Technically, this is my second Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a breast cancer survivor. Last year I was still sick, bald and awaiting reconstruction so it didn’t feel like much of anything. I wasn’t able to pull the focus away from the micro of my situation to see the macro that is PINKTOBER.
Guys, wow. Pinktober is really something. I was certainly ‘aware of’ breast cancer awareness month before I was diagnosed. How could you not be? But as a full blown survivor, this is some next level-ish.
Buildings are lit up pink. Shops and businesses everywhere have pink signs in the windows. People are running and walking like giant packs of flamingos all over the country.
What is it, really, though? What are we doing here?
Let’s break it down. Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So it is a month (October) where we are made aware that breast cancer is a thing. Check. I am quite sure at this point we all know that breast cancer is a thing.
But what is it supposed to do?
A lot of what we see has to do with fundraising of some kind. The vast majority of these fundraisers are blooming with goodwill and are spending the money wisely. One shining example is the Lynn Sage Foundation in Chicago. They are a foundation that raises money strictly for scientific research. The cause is sound and the fundraising just.
My beloved local gym 9Round is so sensitive to their patrons that they even asked me directly which breast cancer charity to send their fundraising to for their annual ‘Kick for a Cause’ day (which is October 12 for all my local friends, I’ll be there around 9am). Solid peeps right there.
But what about the businesses we see all around with pink signs screaming at us about ‘a portion of the proceeds…?’ I would like to believe that all of these places are donating something to charity, but which one? How much? And mostly, why?
I get an ugly feeling that breast cancer awareness is being used to push sales. Now might these businesses mean well? Sure. But might they see this as an opportunity to jump on a booming bandwagon of shared empathy to garner some profit? I think so.
I am not exactly mad at this concept, because yes, awareness, yes, fundraising… but at what actual cost? Is my disease a commodity?
Herein lies my problem. I had a nasty disease that rendered my life miserable for many months. My body was greatly affected. My mind changed forever. My kids saw a glimpse of mortality far too soon.
How does that connect to the man at Costco wearing a pink shirt trying to sell me a water heater?
We are 10 days into the month and I already feel like a walking advertisement for breast cancer. Granted, I am somewhat of a local cancerlebrity by my own doing, but everywhere I go, I become a poster board to sell whatever is being hocked or to commemorate something that I am not even sure what it is.
I’ve found myself shying away from wearing pink this month. Maybe a headband, mainly ’cause it’s my fave headband and my hair is CA-razzzzy, but I can’t bring myself to traipse around town like a shining pink neon sign for cancer awareness.
I would very much like you to all be aware of cancer. I beg of you to do self breast exams and see your doctor/mammographer regularly. Please go with your gut if you feel something is wrong. Seek care.
Donate money to organizations that are giving back in some tangible and direct way. Lemons of Love is making chemo gift bags that they distribute in oncology wards. Lynn Sage is doing medical research that I can’t even understand, it’s so smarty pants. Call your local hospital’s oncology department and volunteer your time.
Better yet, do something meaningful for your friend, aunt, neighbor who is going through treatment. Care for their kids, make them a cake, do their laundry. Make a real connection.
But let’s not limit ourselves to doing good only in October because we see pink all around us. Look past the pink and look at the faces of the women and men who suffer from this disease. Challenge yourself to do something meaningful in February, in June, tomorrow.
Let’s diffuse the pink out across the other 11 months and take a few seconds of every day to create the ‘All Kinds of Cancer Awareness Daily Moment’. Just a moment each day where we think about those we love who have been affected. Send them a text telling them you are proud of their fight. Think critically about how you can help, whether financially or emotionally. Remember those we have lost.
Please don’t paint me a color. See me. Listen to me. Ask us questions about our disease. Open your eyes to all the good you can do that isn’t attached to a month or a color. We all have the potential to make change.