How I wish I could go back to the pink cheer I felt when I thought I had my stage II breast cancer beat; the feeling of “we are all in this together, we support you. We care.” The feeling of hope, that we can beat this united under a pink ribbon. We can all do something- we can buy things with pink lids, pink boxes and pink tags. We wear pink jewelry, dye our hair pink, change our profile pictures to pink ribbons and feel like we are getting somewhere. But now we know more. We deserve more.
What started out as awareness has been pink washed into a joke. Too many companies have tried to get attention by “pinking” their product while giving little to no money to the much needed research. If only they did! We might be a lot closer right now. Maybe that number of 110 people who die worldwide every day from this disease would go down. Maybe we wouldn’t be loosing our mothers, daughters, aunts and friends to this disease. I’m afraid we blew right through awareness and came out the other side to ridiculousness. Pinkwashing is now in the same category as the over used Pumpkin Spice. In fact, the pink breast cancer candles are right next to the pumpkin spice candles on the store’s shelf. What does that pink candle have to do with breast cancer at all? Make sure you read the fine print on the label; it might be as much as pumpkin spice does, just that it’s October and that is what is on the shelves. While more and more pink products are being sold, the rate of young women (under 45) being diagnosed with breast cancer has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. How did this happen?
Once the breast cancer travels to another part of the body and becomes metastatic, the pink hope fades even faster. That hope for a cure seems farther way and more allusive, for there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. October is a tough time for metsters, otherwise known as “lifers”, because every month is breast cancer awareness month for us. When my breast cancer came back in my lungs, the first few Pink Octobers were really hard for me. Everywhere I looked was a reminder of what I had and what I was going through, and I was angry that people couldn’t understand what it was like to know that my life is being cut short because of my disease. (Hint: it’s not the same as getting hit by a bus) Women diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer live an average of 3-5 years, and I was given just 12- 18 months. Every pink ribbon was like an assault, excluding me from the celebration of survivorship.
October is no longer an awareness month, it is now a call to action month. Everybody wants to do something to help, so please look carefully and think before you pink. We need more. I am so happy to say that feeling of anger faded as I started identifying myself with survivors again. Yes, I am a survivor because I am still here, and I want to take the pink ribbon back on metastatic terms.
I have made it through 6 Pink Octobers as a metster now. We tell the stories of our lives, and continue to keep trying to get the message out about the importance of the research for a real cure. If we are careful about what we pink, what we buy, and where we put our money, just maybe that cure we find will be in time for me too. And that is truly the meaning of Hope for a Cure.