Awash In a Sea of Pink

Tomorrow, October 1, officially launches Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  October is also Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and I will be doing my part to raise awareness about Down syndrome by taking part in the annual 31 for 21 Blog Challenge.  I did want to take a moment to talk a little bit about Breast Cancer Awareness, however.

I have a confession: I have become a little resentful about all the pink.  Pink ribbons, pink labels, pink apparel, pink everything.  And the catchy slogans and taglines: “Save the Tatas!” and “I Love Boobs!”  All in the name of raising awareness about breast cancer.  It’s a good and worthy cause, and the people behind the marketing of breast cancer awareness have done an excellent job of, well, raising awareness.  We’re all aware.  I mean, seriously – do you know anyone who isn’t aware of breast cancer?  Who doesn’t know somebody who’s had breast cancer?

So what’s my problem?  Why am I resentful?  I’ll tell you why:

~ Because on some level, I think that all the slogans and pink products have somehow cheapened breast cancer.  It’s popular, trendy almost, and somehow portrays breast cancer as cute or even sexy.  There is nothing cute or sexy about breast cancer – or any cancer.  Cancer in any form is devastating.  It kills people, it unhinges families, it leaves people motherless, fatherless, daughterless, sonless, siblingless, friendless.  It alters bodies and it alters lives.  It’s serious, serious shit.

~ Somehow, it feels as though, for those of us who have been impacted by a different kind of cancer, that the wild popularity of breast cancer awareness somehow leaves other cancers in the dust.  Everybody talks about breast cancer – it’s been totally destigmatized, and that’s a good, wonderful thing.  But people still have a hard time talking about other cancers, like, say, colorectal cancer, which is just as deadly and devastating as breast cancer.

~ The pink products have gone too far.  Everybody wants to support a worthy cause, and that’s noble.  And going out and buying products that flaunt their pinkness in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness is a pretty easy way for the average consumer to feel like they are making a small difference in their own way.  The truth is, however, that for the most part, that sea of pink in the grocery store and at the mall?  It’s really a brilliant marketing ploy by companies and corporations.  They are exploiting breast cancer and people’s emotions, and the result is an improvement in their bottom lines.  Relatively speaking, very little of that money goes towards breast cancer research; most of it goes towards the companys’ profits because they are increasing their sales by marketing to people’s sympathies and fears.  I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true.  Check this out: Think Before You Pink.

If you really want to be supportive of cancer awareness, here are some suggestions:

  • Live a healthy lifestyle!  Show by example.
  • Ladies, get a mammogram.  Go with a friend to her mammogram.
  • Get a colonoscopy if you’re due for one.  Go with a loved one to get theirs.
  • Pay attention to your health.  Report any strange symptoms to your doctor – even if those symptoms are embarrassing.
  • If you want to support cancer research monetarily, donate directly to the American Cancer Society.
  • If someone you care about is diagnosed with cancer, don’t disappear on them.  It’s scary and terrible to watch someone suffer from cancer treatment and/or wither away, but they need you now more than ever.  What if it were you?
  • If someone you care about is diagnosed with cancer, don’t do stupid things like tell them about your uncle or neighbor who died from cancer, or that this is all part of God’s plan.  Totally not helpful.  Bring meals.  Hold their hand.  Be a good listener.  And understand that, should they pull through, it’s never really over for them.  Ever.

We’re all in this together.

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5 Comments on “Awash In a Sea of Pink”

  1. M Beers
    October 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Well said Lisa. I too feel the same way and yet feel weird being put off by all the pink everywhere – especially being a woman with breast cancer in her family. There are just so many other kinds of cancer out there affecting millions of people and I feel they are being left behind and the research is not being funded as well as it should.

  2. Jaida
    October 1, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Totally agree. It particularly irks me when teenage boys use it as an excuse to talk about/wear slogans about breasts. I have to think the vast majority of them think about breast cancer for zero seconds.

    Well written. We are very aware of colon cancer due to family history and my husband got his first colonoscopy at 35. I’ve watched your family’s battle with nothing but sympathy and admiration.

    • Lisa
      October 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

      Thank you, Jaida.

  3. Life After Grad School
    October 9, 2011 at 2:02 am #

    Just wanted to make you aware that the American Cancer Society spends 30% or less of their annual budget on research. They do a LOT of great work (my aunt was a social worker for ACS for 10+ years), but they truly don’t sponsor as much cancer research as the National Institute of Health or some of the smaller type-specific cancer charities.

    • Lisa
      October 9, 2011 at 2:19 am #

      Good to know – thank you!

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