What is Drastic + Dramatic

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Breast under(a)wear(ness)

Read Post 1 'Something You Don't Know'
I'm hoping to come up with some clever title for the overall product of my experiment this month. Clearly the title of this individual post proves that I'm still hoping.

So the first six days of my experiment have somewhat proven my point better than I expected. Even three days in to not wearing a bra, I was already mostly forgetting that my ladies were loose. I quickly became used to it, not seeming as aware of it as I'd thought I would, as on the first day. So even the lack of this useful piece of underwear didn't long keep me aware of anything. How quickly we adapt and forget, sometimes.

A whole month of not wearing a bra will be about as effective in making me aware of cancer as a whole month of wearing and seeing pink will. I need to do more.

I have been doing research. I'm surprised with some of the things I learn, but then again, not very surprised. My nation has been struggling with its overall health for some time. The other day I wrote up these couple paragraphs:

The organizations researching cancer cures are fighting a losing battle. Even though their efforts have produced many treatments, they will forever have to research new ones if human behavior doesn’t change. Cancer is sometimes in our genes (hereditary), and some cancer cases are brought on by outside influences, but most by behavioral unassertiveness (both considered 'environmental' factors). The 2010 Cancer Facts and Figures states:

Environmental (as opposed to hereditary) factors account for an estimated 75%-80% of cancer cases and deaths in the US. Exposure to carcinogenic agents in occupational, community, and other settings is thought to account for a relatively small percentage of cancer deaths, about 4% from occupational exposures and 2% from environmental pollutants (man-made and naturally occurring). …The estimated percentage of cancers related to occupational and environmental carcinogens is small compared to the cancer burden from tobacco smoking (30%) and the combination of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity (35%). (Facts 50)

            These percentages are based on figures that would make even the 'small', combined percentage of 6% (for occupational and environmental pollutants) calculate to representing 34,000 yearly deaths from cancer. This would correlate that the cancer cases caused by ‘the combination of [improper] nutrition, physical [in]activity, and obesity’ approximate 198,000 preventable deaths.

This surprised me. I thought the majority of cancer cases were hereditary. I'm not sure why I thought that. But MOST CANCER IS PREVENTABLE.

powerful image 'no smoking'

This is why I feel it seems like a losing battle they're fighting. They can't very well find a cure for laziness and addiction. Indeed, those already have cures: hard work, exercise, preparedness, asking for help, will power. Pills and invasive treatments aren't usually needed there. (There are many interferences in life that make it hard to be happy and healthy. I will address this in another post soon. I'm just saying there's a lot to be said about taking as much control as you can about your health.)

The Facts and Figures also says:

The goals of the American Cancer Society’s research program are to determine the causes of cancer and to support efforts to prevent, detect, and cure the disease (56).

This is logical. From their studies they discover, for one, that nutrition, physical activity and obesity are contributive factors to the chances of getting cancer and they can recommend that we do something about it. In my opinion it seems largely preferable to avoid cancer treatment by not getting cancer, as much as I can help myself.

'Facts' goes on to say that only the federal government receives and spends more money as an organization in the US. At least, that's what I think I understand when I read: "The [American Cancer] Society is the largest source of private, nonprofit cancer research funds in the US, second only to the federal government in total dollars spent" (56). Or maybe they're saying that the government spends just a bit more than they do in researching cancer? Actually, that makes more sense. It's hard to believe that the American Cancer Society is spending trillions...

Anyway, the ACS is working hard, researching hard. I'm curious to know more about what, exactly. This is where I'm hoping to do more to heighten my awareness.

I have two friends that have connections with a cancer research facility here in Utah. One friend has given me the contact information that I need to set up a tour of the facility. I didn't even know I could do that; I have no idea what I'm in for, but I'm excited to find out. My strategy is to first speak to my friend who is an intern doing cancer research, ask him questions and see what questions our conversation makes me formulate for my tour of the research facility.

If you had this opportunity, what questions would you ask? I'm only one person and my mind is narrow in its wondering. I ask for your participation, please! Do you have anything on your mind about cancer? What would you like to be more aware about? Anything at all, let me hear your questions. If you do not want your questions to show publicly, send me a message through facebook (and if you're not my 'friend' find this--  http://www.facebook.com/mlefairchild  --and message me that way). Thank you in advance for your contributions to my quest!

*picture of blue (not pink) bra found from http://myzerowaste.com/2011/09/its-recycle-your-bra-month/ another small way of making a difference in the world!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Something You Don't Know

It's the first of November. Usually my joke is: "I haven't showered all month." My family expects it by now. And while that statement is currently truthful -- I am yet unshowered -- today I won't  say it. Today I'm doing something else. Well, I suppose I'm not doing something; in the same way that not showering is, in effect, me doing something, I'm not doing in order to do something new.

Confused yet?

Okay I'll just tell you. Today I'm not wearing a bra. I didn't just forget to put one on in a rush to get to school. No, I had plenty of time as I ponderously decided that today would be the first day of a strange experiment, one I'm rather afraid of committing myself to. Not afraid like I'm afraid of getting a disease, say, but unsure how I will handle the daily results and consequences to come -- as if there were anything I could do to prepare for the unexpected anyway.

October is a month attributed with an awareness of breast cancer. Everything becomes pink and boobs receive varied and often humorous attention. There's something about humor that encourages widespread participation. If everything were serious serious serious, people might feel uncomfortable, kind of like the way we feel sad and helpless when pictures of malnourished children appear on the television screen: how can I help them? Moreover, how can I trust that my contributions will actually go toward efforts to nourish those skeletons held together by paper-thin skin? I don't think making light of their starvation would necessarily encourage my participation in the cause of eliminating global hunger. So why does making light of breast cancer produce T-shirts and stickers and slogans, etc., things which clearly don't make much of a difference, yet offer people a noncommittal way to participate or contribute to something they truly don't know how to involve themselves in.

Does awareness come from a color? A bag of chips printed in pink for one month? Are you involved when you buy a clever t-shirt or facebook post? Does awareness come when you find out that someone you know has silently battled and survived breast cancer? Does it come when you feel that lump in your own breast? When treatments erase everything inside you so that your hair has nothing to hold on to? Were you unaware that October became the poster month for breasts because in fact you're daily aware of the toll of breast cancer as each day turns into another without your loved one there to share it with you?

Most likely, my odd decision (odd to me) to not wear a bra for the month of November won't have far-reaching effects. It will most likely frequently present me with uncomfortable situations, considering the ensuing chilly weather. It will likely continue bringing me the feeling I've had all day at school: smug awareness. When I see someone, I look at them, not with different eyes than I've had for twenty-seven years, but with a smirk of secret knowledge: 'I know something you don't know. I'm not wearing a bra.' Everyone -- the guy behind the information desk at the library, my English professor, dudes and dames at the gym, young and old passers by alike -- has been an unknown recipient of this silent comment from my mind. It's a simple change, missing a traditionally familiar piece of underwear. And yet it's positively thrilling, this heightened awareness that I know something everyone else doesn't know.

Certainly we all know things that no one else discerns by glancing at us. And we all keep secrets from those who think they know us. We know what we know personally, through personal experience, and these are things no one else will know in precisely the same way. We all have a profoundly different view of the exact same world. That's life. But the awareness of it! We do not always sense it; we rarely purchase awareness with the currency of thoughtful contemplation on the uniqueness of everyday life. It's a shame. You and I should be aware that, even though the experts and the geniuses know a thing or two that we don't know yet, still they don't know what I know, what you know. They can't. I have perceived the world from my eyes. No one else has.

Then, sometimes we share things with others that they regularly would rather not know. For example, perhaps, you reading this blog post. Now that you are aware of what I know, perhaps it un-comforts you. It never was my intent to have offered you comfort by the end of this post, neither was it to make you aware of my breasts in particular. But maybe I have intrigued you. Maybe inspired you to try an experiment yourself, to put yourself in a position to see the world in a way you haven't yet.

It starts with a decision to do something. Or not do something. Do it. Be aware of what happens.

This eleventh month I will be aware of breasts, particularly my own unsupported pair, but also of breast cancer and the foundations and causes surrounding it. It's no longer October, but awareness is no less important. From time to time I will include what I become aware of, so that we can all have a real measure of awareness together. This should be a very stimulating experiment indeed.

Something you may not have known
The 2010 cancer.org Cancer Facts and Figures report estimated that about 569,490 Americans were expected to die of cancer that year -- more than 1,500 people a day.

That's a lot of pink bags of chips.

photo: alaskan state flower, forget me not

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