, no bra day with a bunch of nipples poking out in no way supports those with Breast Cancer. This is what a lot of cancer really looks like!

A post shared by Tracie and/or Elvira ???????? (@screamqueen13) on

Marie was diagnosed with stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma (cancer that has broken through the wall of the milk duct and begun to invade the tissues of the breast) on her left breast and a benign tumor on her right breast.

“We removed both breasts and I had five surgeries on my chest,” she told The Mighty. “Including emergency removal of a left expander due to MRSA. I replaced the expander and implants and had infections, chemo and a hysterectomy all in nine months, and just removed my implants August 2017 because they were making me very sick.”

In her post, Marie touches on a topic that critics of breast cancer awareness campaigns and consumer products have thought for years: misdirected funds.

In a recent U.S. News and World Report article, Dr. Sagar Sardesai, assistant professor of medicine at the Stephanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Cancer at the Wexner Medical Center of Ohio State University, said, “I think [raising awareness of breast cancer] started out with a very good intention, but in some situations, the push towards ever more ’cause marketing’ means that money can end up somewhere consumers don’t expect it to or supporting outright scams.”

Marie then shared how she was denied help for her diagnosis. “And when I asked for help, I wasn’t given any, DENIED. Denied by the very people who claimed they would help me in their ‘advertising. A pink ribbon isn’t the men and women fighting for their lives with metastatic breast cancer.”

She believes the pink ribbon has lost its meaning to survivors and metastatic cancer patients, saying: “It’s become a marketing scheme and a moneymaker. It has gone from pink ribbons for awareness to pink dollar signs lining the pockets of so many. It’s the women and men who send me messages saying they were denied help. Funds are not available. I have big organizations calling my friends with cancer asking for donations. When they respond they are a cancer patient and ask how they can get help. They are hung up on.”

She added:

While we understand pink shows support and that’s why people wear it, we just don’t see it the same way. I was blind to so much before diagnosis, begging organizations for help, only to be consistently told they no longer have funding or grants to help. I fought for two years to get my implants out. It took nine doctors and three ER visits, then quitting a job to get Medicaid for surgery, to get anyone to listen. Finally someone did.

She also shares how breast cancer is often sexualized. “Showing models with fake scars, beautiful bodies and breasts with the strap so perfectly dangling from her shoulder. That’s not what breast cancer is,” she said, adding:

It’s CTs, surgeries, amputations, biopsies, MRIs, X-rays, radiation, chemo, IVs, blood tests, fear, worry, hate, anger, confusion, sadness, loneliness, medications, check ups, anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain. It’s so much more than a pink snickers bar because it ‘supports’ us! We do not receive free boob jobs. We have reconstruction.

Marie told the Mighty she feels so strongly about this because she lost 114 people this year just to cancer, including friends and family. “I just can’t sit by and be silent while I watch everyone die. I want to be a person people can go to for help. I want to use my cancer, something awful, and turn it into something beautiful. I have two choices, be negative or be positive. Positivity won’t save my life but it may save someone else’s, and living a negative life will definitely put you in your grave faster.”

Since posting her message, her photo has been shared over 180,000 times in two weeks. She’s thankful it has reached so many and hopes to continue to be a voice for others touched by breast cancer.

“I am almost four years NED  (no evidence of disease),” she said.” My scans came back clear and the nodules in my lungs shrunk after removing the implants.  But I once again was hospitalized after removing the implants for cellulitis, strep, staph, and being septic.

“Thank you again so much for the support and loving messages as I haven’t received one ounce of negativity and that’s so important to me because I didn’t want my post to be negative,” she wrote in a follow-up message to her original post. “My aim was to inspire, show you you’re beautiful, empower you, tell you the truth, show you the truth, be a voice for those who are no longer with us and fighting for their lives with stage 4.”

Hello new and all of my old friends. So, recently my post regarding breast cancer awareness month has gone viral. I’m not quite sure how to handle the 101,000 shares and all the friend requests and all the messages but know in my free time when I’m not working, cleaning my house (don’t mind the hair), karaoke night with the girls or helping a friend in need, I WILL get to your messages…eventually, there are a lot. I’m overwhelmed and if it wasn’t for the meds I’m on for estrogen blockers I would have cried longer than I did. I’m so thankful for the already, hundreds of messages flooding through wanting help, advice, a friend to talk to, whatever the message may be, I will answer you and get to it. I promise, I don’t now when but I promise I will. So please be patient as this is quite crazy, I’m not ignoring y’all! I am so blessed to get the word out about #metaviorawareness #metavivor #pinkwashing #thetruthbehindthepinkribbon #thetruthaboutbreastcancer #breastcancerisnotpretty #breastcancerisnotpink #breastcancerisnotabusiness #mets #dontignorestageiv #curestage4curethemall Thank you again so much for the support and loving messages as I haven’t received one ounce of negativity and that’s so important to me because I didn’t want my post to be negative. My aim was to inspire, show you you’re beautiful, empower you, tell you the truth, show you the truth, be a voice for those who are no longer with us and fighting for their lives with stage 4. I’m lucky to be NED (no evidence of disease) now for 4 years, CT scan came back clear today, nodules shtick since I removed implants 6 weeks ago. We hoped that’s why I had them!! Whoop whoop. However, I won’t stop trying to help my stage 4 friends. That could be me, that could be someone’s daughter, sister, brother, son, and I still have a year to go before official remission. I want to BE the difference I want to see in the world. I may not have money, anything to give right now but I have a VOICE, a use of words, fingers to type. I am blessed I’m so many ways. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart! Much love to you all, God Bless and I will be talking with you soon. #yesthatsmyboobcoozyinthebackrounddontjudge

A post shared by Tracie and/or Elvira ???????? (@screamqueen13) on

When asked why she is so passionate about speaking up, she told The Mighty: “I’m definitely not afraid of sharing myself. I don’t have money. I have nothing to give. But I have a voice, I have a way with words, I like to write and talk. So I’m using what I have to give. My voice. My passion. My positivity. My hope to be the change I want to see in the world. To help all those dying with metastatic cancer.”

Want to support an organization during breast cancer awareness month? Check out Marie’s favorite organization, Metavivor.org, and this list of small, community-based organizations run by breast cancer survivors. 

Header photo via Instagram


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