The Pill, LuluLemon, and My Soap Box

Not so long ago (like last week), Lulu lemon went and threw a grenade into their enterprise. You probably know what happened so I won’t go into it. I’ll only say it sucks that my damn expensive set of yoga pants are now embarrassing to wear. Comfortable, but embarrassing. What a huge fail on their part. I loved their brand and didn’t give a damn about some stupid see-through trousers that were recalled. Now, they as a company have become embarrassing.

But this isn’t about Lululemon. It’s about the birth control pill. In this post on the Lululemon website, they link the pill—through social changes, promiscuity, Super Girls, shoulder pads, and whatever—to breast cancer. Because of the rambling leaps in logic, the conclusion is really stupid. However…

I link the pill to breast cancer because at 28 years old (okay, 27 turning 28), I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in my right breast. I had no risk factors. Cancer isn’t a common theme in my family tree. It was seemingly random.

Eight years (give or take) I was on the pill. I started around the age of eighteen, before I even began having sex. As soon as the concept of sexual relations (whooohoo!) came into play, it was off to the family doctor for a prescription. Forget carrying condoms with me and insisting the guy wore it – I was a teenager, and therefore, I was assumed to not be responsible enough for that kind of foresight. It’s no one’s fault. Teenagers are horney and like to have fun. Foresight can wane. There was fear around teenage pregnancy and throwing you life away.

The pill was the answer.

At first I wasn’t sure, but after visiting the doctor it seemed okay. She prescribed me with some medication, explained how to take it, and off I went into the world of Sexual Good Times. (Except I wasn’t actually having sex, that came later. I was just glad to be on the pill in case I decided to hit that homerun.)

And then, as I started to look around, I realized all the girls were on the pill. Everyone popped their pill and got bigger boobs, or stabilized their periods, or had a change in libido, or cleared their acne, and in general us young women had peace of mind that we were safe from throwing our lives away.

Do you know what? When I went to visit the doctor, we didn’t even talk about alternative contraception. I mean, okay, there were condoms (I’m pro condom since it doesn’t change our physiology), but I mean contraception that a woman could actively control with her own body like diaphragms, sponges, spermicide gel, etc. (Back then that metal T thing didn’t seem to exist). It was just assumed that this change to my hormones, tricking my eighteen-year-old body  into thinking that it was already pregnant all the time, was the way to go.

I was on the pill with various breaks for eight years.  I didn’t even consider it to be a real drug. When nurses, or doctors, or insurance people asked if I was on medication, I’d reply, “No. Oh, well, only the pill.” As if it was nothing.

For eight years, taking a pill that made my body think it was pregnant. Taking pills that made me flat-out nauseous and sometimes vomit if they were swallowed less than 12 hours apart. 

I’d never even seen a diaphragm before – didn’t even know how to get one. But that was okay, because the pill was okay.  It wasn’t a real drug.

I guess that’s what really ticks me off: my failure to appreciate that birth control is a real drug, with REAL impact on the body’s system. And it’s not just me. I have friends who’ve also been on the pill for eight plus years and spoke about migraines, fatigue, nausea . . . then, they went off the pill and the symptoms got considerably better (not all the way better, but consider if the body has been altered for so many years, would the impact clear up immediately, if ever? I don’t think so). I feel mad at myself for being so flippant about something so real. Just because everyone did it, I thought it was nothing.

And I suspect birth control is still being sold as the way to prevent pregnancy. It’s not a drug, it’s a lifestyle.

Obviously not everyone on the pill (actually, hardly any my age) has gotten breast cancer. But women do seem to be getting cancer at younger ages. What are the real risks? Was it something other than birth control that caused the disease threatening me today? I don’t know.

I do know that the pill is now listed by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation as a risk factor for breast cancer, so that is good. And what about young women who might be put on an eight year, ten year, or even longer path with this drug . . . is it still a lifestyle thing – a pill that you pop – or are the implications being explained, along with the alternatives?

Recently, I filled out the HOW study, which is a massive survey of women with and without breast cancer, comparing factors so that we can really learn about risks and differences and why people get breast cancer. Men and women are welcome to fill it out. You are welcome to do so, if you like.

I don’t know why I got breast cancer. A culmination of factors, I reckon. But do I think the pill is linked to this disease. It’s not a packet of candy, it’s a packet of drugs that alters our bodies. (And maybe guys don’t like condoms, but they’ll get used to it if that’s what women insist upon.)

So that is what the LuluLemon stuff kicked up inside of me. The pill makes me angry. I know it liberated women to take control of their bodies, but why should women have to alter their bodies to take control? Particularly in a relationship with mutual respect, where one doesn’t have to hide not wanting to get pregnant…

Anyhoo, that was a strong-opinion post. For birth control, I’m generally anti pill. Sure, there are cases when it is needed, but maybe as a whole we can be too quick to underestimate and overprescribe.

And that is all I’ll say about that.

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10 thoughts on “The Pill, LuluLemon, and My Soap Box

  1. I wonder about the pill and its link to breast cancer too. I was on it for more than a decade, without a second thought. Now I wonder if it messes with our hormones enough to make us more susceptible to cancer.

    • I’m with you. No one thinks about these things when they start the pill. Factor in that it is available free to many women (whom I doubt are being avidly encouraged to weight out the risks – I sure wasn’t!) and you’ve got a mess. We have to start thinking about WHY breast cancer rates are going rampant. This is a great place to start.

  2. dear Catherine,

    after hugh and I adopted our two children, I began ovulating TWICE A MONTH. it was scary! the answer to the problem – The Pill. I stayed on it for 2 decades; then came peri-menopause, with a vengeance. so I went back on The Pill. for another decade. I, too, wonder just how much that drug, even down to it’s lowest dose, played into my initial diagnosis of ST IV Metastatic BC. I have some deep suspicion that it’s a combination of hormones along with the toxic chemicals we’re exposed to every day. I, too, joined the HOW study and hope that the data being collected will be able to shed some light on whether these 2 elements trigger the inception of BC.

    I think you did a great job, soapbox or no, pointing out the The Pill needs to be considered a powerful drug, and not a lifestyle.

    much love and light,

    Karen xxoo

  3. The Pill does have a lot to do with Breast Cancer, I was on the pill, now have Metastasis Breast Cancer, my mother was on the Pill forever, she had Breast Cancer, my Aunt was on the Pill, she had Breast Cancer and it really does mess with your hormones, that is what it is suppose to do, but at what cost later down the road. I firmly believe the Pill is involved with younger and younger woman getting Breast Cancer and the environment, and the processed food we put in our bodies now days. Now they are giving testosterone to men, and men think this is their miracle drug, but really they have no long range research how this will mess up a man’s body. It is also hormone based.

    • Hi there Jen. I’m so sorry you are having to deal with that. You might be interested in the Army of Women’s HOW study, since it is looking over a huge amount of women and considering possible causes – including hormone factors.

  4. I’m 32 years old, recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I was on the pill for a little over 10 years. I was off for a year, got pregnant and then found the lump less than 2 months later. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family. I’m convinced that the pill and hormones played a huge part – especially since my cancer is both estrogen and progesterone receptor positive.

    • Hi Joy, you might be interested in filling out the Army of Women’s HOW study. I reckon if data can be gathered that actually indicates a connection to the pill more directly, it might be noticed. Thanks for sharing your expereince.

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