A few weeks ago, in a not particularly bad mood, I unloaded on a website called Save the Tatas. It’s all about chipper, cute little bumper stickers and T-shirts, I opined, that trivialize breast cancer and make me want to pull out a sledgehammer. To me, the problem is that breast cancer isn’t really about breasts (or tatas); it’s about death.
More recently, I got what I have to believe is a well-meaning comment from one TM, somebody who sports a Save the Tatas bumper sticker and hasn’t yet run into me and my sledgehammer. Here it is:
Though I understand your concern, I believe you may have mistaken the purpose of “save the tatas”. Yes, breasts are nice to have, but when faced with cancer, they are nothing. You stated, “Cancer in your breasts doesn’t kill you; it’s simply where cancer can start. You stop worrying about your breasts really quickly — and start worrying about sites where the breast cancer can metastasize. Places like your liver, lungs, bones and brain that are a bit more vital than your cleavage. Places where the cancer will kill you.” I could not agree with you more. However, I believe that ’save the tatas’ is directed more towards gaining funds to find a cure for breast cancer, and not actually saving the breast once cancer has been diagnosed. If a cute, catchy phrase will encourage other people to donate their money to find a cure, then lets come up with cute, catchy phrases. I truely am sorry for you and those who have already lost their breasts to cancer. But, I will look beyond myself and place a sticker on my car in hopes that a cure will be found before too many other women are affected.
Oh, dear. Time to breathe deeply and count to 10. Think blissful, peaceful thoughts and concentrate on world harmony! Inhale newness and life, exhale conflict and lingering malevolence! Aspire to a higher state of being, of acceptance, of love! Then —
Oh, shut up. Save it for your 5:45 yoga class, you nirvanic twit.
Again, I do think this comment — and probably the moronic bumper stickers and T-shirts, as well — are basically born of good intentions, if not good grammar and proper spelling. Maybe they raise all kinds of money for breast-cancer research and prevention. Maybe their checks, unlike their tatas, don’t bounce. We can always hope, can’t we?
But I do wonder about a couple of things. It’s possible that I’m the only breast cancer survivor on planet earth who is deeply offended by STTT. But frankly, I doubt it. (Cancer Bitch, where are you when I need you?) In that case, why in the world adopt a slogan that antagonizes at least some women who have been most affected by this dread disease?
And, please, for God’s sake, spare me your pity for my bilateral mastectomy. I thought I had made that clear: I don’t pity myself and I don’t want anybody else’s pity. The fact is, I have been overwhelmingly fortunate. I’ve survived 13 years and am beginning to contemplate social security; I’ve lived to see both my children grow up; I’ve aged enough that I can no longer die young.
Unlike my friends Martha and Cindy and Clare and Roxy and Alice, I have had a future. Sometimes, I feel as if I am aging for all of us, trying to do the best I can for the rest of them, to honor them whenever I can with my own imperfect, but (so far) salvaged life.
But somehow, with the Tata people, it always gets back to breasts and a wink and a nudge. Why be serious about life or death or illness, when you can be cutesy? It’s so easy to whistle in the dark when you’ve never really been there.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)