“I hate October”. “Damn pink washing”. “Cancer is not pretty in pink”. “You can’t tie it up with a pink ribbon and make it okay”. These are all direct quotes from people on Instagram this October 1st morning…
Pinktober is here again! Yes…October, the month that is most known as Breast Cancer Awareness month. It is the month where countless brands and organizations are reaching out to survivors and thrivers across the nation to find that new shocking stories of survivorship, heartache, and out of the norm circumstances. Brands and organizations are bringing out their pink memorabilia and every end cap in a store typically has something pink! The array of bald heads, boobs, and ribbons are endless. Then of course there are those dress down days at work where they encourage you to wear pink or you walk into any store and that little pink ribbon is staring back at you saying “buy me, I support the cause…” but what exactly are we raising awareness for? Is any of these pink notions really helping to find the cure or save mine or my breast friends life?
The controversy of the breast cancer symbol has been around from the VERY beginning in the history of the pink ribbon (check out my earlier blog post about the history of the ribbon History of the Pink Ribbon) Still to this day, people seem to either love it and wear the ribbon proudly while giving thanks for both the symbol and its attention for donations and research. Or, others loath it entirely- it ignites fury and anger… But contrary to many of society’s mixed-views, what is the big deal about the little pink ribbon after all?
My pre-cancer twenty something self obviously knew of this month being dedicated to breast cancer, however the extent of my knowledge of why it was such a big deal went no further than the purchasing the cheesy pink t-shirt or pair of socks with a ribbon at my local Target. I would always donate my change or buy a baked good from a fundraiser at work saying it was “supporting breast cancer”. I knew the pink ribbon meant breast cancer, and the little quote “save the boobies” seemed cute because boobs were cute and although I had compassion for people going through cancer, I was under the very ignorant perception that breast cancer was the “best cancer” because people hardly die from it right? You get your boobs cut off, you get new ones, and back to life you go…
Looking back on my young, immature, naive interpretation of this disease came first hand when I received my official diagnosis of an aggressive breast cancer at 26 years young… in October 2015, so to me October really is breast cancer month!
“I have good news and bad news, it is cancer… BUT, we have a lot of treatments that really work for breast cancer”. Wait wait wait…. hold up, say whattttttt?! And with that folks my life began swirling down the rabbit hole of the breast cancer journey which I now consider my life!
So, after IVF and numerous needles to preserve my chances for fertility, 12/16 rounds if chemo which was cut short due to anaphylaxis from being allergic to the poisonous cancer killing drugs, a double mastectomy that took all my tissue and nipples, lymph node resection and dissection that did indeed detect that my cancer had spread, immediate breast reconstruction with expanders, 30 rounds of radiation, and 8 months later having breast reconstruction (which now needs to be redone thanks to radiation and capsular contracture)… I have lived the journey of breast cancer. But, that long list doesnt even touch on the countless pricks and blood tests, port surgeries, heart tests, hormone medications, medications that counter react the symptoms from those medications, hot flashes, anxiety attacks, the tears about losing my hair, the weight loss, the weight gain, the unknown permanent loss of natural fertility, the scars, the pain, my families exhaustion, fears, and pain. This is breast cancer! So yes, I get it people— BREAST CANCER FUCKING SUCKS! And obviously, PINK does not capture the horror, fear, and complete life disruption that this awful disease dawns upon a person! AND, this also doesnt even touch on the absolute heart break of METASTATIC breast cancer that has absolutely NO CURE!!!!!
But lets get back to my pre-cancer self and my understanding of breast cancer. Its the “good cancer” if I had to get cancer right? The symbol is a pink ribbon, and thats my favorite color so thats cool right? I’ll get new fake boobs and get back living my life right? It only happens to old women, it will never happen to me at 26 years old right? Sadly, I am embarrassed to say… I was so so so so so so WRONG!
This is what we MUST change about PINKTOBER!
Survivors and thrivers alike have many thoughts about the color pink and the symbol of the pink ribbon being used to encompass such a dark and scary disease. But to me… thats just it! It is a symbol, a marketing tactic. THATS IT! When you take a step back from the prettiness of pink, pink being a “womans” color, the fact that a single pink ribbon does nothing actually to help detect or save lives… well yes it is heart breaking that it is used so widely amongst our society… HOWEVER! How absolutely amazing and incredible is it that people DO KNOW what the pink ribbon supports/ stands for, hmm…
In the past 2 years ive lost countless breasties to metastasis and have gained many friends who will be battling breast cancer for the rest of their lives… where does the money go that is raised from the kazillion of items slapped with a pink ribbon on it? Where is the fucking cure?!
This is my thoughts and feelings only, and everyone is able to have their own opinions… but I do support the pink ribbon movement— SLIGHTLY!
How can you support something slightly? Well let me explain… the pink ribbon is a symbol, and that is just it! It is a symbol like a red octagon is a stop sign! If you hold a pink ribbon in the air, I would bet 9 times out of 10, people will be able to tell you that means breast cancer. Just like red means stop, green means go, a stick figure without a skirt is a man and with a skirt is a woman. Hello people! Our lives are surrounded by symbols! Its what we do as human beings, we use symbolism such as in the alphabet, or the shapes that form numbers— as a way to communicate! So yes, I am very thankful for the pink ribbon and its legendary history of gaining awareness as a symbol to mean “breast cancer”.
BUT… let me stop right there! Why do people have such controversial outlooks on this movement then? Well.. it’s sort of the same reason people are arguing over NFL teams kneeling or standing for the National Anthem… everyone has an opinion.
Instead of hating and despising the pink ribbon as a symbol, lets change the culture, change the awareness, lets educate and use the pink ribbon to our benefit! We have the foundation, people know that a pink ribbon means breast cancer… but now we have to shape that thought and notion. It is up to us to take OUR SYMBOL and make it into exactly what we want— TO SAVE LIVES and to FIND A FUCKING CURE!
EDUCATION AND EARLY DETECTION= SAVING LIVES!!!
We must educate on early detection. Lets encourage thrivers like Nalie Agustin and her “feel it on the first” movement where every first of the month you publically through social media, or privately in your own home cop a feel of your boobies and check for changes or irregularities. The more awareness we spread to society especially younger generations, the poor comfortable both MEN and WOMEN are with feeling their bodies and going to a doctor is anything seems abnormal! I also put advocating into this category. Being a young survivor, I wasn’t exactly taken seriously initially when I first felt my lump— so by encouraging people to push for testing and early screenings, we could save lives!
HEALTHCARE REFORM, SERVICES, AND TECHNOLOGIES
I surely am NOT getting into politics here… however, WE MUST make congress aware that this is NOT just an “older” person disease! Statistics are proof “1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime”. That is absolutely RIDICULOUS!!!!! Lets just take a quick look at some of these startling facts thanks to The Young Survival Coalition.
- There is no effective breast cancer screening tool yet for women under 40, most of whom have dense breast tissue that prevents routine mammograms from being a useful screening tool.
- Each year, approximately 70,000 men and women age 15 to 39 are diagnosed with cancer in the US.1 Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in this age group.
- Every year, more than 1,000 women under age 40 die from breast cancer.
LIKE WHAT!!!!!! Why are insurance companies denying claims. Why aren’t younger girls like me being taken seriously when they find lumps or bumps? THIS MUST CHANGE!
And finally donations. I get it, everyone has to make a living. Do you really think Susan J Komen would be thriving off of only “volunteers” working countless hours for nothing? Of course not! Now, do I agree with how salaries are determined, not so much… and do I think majority of the money should go directly to research and individuals fighting for their lives ABSOLUTELY… but, I challenge you to go out and volunteer for one week straight without compensation. You have nooooo money coming in to support your family… would you sign a life long contract to keep volunteering? Of course not!
Come on people how stupid does that sound! Reality is…money makes the world go round, and quite frankly… people NEED money to eat and have a home. So enough with the whole “non profits” shouldn’t pay salaries… because of course they should— its only fair for the work that their fulltime employees provide to make the organization successful… however, should they be making enormous salaries Probably not… but that is something us as a society are flawed in daily.
Truthfully, I have no idea who or what makes salary decisions- HECK I don’t believe I make nearly enough as I should working as a full-time Occupational Therapist, helping people and making a difference in the world… but thats the society we are living in today. No one would want to be a doctor if they were getting paid the same amount as a 10 year old working a lemon aid stand on the side of the street. I However… WHERE donations go, and what they are used for should most definitely should be played out and truthfully disclosed! We NEED this money to be used for research, education, and finding the FUCKING CURE! It is 2017… modern medicine has far surpassed the dark ages. We must join forces, support eachother, pressure the government and pharmaceutical companies to free the cure—- not only find it but free it because there is no way in hell that the incredible geniouses on this planet have not uncovered one of the most profitable diagnoses on the planet— CANCER!
It is our responsibility as survivors and thrivers to share organizations that are reputable but also know what those organizations do with their funds for people going through this disease. ALL MONEY DOES NOT JUST GO TO ONE FOUNDATION!!!! You can chose where you make a donation to. THE PINK RIBBON IS NOT OWNED BY ONE ORGANIZATION!!! Check out these three foundations listed below for reputable sources and money directly benefitting the people affected by this awful disease!
EMBRACE POSITIVITY SURROUNDING THE PINK RIBBON
What would changing the pink ribbon symbol do? Noone will ever agree on the same thing to change it to something new, thats just our lives today! Instead of bashing it… lets bring it to life! Lets change the reasons for the pink ribbon and lets form it into the symbol we as survivors and thrivers want as our identity! Lets cash in on the fact that people are aware of the basics, what the pink ribbon stands for and now lets do the hard part… lets change what society has done with our symbol!
So, whether you love or hate that little pink ribbon, lets come together like we do every October and cherish the support from those inside and outside the breast cancer community! Lets spread positivity, love, and enjoy the spirit of pinktober in your own way! Take a step back from our own journies and admire how absolutely incredible it is that people support our diagnosis and know our symbol!
I challenge you today on October 1st and throughout EVERY MONTH OF THE YEAR to first and foremost to feel your boobies. Educate yourself and those around you on the signs and importance of early detection for breast cancer. Whether you are a survivor or thriver, stop worrying about the color of pink and people thinking your journey is happy like the color— everyone atleast knows cancer sucks— and most of society feels for patients going through such a devastating journey. So, lets pull ourselves out of the corner, share our stories, and make a change for our disease! Look at the links above and donate specifically towards organizations that are fighting for the areas of advocacy you believe in whether it be education, research, healthcare reform, technology, or individuals fighting the disease, know where your money is going and feel confdent in your donation. Finally, wear the ribbon or hate the ribbon… LETS JUST FIND THE FUCKING CURE!
Shop my store She Sparkles On Boutique for the official October monthly designs! For every shirt purchased, one will be donated to a person going through a cancer battle! Portions of the proceeds are also donated annually to different cancer organzations listed above ❤
**Use coupon code: PINKTOBER for a surprise discount!