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This Breast Cancer Awareness Slogan Really Stuck Out, and Not in a Good Way


I had a wonderful time at a recent breast cancer walk, until I got home and found a bracelet with a raunchy saying on it in my survivor’s gift bag.

If you’ve been following me, you know that I recently participated in a breast cancer awareness walk with Stand Tall AFC to promote body positivity and aesthetic flat closure after mastectomy.

On event day, I arrived a little bit early to get everything ready for my team. I had a large banner, some posters we would be carrying and flyers to distribute. I gathered my team before the walk began so we could take a team picture. It was the perfect day for a walk through the harbor, overcast skies created a comfortable temperature with plenty of marine life and a great view of the boats.

This is my second event like this, and it went as I expected. The walk consisted of the usual — pink tutus and boas, a pink truck, an oversized pink chair for photos, loud music and the general chaos that ensues.

My incredible team showed up for me and we accomplished what we set out to do. We were visibly advocating for body positivity, wearing our matching white T-shirts adorned with the image of Dr. Wendy Sage, the breast cancer survivor on “The Simpsons.” 

A group of advocates from Stand Tall AFC wearing shirts with Dr. Wendy Sage on them

Marissa Holzer and other members from Stand Tall AFC advocate for aesthetic flat closure at a breast cancer event.

Photo credit: Marissa Holzer

I had spoken to the event coordinator the day prior to the walk, and she mentioned to be sure to stop by the survivors’ booth. My metastatic Flattie friend, who I met in an online support group, accompanied me to the booth. We were asked by the woman in the booth if we were survivors. I answered for both of us and said we were “Metavivors.” The woman paused and then asked if she could give us a hug.

Along with a hug we were each given a survivor swag bag. It’s always fun to go home with free goodies and it’s a nice gesture to recognize the survivors. At that moment the walk was getting underway. So, we put the bags aside without looking at the contents and started our walk.

It was only later when I got home and unpacked everything in the survivors’ swag bag that the disappointment set in. Inside were several items: socks, a calendar, lip balm, a pin, a pink strand of Mardi Gras beads (slightly inappropriate, but I'll let it slide) and a bracelet. Now this bracelet is one of those stretchy wristband-type bracelets imprinted with the slogan “Save 2nd Base.”

Having had a mastectomy I no longer have “second base” to save and I am willing to bet I was not the only survivor there to have undergone a mastectomy. Also, breast cancer is not a disease that affects just women. Anyone who has a chest can get breast cancer.

I asked my friend if she had received one of these bracelets in her bag and she said she did and that her daughter took most of the items from the bag for herself. This is not the lesson we should be teaching to our next generation. This is not bringing awareness to the disease and it’s not finding a cure. It was as if this one bracelet undermined our whole purpose of walking.

At first, I thought it was just me being overly sensitive, but then I posed the question to breast cancer social media and the overwhelming response was that this is inappropriate.

This bracelet trivializes our trauma. It is insensitive, thoughtless and insulting and has no place in a survivor swag bag. This slogan reduces us to body parts, sexualizing breast cancer. It objectifies breasts and minimizes the person and life attached to those breasts. It suggests we aren’t sexy post-mastectomy.

While the walk itself went great and we did what we intended to do — we were visible and we were promoting body positivity — the irony was not lost. There’s a time and a place for raunchy cancer humor, and this was not it.

I left feedback on the email survey asking for my opinion on how things went. I understand wanting a catchy slogan to encourage people to get screened, but once you’re already a patient who has had your breasts removed it’s too late to “Save 2nd Base.”

It's hard for me to show up at events like this knowing I’m not a winner. Part of me feels like crawling under a rock for the month of Pinktober, but part of me also knows that this is precisely why we're advocating: to be body positive and to be accepted as we are after mastectomy.

We are not our boobs. We are so much more than that.

At an event where we are supposed to be making strides against breast cancer, this feels like we’ve taken a giant step backwards. The sentiment on this bracelet of saving second base hits the ball out of the park as to why we need to do better and continue to stand tall for body positivity after mastectomy.

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