Miss America contestant Allyn Rose took one of those terrifying genetic tests and found out that she's got the same genetic mutation that may have led to her mother's fatal breast cancer. And instead of waiting for a diagnosis that she believes is inevitable, she's following in the footsteps of other women who have the breast cancer gene and getting a preemptive double mastectomy. If she doesn't win the Miss America pageant, that is.
Rose's mother received her diagnosis at age 27, and, at 24, Rose has said that she'd rather be alive and without breasts than dead in a filled out bra. Of her choice, she said,
...breasts don't define your life. I'm choosing life over beauty. I'm choosing to remove something that's so iconic to my womanhood.
Pretty brave woman making a scary decision in the midst of a set of terrible circumstances. But what was a little perplexing to me was her choice to keep her breasts until after she represents Washington, D. C. in the Miss America pageant next year. And, uh, her announcement that if she wins, she'll hang onto her breasts (which, according to medical tests are basically ticking time bombs attached to her chest) until she has completed her term as Miss America, which would still put her age at double mastectomy before she's the same age her mother was when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, but not by much. Is successfully competing in the Miss America pageant more immediately important than preventing genetic, deadly breast cancer?
Questionable priorities aside, how badass would it be for Rose to participate in the pageant without breasts, or to have the surgery after the pageant regardless of whether or not she wins? I can't think of a more stark, honest representation of the reality of breast cancer, the impact it has on survivors, and how medieval and crappy our treatment and prevention of the disease still is, even in the face of billions dollars of of pink ribbon-emblazoned money raised For The Cure than a pageant participant who forces the country to look at the reality of breast cancer through anything but rose-colored glasses.
If the double mastectomy is so urgent, then it shouldn't be less urgent than fulfilling the duties of being Miss America? Allyn Rose is under no obligation to turn her body into the site of a political demonstration, but imagine what an impact she could make if she prioritized the immediacy of her health over a desire to keep her torso pageant-friendly.