During Breast Cancer Awareness month, I have rejoiced in watching the country’s increased saturation of media and material markets with pink reminders of the needs for more breast cancer research. The pink NFL goalposts, cleats and gloves, opportunities you and I have had to gladly support the Susan G. Komen fund by purchasing goods in pink food and drink packaging, and the pink I saw worn by the Delta Airlines’ workers this month all served to honor victims and survivors of breast cancer. The message to women also was loud and clear: Get checked for Breast Cancer.
With an entire month dedicated to giving attention to a very widespread disease, I did not find it shocking at all that our local ABC news station prepared to air, “Touch of Life: The Guide to Self-breast Examination.” It is not uncommon for news cameras to bring us vivid scenes from operating and emergency rooms, a dental chair, or a pediatric medical appointment. I was shocked last evening, however, when ABC 7 (Washington, DC) chose to air a breast cancer screening with the patient’s bare necessities being beamed right into our living rooms.
Breast Cancer patient Lauren Albright made the brave decision to expose herself voluntarily in order to help others to understand the steps and significance of a breast exam. The 28-year-old recently discovered a lump in her breast while doing a routine self-examination. In her case, unfortunately, the lump was cancerous, and she recently has undergone surgery and chemotherapy as a result of finding the cancer. The good news is that the exam may have saved her life. Seeing the importance of the self-examination has given Albright a new commitment to the issue of awareness—a commitment that brought news viewers into a portion of her examination previously viewed only by patient and doctor.
I commend Albright for her courage. I wish the best for her, and her husband who returned home from deployment in Iraq to be with her during this very important time in her life. I think it is a praiseworthy thing to go to great lengths to encourage women to give serious attention to their bodies with respect to making monthly checks for breast cancer. I hope that thousands of women who viewed the news segment on Albright’s experience immediately will set a schedule for private and office cancer screening. However, it seems that in sensitizing the public to the importance of screenings, ABC News 7 crossed the line on what is appropriate for the small screen.
As I write this, I know that I am on dangerous ice. Breast Cancer awareness, screening, and research for a cure are vitally important to reducing and eventually eradicating death from this cancer. Moreover the account of a brave survivor who freely elects to sacrifice the shame of nakedness on camera – and that survivor being one who is married to a man sacrificing himself for our freedoms in the fight against terrorism – is a heartwarming story that rightly draws great sympathy from us. We should applaud the Albrights greatly for their heroism. Therefore, for one to make criticism of the news episode about them almost seems unloving, insensitive, and un-American. By accusing ABC 7 of having an ulterior motive behind this story I could be open to charges of sounding like Jerry Falwell criticizing the Teletubbies.
In contrast to the Albrights, however, the local ABC affiliate has seized the Albright’s heroism as an opportunity for what their news website labeled a “groundbreaking” news report. They have broken ground, just as TV shows like Moonlighting and NYPD Blue broke ground by pushing the bounds of verbal and bodily decency years ago. In a different sense, ABC News 7 is pouring the concrete in the hole dug by the progressive lack of discretion displayed nightly by our major networks. Now there is precedent for any network television company to produce shows that bare a full breast here or there. Soon, nothing will be left to the imagination and the privacy of one’s own home. With this door now opened, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake could be invited to be entertainers’ at next year’s Superbowl without any concern of causing controversy by another clothing accident.
I commend ABC News 7 and the Albrights for their intent to keep us from becoming desensitized to the magnitude of the problem of Breast Cancer and the number of lives it touches. I only wish they had maintained the practice of airing this examination with the patient’s back to the camera. The approach they took to awareness only made us more aware of Mrs. Albright, and of the need for wisdom in one news station’s editorial offices. For if this story was approved for airing in the name of saving the lives of women, what could be approved to save the lives of men from Prostrate Cancer? Don’t worry, by the time such a story airs, indecency on network TV will be so bad that the only thing left safe to watch will be the Teletubbies.
Click here to Donate to the Susan G. Komen fund at their website.