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Sunday, February 5, 2012

I hear there’s some big sporting event today that involves jewelry, guys in tight pants … and  Madonna. Ha! I’ve always thought that football had homoerotic undertones. Clearly, everyone’s about to come out of the closet en masse, as I first anticipated in October. I’m going to celebrate this happy occasion by offering a serious Valentine’s Day discount on a stunning pink ring — consider it the Wendy Brandes version of a Super Bowl ring.

One-of-a-kind ring. Normally $15,000, now $10,000. Click to shop.

The rose-quartz shell was hand-carved by a German artist. I used a lot of 18K rose gold in the setting, so this size 6 ring has satisfying heft. The shell was such a challenge to set that I vowed never to do anything similar again, so you won’t see this design on anyone else. And if you like diamonds … it’s got those too.

As a bonus, if you buy this ring, I will make it even more super by donating $2,000 to Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer care. Even though Susan G. Komen for the Cure reversed its politically charged decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood after a public outcry, Komen still irritates the shit out of me. I think it’s a classic example of a group that’s the victim of its own success. It’s not the first organization to face that problem.  After all, when the search-engine company I refer to cautiously as “Poodle” was a little upstart, it’s unofficial motto was “Don’t be evil.” Now that same company is such a monolith that … well … that I know better than to criticize it by name, because it can punish me if it chooses to.

Breast cancer used to be something that women wouldn’t even talk about, out of shame. Now breast-cancer research is massively well-funded (though lung cancer — which even non-smokers get — is the #1 cancer killer of women). Even football players are recruited to the cause in October for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In fact, there’s so much awareness — and pinkwashing — that I was very nearly turned off the color pink for life.

I also find Komen’s relentless emphasis on early detection to be too simplistic. I believe early detection will be truly helpful only when it’s combined with an understanding of what variety of breast cancer one has and what the treatment should be. There is early detection for prostate cancer for men too: the PSA blood test. And, as New York Times health reporter Jane Brody recently pointed out, “The development of the PSA test and its widespread use greatly increased diagnosis of this disease, often of cases that would never have become a clinical problem.” She noted, “Prostate cancer is extremely common. The disease can be found in up to 30 percent of men over age 50. Most men who develop it do not die of it; rather, they die with it, often without knowing that it was present.” The best tactic is sometimes “watchful waiting,” rather than surgery that can leave a man incontinent and impotent for no good reason.

There is no “watchful waiting” when it comes to breast cancer, just panic. (Notice how when there’s a penis and a man’s sex life involved, consequences are carefully considered. When it comes to a woman’s breasts, it’s “Don’t be vain! Lop ’em off!”) I’ve known a lot of women who have faced breast cancer. They include young women with the BRCA gene who have had prophylactic double mastectomies; women who have had Stage 0 or Stage 1 cancers and undergone lumpectomies/radiation or lumpectomies/radiation/chemo; and women who have died of breast cancer after a more than a decade of treatment. I am positive that some of the women I know who have been sliced, diced, poisoned, and traumatized may have had cancers that wouldn’t have affected them for 50 years. But if you find something — whether early or late — and have no clue as to how it is going to behave, you can’t take chances. You do the only reasonable thing: you disfigure yourself and consume poison so you can live.

Meanwhile, despite the emphasis on early detection, I’ve met well-educated women who have no idea that mammograms might miss cancers in dense breasts (women under 50 tend to have denser breasts). It’s best to have an ultrasound along with that mammogram, if you’re on the younger side. (If you live in New York City, I recommend Drs. Lichy and Kolb, who do both AND give you the results on the spot.) So my perception of Komen is that even as it directly funds or inspires a lot of good research — including the research that will make early detection more meaningful and that has already uncovered the cancer-causing BRCA gene — its grass-roots message is too focused on an imperfect form of testing that provides imperfect information upon which women are forced to make life-altering decisions. I’m not interested in contributing to that. And if I do get to make a donation to Planned Parenthood thanks to my ring, I will see if I can earmark my money for ultrasounds. If we’re going to be doing early detection, let’s do it the best possible way.

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28 Responses to “Valentine’s Day Countdown, Day 5: Super Bowl Ring”

  1. Mary says:

    A topic I am well versed with. The above paper is by my boss and I think it explains the vagaries of mammography. I hope that link works.

    • WendyB says:

      Hmm, my browser is trying to stop me from getting there with a million scary warnings …

      Lately I’ve been shocked by how little people know about mammography! Considering all the emphasis on it, you think someone would at least give an accurate representation of it. Damn.

      • Mary says:

        This is a hot topic in the world of breast cancer research. Very controversial. Breast screening is a huge industry. I have made the informed choice to not get screened. I shall email you a pdf of the above paper.

      • WendyB says:

        I got screened years ago for family-related reasons and then I got superstitious and couldn’t bring myself to stop. But I think it’s totally valid to decide to skip it. Seen too many people undergo what could very well be unnecessary treatment and trauma.

  2. Christine says:

    As a long time supporter of Planned Parenthood, and a financial contributor for decades I am pleased to see the outpouring of support, financial and moral, for PP after the ill thought out Komen decision to cut funding. I am glad to see the Komen foundation change their minds, but horrified that they even considered cutting funds due to political manipulation.

    I agree that ultrasound is best together with mammograms but these battles fought so often by PP take time and money away from providing even basic services many women need from PP.

    Most men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough; generally, however, as crude as this sounds, something else will kill them first.

    However, I cannot comment on women who choose radical mastectomies based on gene testing. This is a very personal issue that each woman must decide for themselves, and in the end, we should support them no matter what their decision.

    • WendyB says:

      I hope it’s obvious that I wasn’t criticizing anyone who makes a decision based on gene testing … or on a mammogram for that matter! As I said, I personally know people who have done prophylactic mastectomies and all of the other treatments I cited. Everyone right now has to make her decision based on the information and treatments that are available. I just think we should be working more aggressively toward better information and treatments and I don’t get a forward-looking vibe from Komen’s messaging. Why WOULD I trust the plans of people who took time out of their mission to persecute Planned Parenthood?

  3. Christine says:

    No, it is obvious you weren’t criticizing anyone who makes a decision on genetic or other testing. It is so true that women aren’t getting the information they need, and your comments about Komen are dead on. They have lost a lot of credibility by attacking PP, and I think most women are appalled they are not considering the needs of women first.

    You say it much more eloquently!

  4. Christine says:

    It’s upsetting and horrifying that women seem to receive a lot of advice to get tested without hearing adequate information about testing. My sister, when pregnant with her first child, at age 30 and in great health had the routine “marker tests” done to determine the chance of having a baby with spina bifida or Down’s Syndrome. The tests were done as barely a blip in her pre-natal care and she came up with a 50% chance of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome. She had to wait a number of weeks to have another, very invasive test, to find out if her baby did have DS. She and her husband received no counselling or any explanation of the meaning of the test results, and had a very hard few weeks dealing with the issue. She and her husband decided that they would want this child, with Down’s Syndrome, and that the risk of amnio outweighed the need to be absolutely sure. Their healthy baby girl, without Down’s Syndrome, was born about 5 months later.

  5. This is super informative, Wendy. Thank you!

  6. K-Line says:

    Wendy: I can’t say that gorgeous ring looks anything like a football, but ok. 🙂 And I love that you will support Planned Parenthood with profits. That whole Komen fiasco has shocked and appalled me. I do love that the whole world seems to have cottoned on and refuses to give that organization a pass. As always, you are part designer extraordinaire, part teacher and part philanthropist. Could be worse! (And my word ver is besmart.)

  7. Rocquelle says:

    Wow Wendy, what an informative and enlightening post, and that ring is gorgeous!! I truly hope it gets purchased so that a contribution to Planned Parenthood can be made. Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. There is a huge amount of medical trauma in our culture; thank you for speaking to this issue.

  9. Excellent post, Wendy B!
    Your ring is absolutely stunning too.

  10. Samar says:

    I’ve been turned off by Komen for years, and imho have been doing more harm than good for the cause for some time now. All I can say is halleluiah to this Planned Parenthood fiasco so the rest of the friggin world can finally see why I’ve been so annoyed with the organization. I lost my mom to breast cancer so believe me I’m on it when it comes to meaningful awareness. She was one of those who got her yearly mammograms but it wasn’t enough to catch her type which was dormant and then practically ballooned overnight. Anyway at this point I’m so sick of the pink initiative and all the stupid “PINK” awareness shit. I think it’s so over saturated now that people unless personally affected by it no longer realize the seriousness of it. Or maybe I’m just burnt out and bitter. I don’t know but the real facts get overshadowed by pink ribbon jockstraps or whatever else they’ve now found to turn pink. I see pink now and run. However if I had 10,000 I’d drop it in a heartbeat for that ring (it’s a nice subtle pink anyway). I really hope someone scoops it up!

    • WendyB says:

      I’m glad other people see what I’m seeing with Komen. So sorry about your mom. My mother was Stage 0 — who knows if she even had to be treated. The treatment wasn’t physically bad compared to what it could be, but the emotional stress was terrible.

      • Samar says:

        Didn’t even know they had a Stage 0! If your mom is alive and well then maybe it wasn’t for nothing? I get where you are coming from though the treatments can be horrendous. Can’t believe half the stuff my mom went through, it seems more like science fiction sometimes. I often wonder if it was worth all the pain..

      • WendyB says:

        Well, that’s what you have to do with the science as it is…if you find something, you have to do everything you can, and then if you’re still okay, you tell yourself it was worth it! But what if nothing would have happened to you even without the treatment. That’s where I want to see research results. Don’t just tell me I have cancer, give me a REAL prognosis. I think it will be possible some day.

  11. Tina M says:

    I had done the Komen Race for the Cure for years because my friend (who died of BC after painful treatments for 3 years) started a team. I wanted to support her. I did not run last year because I found out that Komen has spent over 1M suing small groups that were using their trademarked “Race for the…”. I am so disgusted with them. As usual, great informative post and a flawless piece of jewelry!

    • WendyB says:

      I have mixed feelings about that situation. Maybe there’s a lawyer here who knows better, but what I was told in one of my old corporate jobs is that there is an obligation to pursue any violation of a trademark, no matter how small or well-intentioned the user may be. Because (so I was instructed, at least) if you let 10 violations go by because you deem them insignificant or you’re being nice or whatever, when a big serious bad one violation comes along, in the court’s eyes, you’ve created a precedent that says, “I don’t care about protecting this property.” So when Evil Spammers Who Hack Into Your Computer and Steal Your Information for the Cure pops up, if Komen had tacitly or overtly approved of Lemonade Stand for the Cure and Five-Year-Olds for the Cure, it would be harder to protect itself from a real problem. Anyway, I’m not a legal expert, so maybe someone will correct me, but if I’m correct, I’m not sure what other option they’d have.

  12. Tina says:

    Great post. Reminds me that I need to make a mammogram appointment. Went for my first 10 years ago, but didn’t know about the ultrasound combo. Will definitely look into that!

    • WendyB says:

      Definitely insist on the ultrasound. So much more informative! If your insurance covers my doctors, they are awesome. I don’t know how other people can stand waiting days for a result. I love getting my results on the spot! No anxiety after!

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve never seen this ring before. It’s really interesting, and seems a bit of a departure for you. It’s nice to take a chance on something different, isn’t it, even if it’s a chance you realize you don’t want to take again?

    As for breast cancer, I agree that it’s a behemoth. Everyone always wants me to donate money or time to breast cancer, and though I consider it a worthy cause, I’m far more concerned with lung cancer, which killed my mother. I direct my funds and efforts to lung cancer, because it means more to me at this point.

    Planned Parenthood was an invaluable resource to me when I was younger. A single visit there when I was a teenager educated me about taking precautions, which helped me guard against a lot of potential problems. I’m glad PP is there for so many reasons. I am delighted the decision was reversed, but you can bet Komen won’t be getting a dime from me, now or ever.

  14. Debbi says:

    Wendy, you should read “Who owns your DNA anyway” in February’s issue of MORE magazine. Myriad Genetics owns the patent to the BRCA genes and controls the test for it. As a result the test costs over $3K instead of $300. When I was diagnosed, I was told the test was expensive and not covered by insurance. It would also take quite a bit of time to get the results. When you are trying to make a decision when you have been diagnosed that is almost unbearable.

    When I heard that Komen had stopped the funding for Planned Parenthood, I decided to stop supporting Komen. I think sometimes organizations get so large and complex they forget the original purpose they for which they were created. There are improvements in treatment, but not enough in my opinion.

    Your ring is exquisite. If I win the lottery, I’ll be calling you!

    • WendyB says:

      “I think sometimes organizations get so large and complex they forget the original purpose they for which they were created. ” — so true! The bureaucracy takes over.

      I will definitely look up that article as long as you promise to play the lottery 😉