Pink-tober - It's more than just ribbons

When I was first diagnosed I felt good about a whole month dedicated to breast cancer, I felt like I was surrounded by love and support from all over the world, that I was around my sisters that although didn’t ask to be in this “club” were all there for each other and for me. I participated in my local Making Strides walks, getting stronger every year and walking further along the course. I had my survivor t-shirt on proudly even though with my stage 4 diagnosis I would always be surviving, and consequently thriving but never a survivor with a period at the end.  I still feel this way… to an extent.

This year, things have changed for me. In my perspective I mean.  I belong to several metastatic cancer groups on facebook and started to see their posts about the pinking of October and how these women were so angry about it. How others were offended by the pink bras and other symbols of awareness. And I thought to myself, why are they so pissed off?  So I started to read what they said, and I will admit that initially I thought, gosh girls, doesn’t every bit of awareness about the disease help? But as I educated myself I realized that for the most part they were right. Spot on – in fact.  While I am not in any way offended by a pink bra, a man in a pink tutu or bra, or pink ribbons, jewelry or t-shirts, I understand completely what it is they are so mad about. It’s not about the stuff; it’s about the money and what it’s used for.

Breast cancer (hell any type of cancer) is a devastating disease. It robs you of so much, not the least of which is your life, potentially.  Cancer patients have to deal with sickness (from treatments), surgeries, fear, the loss of fertility, the loss of friends and loved ones who can’t “deal” with their reality, (aka cowards),  physical changes, and financial difficulties among other things.

Any cancer diagnosis is devastating, but a stage 4 diagnosis is especially brutal as there is no end to it. Very few of us metavivors go into any kind of remission, and fewer still dance with NED (No Evidence of Disease). Our treatment continues without an end in sight, indefinitely or until it stops working and the tragic end comes.  These people don’t need or want ribbons, they want cures. They want more money going towards research, more drugs to help, an eventual end to this monster and more birthdays.

One woman posted statistics and stated that a very small percentage of money raised goes towards research (like 5%), the rest goes towards huge operating costs and outrageous salaries for the company big wigs.  I am not posting these statistics because I do not want to call any organization out by name, and frankly because I don’t feel like looking it up, but I do believe that a lot of it is true.  When you go to a store in October and buy a pink ribbon t-shirt, nail file or coffee mug – know that this money does absolutely NOTHING to help those affected with the disease.  It’s just a marketing ploy to get you to buy stuff and make them money.

Awareness is important, early detection is important, mammograms are important and all these could lead to an early diagnosis for some who might not have thought to do self examinations in the past. Back in the old days the word cancer was spoken only in whispers, it just wasn’t talked about.  The big awareness campaigns saved lives, brought cancer treatment, patients and their journeys into the limelight and took the stigma off what was once taboo. This was wonderful – back then. But now I think after all these years of awareness, that we are for the most part… aware.  Unless someone is living under the proverbial “rock of oblivion” everyone knows about cancer and breast cancer specifically. And for that we should all be grateful. The drugs I take, that we all take are a direct result of research and trials that were done because of this heightened awareness.  So for that I say thank you to all the organizations that promoted awareness.

That being said, I now ask that you take some of your money and funnel it to finding a cure, and towards programs to help pay for treatment for those who can’t afford it, and financial help for other things that are needed. This kind of effort shouldn’t fall to a handful of non-profit agencies. If you are collecting in the millions – give back to the survivors who fight the fight every day.  Green and pink go together really well.

by Norma Pitzer-Kelly

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