Now Walgreens Wants us to Battle Beautifully

If you’ve seen the new Walgreens video targeting people living with cancer, chances are you also had a rush of anger, starting with the cringe-worthy title of the video: “Feel More Like You: Battle Beautifully.”

Read Brandi McFarland’s scene-by-scene breakdown of everything that’s wrong with the video, which she originally posted on Walgreens Facebook page. Brandi has been living with breast cancer for four years (stage 3), has had 24 surgeries, and 12 infections. She is a member of Breast Cancer Action and Bay Area Young Survivors.

Dear Walgreens,

Scene One in your “Battle Beautifully” commercial was familiar to me. I put music on, popped open some bubbly, and braided pigtails, then chopped them off to save them as a joke – or pin on my beanies. With right-handed Walgreens scissors, I sawed and sawed –  I’m left handed, which caused a blister on my left thumb. I reached into my vanity cabinet and applied a Band-Aid and some Neosporin from your store in Alameda. Then I gave myself a mohawk and promptly buzzed that off (with Walgreens men’s clippers) because I felt it didn’t fit my mood or the situation I was in.)

Most women don’t do that… they wait for some of their hair to fall out and are traumatized from it. Not smiling like your model. Losing your hair is not summarized by a wry smile in a mirror. A few days later in the shower, I applied some black cherry Carol’s Daughter conditioner cream bought at your store and screamed to my fiancé, “I DON’T CARE WHAT THE DOCTORS SAY… GET THE RAZOR!!!” (At stage 3 during chemo you are not supposed to floss, or get your teeth cleaned, get massages or use razors). My hands were covered in ¼” peach fuzz… what was left of my two-foot-long hair. So we used a four blade men’s Gillet with some 3-in-1 “Comfort Advantage” shaving cream (also yours). My fiancé was so nervous about cutting me it took 30 minutes. Then I applied some lotion – also from your store, but I forget what kind because I have chemo brain.

Scene Two of your promo: Yoga. Really? I’d say a small portion of breast cancer patients can do yoga for a short time during active treatment, but even stage 0 or 1 women have stitches, and catheters and bandages and restrictions on how much they can use their arms and lift things. YOGA??? Why not feature napping with a face mask, or relaxing on one of your heating pads, or reading a magazine… all from your store. That’s far more realistic if the intent of this video is to sell more things or seem sympathetic. Most of us experience bone pain from treatment. Not blissful relaxation and peace.

Scene Three: Support groups. A group of women hugging and jumping up and down? In colored wigs? Wigs are uncomfortable, hot and itchy. Not only that, but the only ones you sell are Elvira witch ones [wigs] during Halloween… which aren’t super appropriate for the produce aisle in the morning, or at church. Some recent topics from my last support group aren’t even NC-17 rated, and might classify as horror. We do not hold hands and sing Kumbaya. We dish on pus, menopause, infections, losing husbands, best friends, jobs, insurance. We talk about lack of lubrication (which your KY can’t even fix), dryness (which your Refresh can’t touch), and creams like your Estrogen ones we aren’t even allowed to take. Do you have Band-Aids we could put in our vaginal walls when they tear after sex? I didn’t think so. Induced menopause means we no longer buy your Midol or tampons or pads. If you want to make up that money in a respectful way, see my list at the bottom of this email, and poll other patients.

Scene Four: Makeup, eyebrows and lashes. I lasted 3 months of still trying to live according to society’s notion of what I should look like, but I cry when I throw up, which smears my makeup, then I get blotchy and broken blood vessels in my face, and I generally don’t give a crap about what other people think about me at that time. By 6 months in, I was in sweats and eyeing those electric scooters in the grocery store because of pulmonary embolisms and low blood pressure causing fainting. (YOGA?). I have always had to draw in my eyebrows and put a dark tint in my lashes – always mascara and powder bought from your store. I look like a ghost without makeup – and I was so sick I didn’t care anymore. I was more vain that most women, but this experience has robbed me of it – so imagine what it does to less superficial women. Imagine how off the mark your commercial is. You want to encourage us to try and look like we don’t feel and expend energy, time, and money we DON’T HAVE. Red lipstick is not a cure all. If Barbies are now transgender and having prostheses… why the heck can’t one of your models be portrayed as a normal cancer patient??? Catch up with the times.

Scene Five: The cancer patient hugging the Walgreens employee. I’ve hugged several. But they have all been in your pharmacy. They know me on sight and what medications are new to me, but they are always so rushed they can’t chat. I will, however say your other employees couldn’t care less, and standing in line is embarrassing. I was discharged from a week in the hospital 4 days ago with bruises from IV’s all over my arms, a rash on my neck, 5 bracelets on my wrist, and in a UCSF sweatshirt I bought because all my clothes were dirty. I went from the hospital to your store and 4 very large white bags were placed on the counter stapled shut, each containing a few Rx’s. I think it was 10 new drugs in total. People took steps back from me. I filled 7 Rx’s the week before and 2 new ones today. The Rx counter is where cancer patients spend their money at your store. I have no idea who consulted you to make this commercial but here is what it should have included if you wanted more money from us:

Aquaphor, Aloe, Imodium, Calcium, Vitamin D, Gauze, Tape, Tegaderm, Travel Size bottles of everything you’d need for a week in a hospital, Laxatives, Anti-nausea meds, Benadryl, Cortisone, Biotene, Chapstick, Lotions, Candy, and Crosswords and magazines to keep our minds as healthy as possible while we have chemo brain. Maybe have prepackaged multivitamins or meds endorsed by oncologists or nutritionists especially for cancer patients – and different cancer types. There are DOZENS of other ways to go about this besides glossing over the messy aspects of cancer. We literally come to your stores for the MESSY aspects… so be honest with yourselves, and us.

I have been an avid Walgreens customer my entire life, but this commercial is offensive, triggering and insulting. It’s minimizing and demeaning one of the hardest things anyone can go through in their life, implying I should somehow have the energy to do yoga and wear makeup when I’m on the edge of death. I would appreciate an apology.

Editor’s Note: Walgreens partners with the Look Good, Feel Better campaign, which was the target of Breast Cancer Action’s 2015 Think Before You Pink® campaign Poison Isn’t Pretty. Read more about our take on pink ribbon culture and the harms of many mainstream breast cancer campaigns.

This entry was posted in Articles, BCA News.

44 Responses to Now Walgreens Wants us to Battle Beautifully

  1. Vicky says:

    I absolutely LOATHE this commercial. Thank you, Brandi for telling it like it is for so many of us who have/had breast cancer. Did anyone notice that most of the women in this commercial wearing wigs or head wraps still had eyebrows and eyelashes? Don’t know about the rest of you but mine were toast once the chemo started. Yoga and make up?? You have got to be kidding! Just getting through another day was all I could do. This commercial was so offensive to me that I changed drug stores and I am no longer a Walgreen customer.

  2. Cathy says:

    I hated this commercial, my sister fought this disease for 17 years. There is nothing beautiful about it!

  3. cynthia Beauclair says:

    This commercial is terrible, it makes cancer look like a party. Why aren’t they showing women throwing up and showing the chemical burn on their scalps.

  4. Monah says:

    From the first time I saw this commercial, I thought it was exploitation.
    (This commercial is played very often. SoCal.)
    It’s a sad way to promote Walgreens.
    In general, their customer service is hit & miss. Not like the ad.

  5. Kathy P says:

    Thank you for all the women who think this ad is absolutely offensive. My mother had stage 3 cancer. When was she supposed to sing, jump around dance and laugh? Before or after throwing up from chemo, getting thrush all inside her mouth. She could barely move. She sure wasn’t popping on crazy wigs and popping around like Madonna. And the horrible rap-like song. All the women in the ad looked very healthy to me.

  6. Mimi Hollingshead says:

    I abhor this commercial trivializing the most horrendous period of my life. I contacted Walgreens, the Hallmark channel and tv stations that air this commercial with no success. I wil boycott Walgreens and so will my friends and family. Whatever ad agency made this commercial needs to walk in our shoes and then see if they think this ad is approprate! I hope they get the message and apologize for putting dollars over decency!

  7. kim haley says:

    Kim Haley
    Kim Haley 9:00 AM

    Tv as regarding Breast cancer
    Good morning My name is Kim Haley and I am a breast cancer survivor that has survived and invented Medebra Mastectony Bra Kit us patent #8686403 . I have been on a mission to make a long over due change in post mastectomy care. Medebra is the national standard of care in the hospitals and after care . The add showcases a women getting ready for Chem done very tasteful and then a beanie to show some dignity. I’m a patient turned patient advocate . The ad is degrading , horrifying to see a women being wrapped post mastectomy with gauze Not other picture such as showing a garment giving dignity and breast back to the women . It is proven how we precieve ourself post surgery is how we will heal. Medebra Kit is doing this and is reimbursable . We are loading now with Wal-Mart and Sam Prior I choose to focus on maki g this humanitarian change in the Hospital . I can assure you No one wraps and sends the women home You are really doing a disservice by representing the care in this manner http://Www.medebra.com will give you a better idea of my Mission of Medebra and myself . I hope you will reshoot the commercial . Thank you for bringing breast cancer awareness out on main stream With most respect kim 954-763-9479 is my direct number

  8. I Love you. Thank-you for speaking out!

  9. Michelle says:

    I so appreciate this, relate in many ways and acknowledge the differences in my journey. I actually posted the commercial and noted I appreciated the affirmation of moXie, resiliency, sisterhood. Also, I also recognized the marketing angle, reinforcement of limiting messages.

    Grateful for BCAG and Survivor Sistahs raising and addressing critical systemic injustice and helping me sharpen my critical consciousness and advocacy..helping me think before I pink while I also urge others to do so.

    🦋🌟💥🌟🦋

  10. Joy A Simha says:

    This is so well said. Thank you for writing it. I too complained on the Walgreens website and on their facebook page. They should be ashamed of trying to make even more money off breast cancer. They should make their drugs more affordable and be proud of giving women that.

  11. Roz Grossman says:

    I agree Walgreen’s “Battle Beautifully” commercial is dismissive & ignorant of what women with cancer experience. Thank you Brandi & all the women speaking their truth to Walgreens. I’m 70 & have had several cancers including being sick enough to die at one time, chemo, hair loss, the works. But the biggest affront to the Walgreens ad to me is the word “Battle”. We do not need to go to war & battle our bodies. And actually, Yoga and meditation has been part of my healing journey. Not when I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed or off the couch. But these practices have helped me to feel better about my body & improve the quality of my life. Make up & using products to be beautiful is not what I’m interested in doing. I do shop at Walgreens & would rather see them addressing some of the carcinogenic products on their shelves. Best wishes to all!!

  12. Bonnie Ziff says:

    I thought I was the only one that had problems with this commercial. It almost makes cancer commonplace. Not something individual: emotionally and physically scarring. I am not jumping up and down with a group of women. More likely, we are trying to support each other the best we can. I hope Walgreens will pull this ad. What they should show is their caring pharmacists who respectfully inquired after my health as I went through 5 surgeries.

  13. Deb Riggins says:

    Wow! I thought I was just being oversensitive when I saw this ad, and have to mute it every time. They make breast cancer look like fun. I love this response. I am insulted by nearly every breast cancer ad I see. Who comes up with these? Surely not someone who went through it. Thanks for posting this and making me feel validated.

  14. sydney crawford says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Excellent review.
    My husband, who was the first to bring this to the families attention, also thought this was a completely insensitive and so out of touch,.
    We should all keep up the drum beat

  15. lisa says:

    jump around dance and laugh? Before or after throwing up from chemo, getting thrush all inside her mouth. She could barely move. She sure wasn’t popping on crazy wigs and popping around like Madonna. And the horrible rap-like song. All the women in the ad looked very healthy to me.

  16. Larry gray says:

    Nothing to say , will not go to them again.

  17. Larry gray says:

    Nothing to say , will not go to them again. My had cancer,and every day was hell for her.People who want to make money of them should burn in hell.

  18. Pam says:

    My husband has renal cell carcinoma. There seems to be a different pharmacist in my Walgreens each time I go to get his meds. I’ve asked for help with side effects but got little to no answers.

  19. TraciTiera King says:

    I am a brain cancer survivor, single , Woman of color cosmetologist and business owner ! I found the Walgreens commercial uplifting versus the negative emotional down spiral that we often feel from day to day /in the struggle and battle! I don’t feel that any particular company can TOUCH on ALL the particulars way in which we face with the sickness. However,
    Walgreens (I feel) came from a positive place
    e and I appreciate the upliftment and the encouragement as well as the diversity in different ways in which we can approach life during ” difficult ”
    time! Claim YOUR LIFE and strength it’s yours !

    Serenity ,
    👸🏽brain cancer survivor. mind over any matter .
    be inspired ~be inspiring. YOUR faith over fear !
    Ms. TraciTiera A. King

  20. Terri Root says:

    I have a comment on new commercial for skin damage seen this June and it is promoting a product that contains parabens if you moisterize with this cream it is know to cause breast cancer and also multiplies skin cancer cell Do your research Walgreens for the love of people not profit.

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