November 21, 2023

The Cancer Patient or The Smoker

She’s a very nice woman. So I’ll blur her identity. Create a pseudonym for her TV show. And get to the meat of the barbecue matter.

I got an email yesterday from a producer (we’ll call her Cassy) of a pilot (we’ll call it Outrageous Outdoors) that will air on a major TV network. So sweet of her to help me publicize my book by making the following offer: Cassy asked me to host an episode where I find a breast cancer patient with a really crappy backyard and surprise her on camera with an outdoor makeover, working with “the big green egg people” to paint the big green egg pink.

Big green egg people? I had no idea what she was talking about. I googled it. The big green egg is a very dinosaur like patio-grilling, meat-smoking machine. I was not quite sure which object was the product placement in this episode: the cancer patient or the smoker?

I had more questions: Is it ethical to out someone on TV as a cancer patient without asking their permission first? My answer: No. Does Cassie care if the patient is not in remission, if they have in-home hospice, are gaunt, pallid, frail, and might not make it to spring to actually use the backyard bistro? Cassie’s answer: Wow, how bittersweet, we’d love to help someone like that. And what about health concerns? I’m no Lola-Granola, but even research from the straight-laced, government funded National Cancer Institute shows links between barbecuing and cancer. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are the carcinogenic chemicals formed when barbecuing animal proteins.

I declined the offer. As I snickered at the absurdity and outrage of using cancer patients as the tokens recipients of backyard glitz and glamour, I realized the hypocrisy of my sneer. When I was diagnosed at 27, I dashed off letters to Mac and Sony, portraying myself with the right combo of cancer hip and patient pathetic in hopes of scoring a free laptop or video camera. How can these mega corporations with deep pockets deny a young cancer patient? With a nice little rejection form letter, that’s how. Apparently I wasn’t the only one asking.

So as my last post of Everybody Wants You Week, I ask you:

If a patient ever uses the “cancer card” to get something – gym memberships, video cameras, the ability to use our flashers at the curb instead of parking in the lot – why can’t others use our cancer card to get something too? Is it a fair trade? Is one gifting and the other exploitation? If everybody wants you with a profit motif in mind, is there still a win-win component to it that makes the whole deal kosher? Does this change if the product is carcinogenic, like Estee Lauder products that include ingredients linked to cancer? Or a big green egg? Let me know what you think.

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  1. Carrie Says:
    November 23rd, 2008 at 8:59 PM

    GREAT blog! Love it!

    You make a good point about “pink washing,” the practice of trying to sell things as supporting breast cancer that actually have been shown to CAUSE breast cancer. Very interesting indeed, and the general public typically has no idea.

    As for your ending question, I feel like I merit getting some free crap out of cancer because I have to do the struggling. This “Cassy” has no struggle with cancer; she does not have to face chemo in order to live. So her and her show benefitting off of someone like myself is… really low!

    If your life is sorta sucking, you deserve some free stuff! And it’s never really BIG stuff, more like free massages or a gym membership for 6 months. It’s not like a dream house or a new car…

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  2. Atee Says:
    November 24th, 2008 at 8:13 PM

    The big question I always have with “pink washing” is where the money actually goes. Campbell’s chicken noodle soup was decked out in pink last year during October and despite all the research I did, I could never find out where the money was going.

    That’s not to say all initiatives like this are as opaque. I recently got an email about Over 600 online retailers are donating a portion of holiday sales to cancer research - via the Cancer Research Alliance, which apparently supports cancer centers directly. It’s not exactly free stuff for individuals - except free shipping! But compared to pink washing it seems like a more responsible way for companies to donate money to the cause. (I just bought a new laptop case via Amazon on the site, and some RAM for my laptop.)

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