Friday, October 2, 2015
It is officially October again which us breast cancer survivors refer to as "pinktober". I was quickly reminded a few weeks ago when I was driving home that it was coming when I saw this truck on a road near my home. Really? I am not sure how pink ribbons on a dump truck are really helping with anything about breast cancer! The pink keeps coming......
I know this whole month will be full of pink items. Some of my personal favorites are the cement mixer truck I saw a few years ago, pink ribbons on eggs (yes, I opened eggs and found pink ribbons stamped on them!), bras (kind of rubbed me wrong since I had a bilateral mastectomy), scissors and the daily minder which was a daily calendar with pink ribbons on each day of the year so I can savor pinktober 365 days! NOT! Needless to say I have not purchased anything with a pink ribbon on it since I was diagnosed.
I fight the urge to pink because I just don't feel that awareness is doing anything to actually help fight breast cancer. Awareness is such an ambiguous word. I consider myself a fairly educated women. A bachelor's degree and master's degree. I have worked in the health field for years too. When I was told I had breast cancer, I was in shock like it was some kind of anomaly. How could I get breast cancer? I have no family history or genetic mutation. I was only 45. I had a clear mammogram a few months before I found the lump myself. How is this really possible????
After being diagnosed, I was shocked to learn that less than 15% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease and only 5-10% of those diagnosed have the gene mutation. As educated and "aware" as I thought I was, I thought I was not at great risk because I had no family history. I found it hard to believe that vast majority (85%) of women with breast cancer had no family history. The other thing that really troubled me was that I thought I was OK because I had a clear mammogram. No one ever mentioned that if you have dense breasts that doesn't mean anything. So I realized that the 1 centimeter tumor was there when I had a mammogram a few months earlier and the mammogram didn't catch it at all. This was so hard to digest. The last thing hard to comprehend that there is NO CURE for breast cancer. Yes, there are treatments, but there is no cure for this horrible disease.
After being diagnosed I felt like an idiot. How could I be so "unaware"? Am I the only one I wondered? In talking to more and more breast cancer survivors over the past few years, I have learned that a majority of us were completely "unaware" before hearing the dreaded words "I am sorry. You have breast cancer." Most of us are younger - between ages 30-50 years old. Most of us were healthy - eat right, non-smoker and regular exercisers. The more I talked to other survivors the more dumbfounded I became.
So another year goes by and there is more pink stuff all over this month. It's hard to see it everywhere and think that it is really doing anything other than making money for those that sell these pink decorated items. Most of these companies selling this stuff only donate a very small portion of the money they generate to breast cancer. They pocket the rest of the money and make a profit off of a deadly disease that kills over 40,000 women in the US every year. Based on this, I am asking anyone reading this to THINK BEFORE YOU PINK this October. If you really want to do something to help with breast cancer, donate to an organization that will help put money towards research to find a cure, not make money off of us survivors and their marketing campaigns to look like they care about us.
Breast cancer survivors are people with lives and families. We want to live and watch our kids grow up. We want to grow old with our spouses. We want to make a difference in the world and reach our goals. We want the same things everyone else wants out of life, to be healthy and happy. We need people to support research for finding a cure for breast cancer, not people buying pretty pink stuff. So this month when you are out and see the pink extravaganza, stop and think. Ask yourself where you want the money to go. Think of the many faces of breast cancer survivors and those still in active treatment. Help be part of finding a cure instead of the ineffective pink awareness campaigns. Help us continue to live the lives we want to live. I pray every single day for a cure for this horrific disease. I fear there won't be a cure in my lifetime and I will miss out on watching my son learn to drive a car, graduate from high school, go to college, get married and have a family of his own. I use to be afraid of growing old, and now I am so afraid I won't live long enough to grow old because of breast cancer. This is my reality and the reality of the other 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the US.
Every year I post about the whole pink thing. So I guess I am stepping off my soapbox now and putting it away until next October. Make a real difference and THINK BEFORE YOU PINK! :)