Open Letter to Joan Lunden

I want to thank Joan Lunden and the people of TODAY of putting the spotlight, however brief, on metastatic breast cancer–the one that no one talks about.  A link to the TODAY spot is below.

Dear Ms. Lunden,

You are an inspiration to many women and, rightfully or not, by virtue that you developed this disease you shine a spotlight on women with breast cancer. To support one of your upcoming reports on the TODAY show, a friend was contacted to be on the show to talk about metastatic breast cancer. Well, she thought she was, but what TODAY show producers wanted, it turns out, was a sea of exclusively bald women for a backdrop. When they learned she had hair, they told her not to show up.

CaptureNot all women lose their hair as a result of treatments. Many agents do not cause hair loss. I am 54, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer right away, and I have had neither surgery nor chemotherapy (though I may as my disease advances). I will die of this disease. Indeed, every single woman who has had breast cancer could go on to develop metastatic disease. A full one third do — some a full twenty years after they have successfully completed treatment — and yet only 2-3% of the funds raised go to research on metastatic disease. There is no cure.

Pink is just a color, it is not a cure for breast cancer. Please honor us and swim against the tide that will always pink wash this disease. Please call attention to metastatic disease–it takes 40,000 women a year in the USA alone — and honestly portray the variety of women that breast cancer touches. It is time that we educate the public, not pander to producers who want women with breast cancer to fit a certain look while they continue to die. I hope that you agree.

I wish you good health.

Scorchy Barrington

This entry was posted in Advocacy, Breast Cancer PSAs, Breastploitation, My Stage IV Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Open Letter to Joan Lunden

  1. I agree that those who have not been through this can not understand it, and that there has been a falseness given to it, perhaps in some cases to offer hope to those who have it. I don’t like what the show did, but I do respect Joan and her journey. All of us are different. If she has makeup on, maybe that’s HER reality and that’s ok. We can’t start telling each other what’s ok and what isn’t when each person experiences their own situations, feelings, reactions in equally valid if sometimes different ways. Wishing all well.

    • Scorchy says:

      Who said anything about Joan Lunden, her makeup, and telling her what is and is not okay?

      This was about the TODAY show revoking invitations to women who have metastatic breast cancer and had hair because their presence wouldn’t fit with their “bald” tribute to Joan Lunden. Writing the open letter likely informed her of the producer’s blunder and led to 1) reissuing invitations to women with MBC who had hair and 2) a sensitivity of the challenges of MBC and a segment on MBC on October 13.

      Maybe you were commenting on the wrong blog? Didn’t read the post beyond the title?

  2. nancyspoint says:

    Hi Scorchy,
    I’ve been traveling this past weekend and so I’m late to this whole deal. I bought the People magazine at the airport ‘cuz I just had to… and it was kinda funny, I was irritated by comments Melissa Etheridge and her partner made in that same issue. They were basically calling Melissa’s cancer a gift more or less. What total BS. I feel like writing about it, but I don’t know if I’m up to it. Again. It just never ends does it? Anyway, thank you for taking this head on (wow, unintentional pun there, bald/head thing I mean) and writing this. You are a force. Well done. xx

  3. oh, Scorch, what an incredibly brilliant letter you wrote! my heart goes out to your friend, can’t imagine how bewildered and rejected she must have felt. I am so glad you exposed the truth, both of what the show wanted to portray, but especially the truth of bald/or not, metastatic breast cancer, and pink. oh, and let’s not forget PANDERING! excellent post.

    much love,

    Karen xoxo

  4. Kathi Kolb says:

    Scorch, my friend, you da bomb. As usual. Great to read your update today that the TODAY Show at least apologized, albeit somewhat grudgingly, and backtracked. Proving once again that’s it is NOT a good idea to piss off women with cancer. WIN!

  5. Mary Smith says:

    I stopped and stared at the Joan Lunden magazine cover today….so unrealistic. No woman going through chemo is bald, but still has her shapely eyebrows and fluttering eyelashes. Sadly, chemo tends to give a puffy look to the face, not the trim, prechemo face that Joan brightly displays for all to see. Every woman who bravely fights the dreaded cancer, whether with chemo, radiation, surgery, or any other method is beautiful, in her own way. Because we know that to be true, putting a face on chemo, trying to make it look more beautiful, cheapens it, falsifies it. I would rather have a “plain Jane” who is truly in the middle of chemo on the cover representing me, any day.

  6. Anna Morales-Black says:

    I am no longer bald, just began the end (reconstruction) of my Breast Cancer journey that began in 2008, I did chemo two times, bald and breastless and beautiful!! I have chronicled my many stages of this disease. I’ve lived through it, advocate for awareness and continue to inspire those who see my positive attitude. At one time had no hair, but I had life and I’m living and loving everyday I have!! The appearance is only a part of this disease we need to show all aspects of it!!

  7. maesprose says:

    You are perfectly on point – as usual!

  8. Kristie Zilis says:

    I lost my breast to Triple Negstive Breast Cancer. hair comes back….my breast won’t. Shame on Today Show for focusing on HAIR and not the great issues.

  9. Britt says:

    Succinctly, perfectly said. Bravo.

  10. Nailed it. As usual. I’m loving your bad-ass self!

    • Scorchy says:

      Thanks, baby! If there’s one thing I can do it’s to stir up a hornet’s nest. Look’s like it’s working. All of the women who were dissed have no be re-invited. However, I’m going to keep up the pressure for MBC. I ask you all to please do the same.

  11. bethgainer says:

    Brilliant letter, Scorchy! I really hope the producers of the show really heed your advice. Breast cancer doesn’t really have a “look.” I had the type of chemo where I got to keep my hair. I looked fantastic, but inside, I was a sick mess.

    • Scorchy says:

      I get that perhaps they wanted a bunch of bald women as an homage to Joan–support and all that. But that whole idea of support is stripped when it becomes clear that they’re looking for a type for the sake of type and with no desire whatever to think of support with a wider view. If yo’re bald then you are really sick.

      One person after another tells me how great I look. That’s because they EXPECT me to be at the very least bald. Segments like the one TODAY wants will only perpetuate this stereotype.

  12. Glimpsejoy says:

    I believe I also know this young woman of whom you speak–or they amazing turned down two inspirational women who are battling metastatic breast cancer. My friend has been an inspiration to countless others throughout her journey; fighting endlessly against the currents of time and fate with courage, faith and love as constant companions. I am appalled that any supposedly intelligent organization in the 21st century would be so ignorant of what is going on as to limit participants of this event to only those who are bald. How childishly uninformed! Or crassly manipulating the viewers’ emotions to elicit support! Either way–shame! There are millions like my friend who has waged war on metastatic cancer, and for 8 years and counting, she has won! If you are seeking support for research, then people like her–bald or not-are the poster children. It has been research that has helped to keep her on this earth! How dare you dictate a person’s value in this battle by the amount of hair–or lack thereof–on their head! Go after them Scorchy, as only you know how! And I pray you create a firestorm of backlash for such an unthinking and uncaring news agency!

    • Scorchy says:

      It really is vile. A slap in the face to every woman who faces this disease. Thanks for the support and for spreading the word. I hope we are the fire under the collective asses of the media, bloggers, and folks who might otherwise sit on the sidelines. xoxo

  13. Great read Scorchy, I only hope someone will wake up and decide to listen about MBC and the lack of research there is out there. The sea of pink has begun, and my usual grocery items have changed their packaging already. I have retweeted to spread the word!

  14. That sickens me that your friend was turned away once the producers found out she had hair. Wasn’t she sensational enough? Wow. Great post, Scorch.

    • Scorchy says:

      I know. I guess we have to show proof of cancer by being bald. I can’t imagine being so self absorbed in my own world to actually say that to someone. Christ.

      But then that’s why we’re all here. šŸ™‚

  15. lulu change says:

    Great letter. Thank you. I’m not sure how long it takes to enter the consciousness of the media, but every bit helps. They want happy pink stories of hope. Not real stories of death.

  16. Georgia E says:

    Not everyone dies from breast cancer mets who gets it.. My mom is alive and well 10 years after it spread to her liver – was stopped with chemo and with no treatment required beyond a SERM (estrogen blocker) since then.

    • Scorchy says:

      Hi Georgia. That might be the best news I’ve heard all day! Love to you and hugs to mom! This is wonderful.

      True, there are people who die with and not of MBC, but that is the RARE exception to the rule. 40,000 women a year die from MBC. That’s is one too many. We need more research into why the disease spreads; why women who go through treatment suddenly find themselves with metastatic disease twenty years later.

      I want more of us to celebrate a victory like your mom! Help us and spread the word–we might be able to change the conversation over one weekend. xoxo

  17. Mary Vraa says:

    Did you really send this, Scorchy? I truly hope you did! And, of course, I hope it gets the consideration it deserves. Public figures that focus on the hair loss and on how they will “beat this” as if sheer desire and will power are the key to overcoming cancer do more harm than good to advances in metastatic bc research!

  18. Joanne Brennan says:

    GO Scorchy!

  19. The Anti-Cancer Club says:

    Great post in so many ways. For anyone that has had any cancer, it is a spiritually, emotionally and physically challenging experience that is often life changing. To paint it in pretty pink is pretty nauseating from where I sit.

  20. Aurora Ayala says:

    Hopefully all this “noise” will waken up the producers and we will be heard

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