Friday, July 11, 2014

My son, Jordan, does not remember a time his mother was not a breast cancer survivor or a children’s book author.  He and his sister, Tabitha, have an impressive resume of marketable skills they acquired while helping me establish NutcrackerPublishing Company.

Jordan helping me out with a summer science camp group.
While still in elementary school they were pros at collecting book sale money at speaking engagements, or creating and selling balloon animals at fundraising events, and my daughter’s personal favorite (NOT), being interviewed by media.
What big feet you have Tickles Tabitha. 

As they grew up they educated me on the technicalities of my first website, and later social media.  They did everything from dressing up as the Tickles Tabitha character to critiquing my presentations. 

It was only this year that Jordan realized, what he viewed as ordinary and often embarrassing, some of his college classmates thought was totally awesome.   

So maybe I gloated a little bit.  It was one of those -I TOLD YOU SO- moments every Mom with a young adult child  appreciates. 
Clowning around at the Harris Nuclear Plant's
Community Days Event.

Teachers often ask me to share how students might come up with a writing idea. I always advise educators and students to pay attention to what goes on in their own lives.  Sometimes the very thing that bores or annoys them most (like having to help out with your mother’s author events) may one day inspire an idea to write about.  

When Jordan called and said, he had a writing assignment he thought I might like, I knew better than to be flattered, but I could not have been prouder.

Jordan, is a senior, majoring in biology at Western Carolina University.  

Pink Profits

Jordan B Frahm

I.                 Introduction
This essay intends to inform the reader of the ethical misconduct involved in the popularization of breast cancer awareness by various organizations. It will explore the rise of breast cancer philanthropy in the commercial setting, the effects it has had on the outlook of the disease, and the cultural implications related to the way awareness is marketed.
II.               Pink Diagnosis
            Prior to the 20th century, breast cancer was treated as taboo relative to today’s progressive openness on the subject. Although feminist movements can largely be credited for paving the way for breast cancer awareness campaigns, the disease’s most recognizable symbol of awareness was first used in 1992 as an object of Self magazine’s second annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue. Fernandez recounts the story of the pink ribbon’s beginnings in Mamm Magazine: A woman named Charlotte Haley had been distributing peach-colored ribbons with a card that read: "The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.” Self magazine contacted Haley to harness the ribbons for national awareness, but the activist declined in favor of a less commercial approach. However, self legally circumvented Haley’s apprehension by using pink ribbons instead. That year, Estée Lauder handed out 1.5 million pink ribbons accompanied by breast self-exam instructions. (Fernandez)
            Avon and other cosmetic names followed suit with wild success in the coming years, bringing pink ribbons and breast cancer closer into the public eye. According to Fernandez, “Between 1991 and 1996, federal funding for breast cancer research increased nearly fourfold to over $550 million. And according to the American Cancer Society, the percentage of women getting annual mammograms and clinical breast exams has more than doubled over the last decade [as of 1998].” In addition to the pink ribbon, a variety of other breast cancer awareness campaigns have aided in spotlighting the once overlooked disease. Awareness has even transcended the commercial market, reaching the levels of diplomatic implementation. In 2006, the U.S.-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness was created, and soon made partnership with “the Komen Foundation, the Avon Corporation, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, and a variety of cancer care and business organizations in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Palestine.” (King 287).
III.             Philanthropy Prognosis
            Superficially, this campaign to end breast cancer appears wildly successful. According to, “Breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades.” Yet conflicts of interest lie just below the surface and one must consider whether this campaigning has created a long-term solution to our breast cancer problem. Eli Lilly is a pharmaceutical company that sells cancer treatments (Gemzar) and preventatives (Evista) (such as Gemzar and Evista, respectively) yet also markets rBGH – the artificial growth hormone it acquired from Monsanto to produce more milk in cows, despite its link to breast cancer ( This means that Eli Lilly profits from both the treatment and the causal factors of breast cancer. The cosmetic industry, as well, notoriously uses cancer-linked ingredients in their products, yet once was the sole distributor of pink-ribbon merchandise. And despite the fact these companies raise awareness, it is clear that it is a profit-driven system. From a Virtue perspective of ethics, these organizations fail to do good in that they have acted for the wrong reason.
Commercial organizations recognize that consumers will respond to the opportunity to join a cause, because there is social influence to be philanthropic. According to Bolnick, there are “social pressures to contribute to the charity, and [consumers] will base their decisions upon the strength of these pressures, the utility derived from giving to the particular project, and the cost of choosing to contribute” (220). The pink-ribbon campaign has produced a huge variety of everyday items with pink labels, removing the variable of derived utility. That is, the consumer was going to buy a given product anyway, so there is only the choice between the regular brand and the one that supports breast cancer awareness. Oftentimes they are the same or similar price, removing Bolnick’s variable of the cost of choosing to contribute. Ultimately, shoppers shift their purchasing decisions toward pink labels and feel charitable with little effort involved on their part. Even the U.S.-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness is suspect. Consider that “the campaign is a subproject of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), launched on December 12, 2002 by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq” (bold added), and that even though the program is “encouraging companies to launch awareness programs and to offer free screening to employees, … Dubai already had in place a comprehensive free mammography service… open to foreigners as well as locals with no identification or health care required” (King, 288). Still, breast cancer screenings themselves are a matter of debate as there are many risks involved. Neither the money contributed towards breast cancer awareness, nor treatment, nor screenings can be judged as directly supportive to actually preventing or curing the disease itself. In a Utilitarian sense, then, good has not been done because, in the long term, breast cancer has been applied only a bandage.
IV.            Social Side-Effects
            As breast cancer awareness campaigns became washed in pink, it seemed that so too did the disease’s afflicted. Amy Langer, executive director of the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations is quoted as saying, “it’s about body image, it’s about nurturing—it’s certainly about femininity,” (Fernandez). Initially it may seem fitting that breast cancer awareness campaigns be modeled after the concept of femininity, but this has had profound cultural consequences. The face of the fight against breast cancer has essentially become the young, white, attractive woman. Misleading advertisements for the risk of breast cancer in America may visually depict young women, while the actual data being presented is representative of those in their sixties and above. Mohanty comments on the “assumption that all women, across classes and cultures, are somehow socially constituted as a homogeneous group identified prior to the process of analysis,” raising the notion that this homogeneity is “produced not on the basis of biological essentials but rather on the basis of secondary sociological and anthropological universals” (22). By overlooking these biological essentials, the mainstream concern for breast cancer has largely overlooked the male population affected by the disease. For a diagnosed man, the feminized picture of the breast cancer struggle can be alienating despite how far our awareness has come. Women, too, are at risk when the disease is feminized. The emphasis placed on the sexuality of breasts has both garnered attention and given female patients a paradox - as described by Schulzke – because “once one has suffered from this paradigmatic woman’s disease, one loses the socially valued signs of femininity” (39). Schulzke even raises the concern that “The prevalence of pink indicates the lost radicalism and return to a traditional conception of women and actually helps to prevent them from taking meaningful action” (50). Pink propaganda seems an effective means to distract women from the profitable cycle of cancer described in Section III via the feeling of comradery - or even sisterhood. On all accounts, the young, attractive, female archetype for breast cancer is only valid in media, not in the true demographics of the disease. Here again, Utilitarian ethics dictates that good has not necessarily been done; the social pressures derived from feminizing breast cancer must be weighed against the awareness raised – which has not necessarily helped to cure the disease.
V.              Conclusion
            Marketing methods have been used to lift breast cancer into the public eye, providing awareness of its prevalence and methods of detection to the masses. Yet it is simultaneously clear that the concept of breast cancer activism has been used with conflicting interest, as even the companies that have so stridently brought attention to the disease are responsible for causing it in the first place. Meanwhile, these groups profit from marketing schemes colored pink and the mainstream media have consequently distributed a skewed vision of what it means to have breast cancer.


Fernandez, Sandy M. “Pretty in Pink.” Mamm, June/July 1998; available at Accessed Mar 31, 2014.
King, Samantha. “Pink Diplomacy: On the Uses and Abuses of Breast Cancer Awareness.” Health Communication 25.3 (2010): 286-289.
Mohanty, Chandra. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. New York: Duke UP, 2003. Print.
Bolnick, Bruce. “Toward a Behavioral Theory of Philanthropic Activity.” Altruism, Morality, and Economic Theory. Russell Sage Foundation, 1975. Print.
Schulzke, Marcus. “Hidden Bodies & the Representation of Breast Cancer.” Women's Health and Urban Life 10.2 (2011): 37-55. Breast Cancer Action. Accessed Mar 31, 2014.

U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics. Sept 26, 2013. Accessed Apr 10, 2014.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throw Back Thursday

 This photo taken in 2001 for Barr Labs, the manufacture of the BC drug tamoxifen, marked the beginning of my career as a children's book author. I have come to realize you really can't retire from being an author/advocate, but I have retired from the publishing/marketing aspect of the business. It will soon be a year since I left NC . My days have been busy and full. Mostly full of boxes containing, mirrors, faucets, light fixtures, and other building supplies which we hope to have installed in our new home this August. Whoo Hoo.                

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  

Earth Day 2014 is Tuesday, April 22nd this year.

Perhaps the color GREEN will provide inspiration for the nuclear themed meme competition being held by my friends at the Nuclear Literacy Project.

If  you are of certain age and wondering, what the heck is a meme?  

You will find that answer at  #ATOMS4EARTH.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Mother's First Birthday Party

On Valentine’s Day 2008, my mother, Patricia Solomon, was in the hospital in a coma due to meningitis.  We were told to hope for the best and expect the worse.  We were fortunate; she woke up from her coma and recognized all of us. 

This is but one of the things that made my mother’s 75th Birthday so special.
On the left, my mother, pictured with her
grandmother, sister, and brother.

About a year ago she and I were laughing about a family member, who likes to drop hints that his birthday is approaching, expecting a party.  Something any six-year-old boy would do, except this boy was older than my mother. That is when I discovered my mother had never had a birthday party, not even as a child.

So this January 2014 in the midst of the worst winter weather the South has experienced in years, we celebrated the matriarch of Solomon’s Happy Hill Farm’s 75th birthday with a party!

The party was held at Annie Jones United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall in Walnut Hill, Florida. Walnut Hill is a small community located in the Florida Panhandle.

My parents: Preston &
Patricia Solomon.

My mother had a wonderful time.
I think everyone in Walnut Hill who was not sick with the flu bug came to help us celebrate.

Life is never perfect!

Unfortunately, my brother Michael Solomon and his family did not make the party.  My sister-in-law Denise was taking care of her own mother who is battling cancer.  Michael and his daughter Makenna, who were driving in from Texas, got stuck in Louisiana when the roads closed due to ice.

Life is not perfect- BUT we came close. The party was fabulous!

The day of the party the temperature was a balmy 50-something and the sun was shining.

A few days later the ice storm hit, I was iced in at my parent's house for a few days.  By the time it was safe to venture out Solomon's Happy Hill Farm looked like this:

Luckily the ice storm did not hit us until after the party.

All of our friends and family who flew in from out of state, or drove in from parts of Florida and Alabama made it there and back safe and sound.

Best of all, my children's beautiful Granny Pat still glows, when asked about her first birthday party.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Tis the season, so don't get caught with coal in your stocking!   Santa lights his Christmas lights with Nuclear Power. 

It's hard to believe, but it's been two years since my children
helped create this video for the release of my children's book

Another family will be waiting for Santa to arrive down this 
particular fireplace. The stocking, and nutcrackers pictured here are in a storage unit somewhere in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

Tabitha and Jordan have their own places to decorate the year. Which means Tabitha is decorating and Jordan is watching his roommate decorate.

The Thanksgiving holiday found my family cozying up next to a hotel room radiator in Eastern Tennessee where my husband and I are building what will be our empty-nest house.  

Which makes the memory of doing this video with my kids seem sweeter than it probably was. 

With any luck, this time next year the construction phase of our new home will be perceived the same sweet way!

 Ho Ho Ho...  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Spirit of Survivorship: NC Komen Pinkfest 2013

Receiving the 2013 Maureen Thomas Jordan Spirit of Survivorship Award.

On Sunday October 6, 2013 it was my pleasure to attend the Susan G. Komen Triangle to the Coast Annual Pinkfest Event. This year Pinkfest was held at the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel where survivors and our friends and family were invited to enjoy an afternoon of spa and beauty treatments along with drinks, door prizes and of course amazing sweets.

Tabitha and I grabbed our share of desserts, claimed our table and made a bee line to sign ourselves up for the spa treatments.  Then we set down to listen to the ceremonial portion of Pinkfest where the high light of the event was the introduction of sisters Diane Burnette, and Kathleen Thomas who in conjunction with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure NC Triangle to the Coast affiliate presented the Maureen Thomas Jordan Spirit of Survivorship Award.

This award is given in memory of their beloved sister Maureen Thomas Jordan.  Throughout her 9½ year battle with breast cancer, Maureen never lost her hope, courage, strength or faith. She was an inspiration to all who knew her.  The award is given to a breast cancer survivor who like Maureen represents the spirit of true survivorship: someone who faces this disease with grace and courage, who provides service to breast cancer survivors and is an inspiration to others.

The sisters began their presentation with a quote from this year’s recipient.  One I recognized because it has been on Nutcracker Publishing Company's website since the publication of Tickles Tabitha's Cancer-tankerous Mommy led to my first public speaking event in 2001.   “A victim fears tomorrow, a survivor lives life as if there is no tomorrow- despite her fears.” - Amelia Frahm

As soon as I heard it I realized I was going to be the 2013 recipient of the Maureen Thomas Jordan Spirit of Survivorship Award.  I cannot adequately put into words the range of emotions I felt at that moment.

I nudged Tabitha and asked her if she had known about this.  To which she replied, if she had known she would have insisted I wear the pink dress I had debated on instead of the jeans I was wearing. 

If I had known I would have been recording the entire ceremony so I could replay it anytime I am having a bad day or feeling rejected.  Yep, it would get a lot of play.  My take on life is you don’t accomplish anything worthy of an award without first experiencing humiliation and rejection.

To experience the opposite was humbling. I sit there trying to think of what I should say when I accepted the award and telling myself over and over- do not cry- do not cry.

Receiving the Maureen Thomas Jordan Spirit of Survivorship Award is a memory I will cherish the rest of my life.  It served as a poignant reminder of how blessed I have been and validation that something I have done has indeed mattered.  

I am indebted to Christine Andrade, Corporate Sponsorship Manager at the NC Komen Affiliate who nominated me and am so grateful that my daughter, Tabitha was there to share this moment with me.  

Receiving the  2013 Maureen Thomas Jordan Spirit of Survivorship Award was an incredible honor. Although I received the award, much of the credit for it goes to my family, friends and even complete strangers.

As any survivor who has thrived will understand, my cancer diagnosis did not just affect me, but everyone who loved me and some who did not. I am grateful to all of you.

Happy Pink Pumpkin Month!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Looking Backward

In July we sold our North Carolina home; the movers came and hauled our things to storage; we helped our daughter move into her own apartment in Raleigh, NC, and watched as our son drove back to Cullowhee, NC, where he now lives and works while attending Western Carolina University. 

The dog and I drove to Alabama to join my husband, Randy, where he has worked full-time and lived part-time for years. Instead of commuting by air, we get to live together and commute mostly by car. We have been spending weekends driving to TN where we plan to build a house. A house we will move into without our children.

It happens to all mothers, and it has happened to me. The babies my life revolved around, and the reasons I wrote a children’s book in the first place, have grown up.

Only an adult Jordan would
 have paid $ for this!
On September 14th, I watched as my children paid a dollar to dance with the groom, their close childhood friend Andrew Toperzer, at a wedding reception held at his parents’ home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Jordan & Andrew-
back in the day!
As I gazed across the dance floor at my own kids and our former Minnesota neighbor kids, it was that surreal feeling of disbelief, pride, and surprise. In my mind, I still - and probably always will - picture the children they once were.

My son, Jordan, was a chubby, dimpled five-year-old, and my daughter, Tabitha, a precocious seven years when we bid good bye to the first best friends and neighbors they loved, and moved across the country to Minnesota from Tennessee.

Our new neighbors, Steve and Denise Toperzer, came over with all four of their children in tow to introduce themselves.

Paul, Krista, Andrew, Laura.- all grown up. Unfortunately or maybe - lucky for them- all of my photo albums and most of my pictures taken in their youthful past are in storage.

Paul, their oldest son, was around 13-years-old, and had a look that said he would have rather been anywhere else. In time we came to adore Paul, and even liked his gang of friends I tagged “the lost boys”, but my first impression was that I would have been fine with him being anywhere else!  Ha!

Eleven-year-old Krista, their oldest daughter, was shy and quiet, but her mom let us know that she had just been certified to babysit. My children would soon beg for us to go out alone so Krista could babysit them.

Andrew, whom I would be accused of favoring, was, eight, and the only child who looked enthused to meet us. Of course I favored him- despite annoying me with his biased opinions on anything and everything, he was the kid most apt to do my bidding on any harebrained project I might have- and he didn't mind bending a rule or three.

Laura, their youngest, was a year younger than Tabitha. I don’t remember if she stayed to play that very day, but I do remember that after quietly sizing each other up, it took about a nanosecond for another precocious child and Tabitha to decide they would be best friends forever.

Today and 

only yesterday.

It seems unbelievable that this all took place more than a decade ago. Or that this January 2014  it will be two decades since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and first penned Tickles Tabitha’s Cancer-tankerous Mommy for Tabitha and Jordan. It has been a life-altering journey full of highs and lows, some of them occurring at the exact same time.

I once told a Minnesota audience that not even a telephone fortuneteller (this was before the internet) would have predicted all that had happened to me because it would have sounded too far-fetched.

After all, who in their right mind would have believed I would end up living in Minnesota? Or miss it when I left?

The Nutcracker Publishing Company has given me a career, identity, and recognition outside of my life as a wife and mother. But best of all, it gave me the ability to mesh my personal and professional lives. In between media pitches and book events, there was unicyling club, children’s parties, and even cross-country moves.

While my children were preoccupied with the drama that childhood provides like- the infamous neighborhood war Tabitha and her best friend forever, Laura, fought with the neighborhood kids-I was setting up a web site and establishing my reputation as a writer.

Nutcracker Publishing Company celebrates its 13th anniversary this October. I have decided it will be my last year. My husband says, and it is true, I am always excited to leave a place behind and venture on to something new, but I still cry when I leave.

In the blogs that follow this one, besides sharing what is going on these days, I thought I would reminisce about the things that happened along the way- the people, places, and even world events that have made it interesting.

Like Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Toperzer!
September 14, 2013

Andrew's wedding was quite the party!