A heart film to watch before the “Pink Season” gets here

We’re approaching the Pink Season, my heart sisters. It’s that time of year when breast cancer awareness campaigns and their accompanying corporate marketing shills rev into high gear. Last Pinktober, we saw pink buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, pink-handled Tasers, and (yes, seriously) pink Smith & Wesson handguns, each somehow helping us to be more aware of breast cancer. What could possibly top what breast cancer survivor and author Barbara Ehrenreich calls this “cult of pink kitsch” again this year? (See also: Think Before You Pink for some important questions* to ask about that pink ribbon).

From my perspective as a 37+ year veteran in the public relations field, I have to say that the breast cancer folks have done a fabulous job in raising awareness of their cause. So fabulous, in fact, that they have erroneously convinced women that breast cancer is our biggest health threat.

It is not, of course.  This year, heart disease will kill six times more women than breast cancer will.  In fact, heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.  Yet heart patients and those who care for us seem to be oddly content sitting quietly on the back burner of that massive pink stovetop.

So in the interests of offering some balance here amidst a torrent of pinkwashing, I invite you to watch this 3-minute film called “Just a Little Heart Attack” from the American Heart Association. 

I love this Elizabeth Banks film so much that, as you may have noticed, I inserted it permanently into my sidebar here at Heart Sisters.

The Emmy-nominated actress, whose own mother and sister have both been diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmias, perfectly captures a typical multi-tasking woman putting her own needs well behind those of everyone else around her.  She plays the harried heart attack victim here in an exquisitely hilarious yet frighteningly realistic fashion.

And her film also reminds us that young women can have heart disease, too. Yet when researchers reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at more than 10,000 patients (48% women) who had gone to their hospital Emergency Departments with chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, they found that women under the age of 55 are SEVEN TIMES more likely to be misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack than their male counterparts are. A commonly heard pronouncement delivered by too many Emergency physicians to too many female heart patients is:

“It’s not your heart. You’re too young to be having a heart attack.”

My sister heart attack survivors have been raving about this little film.  Please do us all a favour and forward this link to the women you care about, reminding them that:

  • heart disease is our #1 killer
  • heart disease kills more women than men every year
  • women typically wait too long before seeking help despite heart attack symptoms
  • up to 80% of heart disease is preventable through lifestyle choices like regular  exercise, healthy food choices, and not smoking
  • women must pay attention to ALL cardiac warning signs and call 911 immediately

Find out more myths and facts about women’s heart disease.

And thank you in advance for remembering to Facebook/Tweet/email/post/print/ or share this link with your friends, neighbours, co-workers and family members.

  And for a surprisingly inane and uninformed perspective on this little film, read the otherwise intelligent Gary Schwitzer‘s review in Forbes – and then immediately post a comment to his article (as I did) advising him to give his head a shake.

See also:

What Women With Heart Disease Can Learn From “Pinkwashing” This Month 

How Does It Really Feel to Have a Heart Attack? Women Survivors Tell Their Stories

Am I Having a Heart Attack?

Stupid Things That Doctors Say to Heart Patients

‘Time Equals Muscle’ During Women’s Heart Attack

Women Fatally Unaware of Heart Attack Symptoms

Is it Heartburn or Heart Attack?

What is Causing My Chest Pain?

* And speaking of All Things Pink, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and other breast cancer charities claim they are raising funds to help pay for mammograms for women who cannot afford them. But mammograms are already covered for low-income women in the U.S.  through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Although this screening program does have limitations, what is most needed is the funding to get low-income American women treatment if breast cancer is actually found. (Here in Canada, the “commie pinko land of socialized medicine”, mammograms and breast cancer treatments are, of course, already covered for all women).

The corporate pink ribbon campaign can also be misleading.  Consider the Lean Cuisine packaging that featured the ubiquitous pink ribbon of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  But consumers who bought their Lean Cuisine frozen dinners believing that a portion of the purchase cost would benefit breast cancer charities learned upon reading the fine print that they actually had to visit the company’s website and purchase a Lean Cuisine lunchbag. Only then would a portion of that bag’s purchase price be donated. Brilliant marketing campaign – resulting in all those Lean Cuisine lunchbags helping to freely advertise the company’s brand in staff lunchrooms all over North America!

Under the noble auspices of charity, argues Queen’s University professor Samantha King in her book, Pink Ribbons Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, global corporations, politicians, and “regressive white middle class family values” are all getting a big shot in the arm from this pink ribbon juggernaut. She notes that, beyond being an all-too-frequent and still-too-lethal disease for many women, breast cancer is a corporate dream come true.

“Corporations secure  free publicity and a means to expand their market share via enlogoed ‘awareness’ campaigns. The rank and file, conditioned by now to believe that there’s no problem shopping can’t solve, are invited to feel virtuous and altruistic whenever they buy a Yoplait yogurt or a pink KitchenAid mixer.”


The National Film Board of Canada has produced the documentary Pink Ribbons Inc.  Watch the trailer.


14 thoughts on “A heart film to watch before the “Pink Season” gets here

    1. Not only is laughing important for crazy-prevention, it is useful for retention of important new facts. We may not remember facts and figures for long (at least I don’t!) but we’ll remember images that made us laugh or made us think. This little film does both.
      Thanks Judith!


  1. Another aspect of this is the cardiotoxicity of many cancer treatments, which I’m not sure is explained adequately to women when they embark on treatment for their breast (or other) cancer.

    You can survive your cancer but end up with congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease – or worse yet, develop an arrhythmia that can be sudden and fatal. My sense is that many people, including those in the medical world as well as the pink advocates, don’t really recognize the increased risk for heart disease among women who’ve been treated for cancer.

    There’s more info here.


    1. Very good point, Anne. And it’s not just heart problems that have been linked to cancer treatments. While I worked in hospice palliative care for 10 years, we had patients who were dying of radiation-induced cancers from their previous cancer treatments 10-15 years earlier.

      I first met Dr. Hayes (the cardiologist quoted in this news link) when I attended the 2008 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium For Women With Heart Disease at Mayo Clinic. She is a much-admired and amazing woman!


  2. Hello There. I just found your blog – it’s AWESOME! This is a really fabulous little film. I have forwarded a link to this post to every woman I know. Thanks so much. I’ll definitely return.


    1. Thanks so much, Laurena – don’t forget you can click on the FOLLOW HEART SISTERS link on the right hand sidebar to get free email updates every time a new post topic is published here!


  3. Absolutely fabulous little film. Elizabeth captures perfectly my own dismissive and apologetic reaction during my cardiac event. “Sorry to bother you..” to the 911 operator. SO PERFECT!!! It would be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetically TRUE for so many of us women. Thx for this, I’ve already Facebooked and forwarded this on. It’s a MUST-SEE for sure. Thanks, Carolyn.


    1. I laughed right out loud at that 911 scene, plus of course the last scene where she takes a horrified look around her messy kitchen….


  4. Excellent video. My oncologist told me, when I asked about my breast cancer recurring, said I was many many times more likely to die of heart disease. She went on to review life style changes I needed to make.


  5. Hey Carolyn,
    This is great. I am bringing up all my “girl” contacts and forwarding this today. I overdid my activity level yesterday and need to rest today (I am now 6 wks post 2 open heart surgeries at VGH) so now I have something to do that will feel rewarding for me and be helpful to my friends/family. A win win situation. Thank you.


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