Wednesday, February 29, 2012

more important than pinktober

Happy Eating Disorder Awareness Week! I didn’t realize it was that time again until a breast cancer-related Twitter acquaintance—we had bonded over disgust at a moving truck emblazoned with pink ribbons—mentioned it. (Go unpack that sentence for awhile.)

The annual campaign, spearheaded by the National Eating Disorders Association, seeks to educate the public about anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. Their official clinical forms affect a small percentage of the population, but I would argue that no female exits adolescence without a taste (sorry) of eating disordered behavior. The week gets less attention than Pinktober, both because it’s a quarter as long and because statistically fewer people suffer from eating disorders than from breast cancer. It’s also less socially acceptable, somehow, to discuss mental illnesses than it is to discuss reproductive organs even with the deep, Puritanical aversion to women’s bodies that persists in American discourse (the current contraception wars and the vaginal ultrasound bill presented in Virginia, following up on the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s attempt to defund Planned Parenthood are just the most recent crop of examples).

Both boobs and mental illness need to be acceptable public topics, and I’d argue that Eating Disorder Awareness Week is even more vital than Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Most everyone with the misfortune to be in the breast cancer club, as patient or doctor, agrees that the pink vomit should be replaced with targeted fundraising for scientific and clinical research. EVERYONE is aware of breast cancer. We couldn’t be more aware. Spending money on awareness feels insulting to patients undergoing treatments that would have been recognizable to their grandmothers.

Eating disorders, on the other hand, remain misunderstood. There are a couple good writers who have published accessible work about the realities of the disease, Harriet Brown and Amy Liu among them. But without a close connection to someone suffering from an eating disorder, most people still seem to think it’s an extreme diet. Not so. Sufferers would eat if they could. It’s a tricky, insidious condition more akin to alcoholism—a complex interaction of genes and environment, manageable with comprehensive treatment and then continued vigilance. Until this is a discursive given, slather on the awareness. Nobody should die of hunger, be it from lack of access to food or lack of ability to eat it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"N.Y. Times Reporter Dies In Syria, Body Carried Across Border By Westport Native"

Apparently, the takeaway on NYT reporter Anthony Shadid's death by "America's Oldest Continuously Published Newspaper" is that the hometown of a colleague is as important as the tragic loss.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

bc: not as fun to chat about as yoga

So, a convergence of maddening breast cancer-related news in the past couple days (now that the yoga bloggers have calmed down about Ayn Rand and body wrecking).

It seems that the Komen foundation has pulled funding from Planned Parenthood, ostensibly because PP is under congressional investigation but really because—along with mammograms and breast health education for its primarily lower-income patients—the organization offers abortions. It's upsetting that the most visible BC cure organization would deprive women of life-saving screening in the service of social conservatism.

In other A1 New York Times news, a new study shows that, thanks to a lack of standardization on what "clear margins" means for lumpectomy surgeries, some women have undergone unnecessary second procedures to take more tissue. Again, disturbing. How complicated can it be to decide that a cancer-free margin means a patient doesn't need to be subjected to a second grueling day of surgery? Conversely, in what universe would blatantly unclear margins be OK and the patient sent off with remaining cancer cells?

Thank goodness my surgeon is a badass whose judgment I trust implicitly since, minus uniform standards, it's up to individual providers to make sure lumpectomies are effective and successful.