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Who needs fat hair? Or the color pink for that matter?

August 30, 2009

That’s what Grandpa Thorson (my Dad’s Dad) used to say when we’d tell him his hair was getting thin. “Who needs fat hair?”

Five years ago I had my head shaved before starting chemo, and what was left of it fell out all at once one morning in the shower. Imagine that: wiping your hand across your damp head and having every hair come out in your hand. Loads of fun and hard on the shower drain.

Right now I’m going with Grandpa and my hair is thinning. I had my hair cut short, but not shaved, figuring that a little lighter load on the folicles might make it last longer. It seems like I’m losing the grey hairs first, which isn’t a bad thing except that my head is about 40% grey, so that could make for some blank patches pretty soon. On the other hand, I have very thick hair to start with, so maybe I have a few weeks before I have to shave and resort to head coverings again.

So, what I’m really wondering is what else they can think of to make this whole journey degrading for women. Here’s a few they’re already doing:

  • Making you bald.
  • Sitting you in giant chairs and making you feel like a toddler.
  • Assuming you like pink, even if you don’t.

Which leads me to my rant about pink in general. I really dislike it when people try to sell pink things under the pretense of making money for breast cancer — pink batteries, pink M&Ms, pink can openers, pink blenders, pink flip-flops, pink wine (when alcohol is one of the things breast cancer patients can’t have), pink pink pink.

And October. BAH HUMBUG! Yes, that’s the month I can look forward to getting a reminder of my disease every time I turn on the computer, radio, or television, or go to the grocery store. I mean, just when I’m forgetting about cancer, there it is IN MY FACE. All of you with hemorrhoids… Would you like to have brown-ribbon month? Walk down the street forgetting about your discomfort and then have someone shove a brown ribbon in your face bringing everything to mind once again? Probably not. How would men react if we gave them baby blue ribbons and sold baby blue shaving cream for testicular cancer awareness? Not all that well. So why do women put up with such treatment?

I understand the need to raise money, and I know there are many people with rare types of cancer who would love to have some sort of dedicated ribbon and month, but I don’t understand the need to make cancer pink and pretty. I can’t say it any better than Barbara Ehrenreich did in her great article called “Welcome to Cancerland: A Mammogram Leads to a Cult of Pink Kitsch.”

I know some of you have heard this rant before, so you can ignore me. I always run the risk of insulting the well-meaning — those who just want to do something to help. I really don’t have a problem people buying pink things with good intentions; I have a problem with the gross commercialization. I don’t like being made to feel like a little girl when my hair is falling out and I feel like crap most of the time. I also dislike, as Ehrenreich says, the infantalization of the breast cancer patient. What I’d really like is a little dignity so I can face this disease like an adult.

Then again, most babies are bald, so why not infantalize the bald female adult population? Apparently many women like to be made into little girls by large corporations. Count me and my un-fat hair out.

39 Comments leave one →
  1. Deb permalink
    August 31, 2009 7:15 am

    Wow, that was quite a tirade against pink my friend! I totally understand your dislike of the color pink representing cancer, but does this mean I have to return the pink jogging suit I got you?? Hugs, Deb

    • Jill permalink
      August 31, 2009 3:09 pm

      Hmmm….. what size is it?

  2. Marcia permalink
    August 31, 2009 8:14 am

    Amen. Pink schmink. Enough already.

  3. Cristina permalink
    August 31, 2009 9:00 am

    Cross your fingers and hope they don’t come up with the “brilliant” idea to mimic the American Heart Association’s “wear red day.” I resent being told what color to wear (remembering green for St. Patrick’s day is enough). Even if I did remember the day while I’m standing in my closet, there’s no guarantee that there’s a clean garment of the specified color. Not to mention that pink is a horrible color on some, well, most women.
    May I add to the list of pink merchandise: pink kitchen utensils; pink silicone baking pans; andrunning shoes with embroidered pink ‘ribbons’ (of which I have a pair…).
    Cruise companies are getting into the act too. Cruisers receive a t-shirt and a pink bracelet for donating a certain amount to the Susan Komen foundation and walking 5k on deck. It’s odd to pay to walk…but it’s worth it to see some people dress up in costumes.

    • Jill permalink
      August 31, 2009 3:08 pm

      Yes, it does get a little too much to keep up with. I’d like to see the odd costumes, though. Where are we crusing to?

      • Cristina permalink
        August 31, 2009 4:45 pm

        I did cruise to Alaska for my birthday and participated. I was a bit busy waddling along to take a picture, but the costumes involved pink tutus, fake princess tiaras, a pink wig, and some other elements that faded from memory.
        I saw a good price for a 7-day Mexico cruise in October…just need a cabinmate.

  4. August 31, 2009 10:40 am

    When I was in kindergarten at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale, Arizona, there was a parade for some reason, and two girls from my class were picked to ride in it. I don’t know what the criteria were for who they chose. Maybe it was who had the longest hair. At any rate, they chose me, a blond, and another girl who was a brunette. We got to wear pretty dresses, and I wanted to wear pink. Since it was 1963, when we still wore gloves and hats to mass, my mom said, “heavens, no! Blonds wear blue and brunettes wear pink!” I have hated blue ever since. Not that I particularly care about pink one way or the other these days, but when you’re 5 years old, something like that can really make an impression. So for you, I will dust off my 5-year-old emotions and get hissy on pink.

    • Jill permalink
      August 31, 2009 3:07 pm

      It’s amazing the little things that stick with us. I live in fear of what I might say to Daniel that will “stick.” Scary.

      • September 2, 2009 8:00 am

        Hey, aren’t you wearing pink in that picture? Or should we call it “salmon”? Tee hee!

        • Jill permalink
          September 2, 2009 10:32 am

          Holy crap, Kim. Get yourself to a plastic surgeon right away — get a referral from your ob/gyn if needed. There’s recent proof that doing a “scoop out” as you suggest does have an effect on breast cancer risk. Don’t talk to the mammogram/radiologist people. They don’t know nuddings.

          I woulod wear pink for anyone else, of course. I’d rather never see it again for me. Just so you know what a hypocrite I am.

    • Annette permalink
      September 2, 2009 9:02 am

      Oh my goodness! Your little vignette shot me right back to my own 2-5-year-old days. I was one of those kids with platinum blonde hair and blue eyes. My cousin Pam had brown hair and brown eyes. Our mothers, who were sisters, of course, were always buying us little matching dresses. And mine would always be blue and Pam’s would always be pink. To this day, when my mother buys me an article of clothing as a gift, she’s still dressing me in blue. How funny!

      Actually, I rather like pink. And it was a promotional by Curves for October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – that lead to the discovery of my lump. Curves offered to waive the $125 joining fee if you came in with a proof of a recent mammogram. I was overdue for one – always put them off because they hurt – but made an appointment and brought in the appt. card so I could join the gym. I made the appointment in October, but they couldn’t fit me in until December, and that’s when they found the lump. If it hadn’t been for Curves, I know I would have put that mammogram off longer, and it probably would have spread through the lymph nodes. So you’ll never hear me complaining about October. I love it.

      • Jill permalink
        September 2, 2009 10:34 am


        You and my sister Kim would like each other. =)

        I had no idea how your cancer was detected — or maybe you told me and I lost it in the chemo fog somewhere.

        Again, I’d wear pink for you and for my sister. For me? Meh. And I certainly wouldn’t buy you a pink wasp trap. Even if you neede on.

  5. Michelle permalink
    August 31, 2009 12:22 pm

    Boy, are you lucky you have a son and not a daughter! 🙂

    Just by virtue of your child’s sex, you end up with all manner of pink products invading your home and life.

    I also hate the color pink, particularly baby pink. But try telling people you hate pink when you have a little girl, and wait for the looks of shock and horror you’ll get.

    We have an unending supply of pink hand-me-downs from my niece (I swear, everything that little girl has is pink). (Hand-me-downs = good; pink hand-me-downs = ugh.) Also, grandmothers love to see their granddaughters dressed in pink. When I get to buy clothes for Shea, I avoid pink whenever possible. (This is becoming slightly more complicated by the fact that Shea loves clothing items with Hello Kitty and the Disney princesses.)

    If it’s any consolation, they do use baby blue for prostate cancer awareness campaigns. And there ARE baby blue ribbons, but we’ve thusfar been spared the vast array of consumer products “supporting” prostate cancer research.

    Thanks for the tirade against pink. Hope you’re feeling well today!

    • Jill permalink
      August 31, 2009 12:28 pm

      Yes. I escaped the baby pink stuff, thank goodness!

      Too funny about the baby blue prostate cancer ribbons. But do they give the men Tonka trucks, Lego and crayons in their prostate cancer gift bags? That’s what I want to know.

    • Jill permalink
      August 31, 2009 3:06 pm

      On the other hand, it looks like pink was originally assocated with boys:

      • Michelle permalink
        September 2, 2009 11:02 am

        I recall reading somewhere that WSU’s original colors were pink and blue. As much as I dislike pink, I think it would be HIGHLY amusing to see the Cougars, or any football team for that matter, take the field in pink uniforms.

  6. August 31, 2009 1:32 pm

    I dunno. I think the shaved head could be kinda interesting.

    You could try gluing down a piece of velcro to your head and trading off different wigs every day.

    Monday: Purple Mohawk
    Tuesday: Rainbow ‘Fro
    Wednesday: Jet Black Dominatrix
    Thursday: Bo Derek Cornrows

    It could be fun!

    • Jill permalink
      August 31, 2009 2:41 pm

      But what about Friday and the weekend?!

      • Cristina permalink
        August 31, 2009 4:40 pm

        Go bare like Sinead O’Connor! 🙂 Does anyone else still remember her?

  7. Debbie permalink*
    September 1, 2009 7:28 am

    Okay – I bought pink chapstick yesterday – and yes it was specifically for breast cancer awareness. Am I in trouble now?

    P.S. – It was on sale, which is the main reason I bought it.

    To Kim – As I remember that parade situation, it was the school that specified which color you were to wear. Mom may have just been trying to ease the blow.

    • Jill permalink
      September 1, 2009 8:16 am

      I forgive you.

    • Jill permalink
      September 1, 2009 11:58 am

      That sounds like something the school would have done.

      Also, I remember from the Laura Ingalls Wilder books that one of Laura’s peeves was how she and Mary got sorted by hair color — down to what they could and couldn’t wear.

      I say feel free to wear any color you like (except pink!!!).

      • September 2, 2009 7:58 am

        Oddly enough, I’m wearing a pink blazer today with my white blouse and black pants (I think pink and black are a nice combination in suited separates. Doesn’t that sound snobby?) Maybe I’m supersititious, but I’ll take any help I can get — I go to the “Comprehensive Women’s Breast Health Center” today at 3:30 for my 6-month follow-up. They keep seeing suspicious stuff with the regular mammogram, so they send me right to the better equipment nowadays instead of wasting my time and getting me all worked up after the mammo and before I can get in for the ultrasound that finds nothing. But 6 months ago the technician thought she saw something, then couldn’t find it again, and neither could the radiologist. I asked to just volunteer to have everything just scooped out so I don’t have to keep going through this every 6 months. He looked at me like I had a hole in my head. What on earth is wrong with that notion? I’m not using the plumbing in there any more. I stopped breastfeeding for the last time in November 1987. Yes, now it’s me on a rant. I’m tired of going through this crap every 6 months. This has been going on since I found my first lump in 1976! Although I don’t recall having mammograms back then. They did needle aspiration, and when that didn’t reveal it was a cyst, they just cut the thing out. Same thing in 1978 when I found the 2nd one, but this time it was done at the Navy hospital on Camp Pendleton. It was definitely apparent that those people were “practicing” medicine. The kid couldn’t get the IV going in my hand until the 5th try, and I ended up dripping blood from my fingertips. The surgeon operated really fast, and I had sharp stabbing pains in the area for a year after surgery – the only one of the 5 surgeries that gave me any pain. Yes, 5. Numbers 3 and 4 were done the same day, I think around 1990. A few years ago, they decided to do a needle biopsy for the 5th one. That was agony. Look it up in the dictionary — I’m sure one of the meanings of agony says “needle biopsy”. It wasn’t the procedure; it was the torture rack I had to lay on for 45 minutes without moving. I was in tears from back pain. I feel for you when you talk about the stupid chairs in the chemo room. Oh, and after the biopsy, they had to do another mammogram to compare to the preliminary one, and ended up squeezing blood out of the little incision. Jeeze. Please, just open me up and scoop out the contents!!! I am SOOOO bleeping tired of this!!!!! Anyway, forgive me for wearing pink today. And thanks for the space to rant in public.

  8. September 1, 2009 7:37 am

    Heh, love it, of course if you go to our site (one of them) and search for “pink”, you get shoes, ribbons, hats, purses, bracelets, tank tops, shorts, flip flops, keychains, dryer balls (don’t ask), on and on and on!
    500+ items with the word pink in them (which I suppose may or may not be pink).
    When you have to count all of that inventory, you really begin to wonder who really buys this stuff?

    • Jill permalink
      September 1, 2009 8:19 am

      Well, I’m trying not to offend anyone….. I don’t really have a problem with individuals who want to help.

      • Jill permalink
        September 1, 2009 8:41 am

        But you’re right. Who would buy some of that stuff. Pink dryer balls. Too funny!

    • Jill permalink
      September 1, 2009 12:13 pm

      Oooh. Now I get it.

      I went to the site just to look for over-the-top pink stuff. I like the pink glass wasp trap. Definitely over the top –particularly if you’re a wasp — but really really funny.

      The pink camouflage lounge pants are great too. Maybe cancer can’t find you when you wear them. “Duuuhh…. Where did she go, George?”

      And I’m still trying to solve the mystery of why anyone would buy underwear with pink ribbons. Or maybe that’s a way to “show” support in a subtle way.


  9. Lisa permalink
    September 1, 2009 10:32 am

    I remember when Dad was diagnosed with Lymphoma.. I tried to find him or myself some specific items for that type of Cancer and his service time (which probably resulted in his Cancer) and alas none exist. I would’ve happily settled on a Vietnam veteran Cancer type of logo or color skew, but it also doesn’t exist.

    Then with P’s Autism, I hated that multi color symbol for so long. Really?! Blue, yellow and red.. puzzle pieces.. guess the puzzle is why? and how does that sum up Autism? A few years ago, I put the colored ribbon on my car as I decided to embrace it and what it means. I wanted one for my Dad side by side with it.

    I totally get your comments though. I say go ahead and hate the pink. I confess I sometimes buy the Pink Hard Lemonaide as I figure if I’m going to drink, then maybe some of that money goes somewhere helpful. And ironically.. I’ve hated pink most of my life..

    Then, it all started with my pink cell phone and now I own several pink things and it makes my Mom laugh as I hated the color for so long. I think it is all a process.

    A good rant also would be the saying of “God gives you what you can handle..” I would like to find the munchkin who invented that saying and hold them over a bridge overpass most days. But in our own way and in our own time, we do all handle what we are given even if it isn’t the way others want us to handle it. I appreciate your sense of humor. I will add Breast Cancer Awareness day to my list of ‘days’ that I ignore which also include Autism Awareness Month. I tried to ‘get it’, but realized it wasn’t ‘me’ but the notion of the day, month, colors and rhetoric that get tiring. I might have to boycott pink now 😉

    Continued prayers and good thoughts!

    – Lisa

    • Jill permalink
      September 1, 2009 11:50 am

      Yes. I think I just don’t get it either. But I don’t get a lot of things.

      Autism puzzle pieces? Kinda strange.

  10. September 1, 2009 10:36 am

    Ah, I didn’t mean to say “we are doing something good with pink don’t mock us!” I just thought it was a bit overdone, and we do a lot of overdoing 🙂
    Hey, we aren’t using but have registered!
    Don’t get me started!

    • Jill permalink
      September 1, 2009 11:47 am

      Trying to think of dryer balls in relation to colong cancer. 😉 lol. I won’t get you started. lol

      • Jill permalink
        September 1, 2009 11:48 am

        Colong cancer? Ooops. Did I mean cologne cancer? I’m sure there’s some pink cologne out there somewhere.

  11. Cristina permalink
    September 1, 2009 9:43 pm

    One more item for the ‘pink’ list: TV dinners.
    On the way home tonight I stopped by the store for some cheese and a frozen dinner. (What can I say? I really didn’t want to fire up the oven tonight.) I grabbed the Sweet and Sour Chicken and realized that out of all the Lean Cusine dishes, it was the only one decked out in pink and the Susan Komen Foundation text…. The choice was to buy that pink box, or fire up the oven to bake a frozen pizza. Pink box won out. And no, the food and tray were not pink. 😉

  12. Dawn permalink
    September 3, 2009 9:42 am

    Regarding thin hair—when my daughter (age 16) had cancer we had her hair shaved off and had it made into a beautiful custom wig (insurance paid for that!). Our oldest son had long hair and donated it to Leah’s wig too. Very cool! When Leah’s stubble started falling out, she couldn’t keep her wig taped to her head and she got frustrated. So, she brought me a roll of duct tape and said, “Mom, I think this will do the trick!” and we removed all her stubble! It worked great! We had a lot of laughs doing that. Seriously, though, I think losing her hair was the most traumatic side effect of having cancer. Her eyelashes and eyebrows didn’t fall out until she was almost done with chemo–the final insult. She was beautiful throughout the process, but I know she had a hard time with that part of it.
    As for pink, I’m a grandma of two girls and I’m guilty of buying them lots of pink. In my defense, I also buy them other colors! However, I will never buy a pink blender!
    Take care Kiddo! Keep the sense of humor!

  13. September 4, 2009 10:00 pm

    Awww….pink of PeptoBismol and Amoxycillin! And pink M&Ms are one of the few colors I can eat (everything else has FD&C yellow #5 which gives me migraines).

    But I’ll have some pink on 11-13 September when we walk. It’s on the shirts.

    • Jill permalink
      September 5, 2009 7:09 am

      As long as you don’t buy a pink blender to make your smooties. And, of course, you know I appreciate your yearly walk — 60 miles in 3 days. Great work!

  14. September 15, 2009 8:10 pm

    Carried your name 60 miles for 3Day #5, my friend. 2200 walkers, 400 crew — $5.5M for more diagnosis/treatment/research. You’d love the “kick breast cancer’s ass” and “fight like a girl!” signs everywhere.

    I posted my pix at (which you should be able to get to even if you aren’t on Facebook)….but there’s an awful lot of pink in them…except for the firemen. These guys from the Port of Seattle did the whole walk in turnouts (60+ pounds of protective gear).

    And yeah, I agree: the pink KitchenAid mixer is a bit much.

    • Jill permalink
      September 16, 2009 8:30 am

      Fantastic, Christe! Many thanks to you and your blisters. You are a true friend.

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