Ah! Pinktober is upon us. Breast Cancer awareness month drives me a little batty, and yet I can understand and appreciate all that it is. As a survivor, I’m always a bit conflicted — I love it and hate it at the same time. So this is my attempt at putting into words the mix of emotions.
I don’t like to define myself by my breast cancer. It’s certainly a part of me, and I’m grateful to be a survivor, but it’s not all I am. So when October rolls around, it makes me confront how big of an impact it has had on my life in many ways. I wouldn’t be a health coach, I wouldn’t be speaking about it, and I wouldn’t have written a book, if not for breast cancer. I wouldn’t have made diet and lifestyle changes that benefited my whole family, if not for breast cancer. I also wouldn’t have the scars, lingering long-term side effects, nor the ever-present fear of a recurrence.
When all the pink comes flooding through in October, I am grateful for the “awareness”, if it will help women understand their risks and make the necessary changes to be healthier. But, truthfully, how may people see a pink ribbon on a KFC bucket and think, “oh, I probably shouldn’t be eating this”? Or see pink sneakers on a football player and are motivated to get more exercise? Or see a pink ribbon on a beauty product and wonder if the ingredients are safe?
Awareness is only helpful if it is coupled with education. I mean, so people are “aware”… so what? What are they learning about prevention and risks and early detection and types of bc and treatment options? What is being done to drive behavior changes, outside of get your mammogram and do a self breast exam? I did both of those things and STILL ended up with Stage III breast cancer. Did you know mammograms don’t always find it, and not all tumors show as lumps?
I struggle with many of the products that feature pink ribbons. They lure people into purchasing their products, thinking they are doing something good. But often, breast cancer researchers see not one penny from those sales. AND many of those products contribute to breast cancer in the first place. Don’t be fooled.
The thing most frustrating to me about Pinktober has to be the sexualization of the disease. Save the Ta-tas. Save Second Base. Boob Lives Matter. Save a Life; Grope Your Wife. For Tits and Giggles. Feel Your Hooters. Save a Rack. You get the point…
How many other diseases do you know of that are sexualized like this? Call me ultra-sensitive, but I find it offensive. The focus is on the “boobs”, not the woman. Never mind that this disease may kill her, but, heaven forbid, let’s save the boobs. And for those of us who opted not to replace our lost breasts with fake ones, it’s a bit insensitive. Do I matter less, am I less feminine, am I less a woman, because I don’t have them? Could we try to take this a bit more seriously? Right now, it feels a bit commercialized and trite.
I like focusing my energies locally where my money and time feel like they are really helping those fighting breast cancer. In my community, we have Michele’s Ladies in Pink, a great nonprofit that financially helps local women who are in active treatment. If you should feel so inclined, feel free to make a donation to this great organization, or find one in your own community, to feel like your money is having a direct, real, impactful benefit to those in the fight. Certainly, there are a number of good organizations who are focused on research; check out METAvivor (metastatic breast cancer) and Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
When the pink ribbon stuff all started, it was necessary and good. It’s just lost it’s way a little bit. I’m not anti-pink ribbon or what it stands for, after all, my book is “Beyond the Pink Ribbon”, with a pink ribbon on the cover. Pink is one of my favorite colors! I just think it’s time to de-commercialize it and turn it back into something useful. Real education and awareness beyond “breast cancer exists”.
IMDb: Touch of Pink (2004)