I make it no secret I have issues with the pink ribbon campaigns.
Exhibit A: The billboard I saw a couple of weeks ago as I drove home. It made me irrationally angry. I was at a red light, saw the billboard, and snapped this photo. Drink pink. Really? Drink pink? If you can’t read the small print, it says, “DRINK PINK with strawberry milk.”
Come on. How does this help breast cancer research? How does this help those living with breast cancer? And, before anyone says, “But, it’s for Race for the Cure,” yeah…and? There’s a hashtag on Facebook (and other social media, I’m sure) #iamsusan. Check it out. I cannot encourage you enough to Think Before You Pink.
To me, the pink ribbon campaigns downplay the severity of breast cancer. It is a life threatening, life altering disease that is sexualized because it is a breast disease. There is nothing cute about breast cancer. I have two, four inch scars across my chest. I have two weird shaped silicone inflatable expanders underneath my pectoralis muscle. Stretching my left arm hurts because of muscle and skin tightening. Save the boobies and no bra days in October do nothing to address the disease. In fact, to me, things like that downplay the fact that this is cancer. It does not play fair. It does not discriminate. It does not care who you are, what you do, or what you’ve done. Cancer. Does. Not. Care.
Early in my treatment, someone casually asked me what I thought caused my breast cancer.
I didn’t do anything. There’s no family history. I’ve done breast self exams since I was a teenager. I’ve had clinical breast exams every year. I don’t have the BRCA genes. I have (had?) ER and HER2 positive, stage 2a, grade 2 breast cancer. Why me? Hell if I know. Lord knows I’ve asked that question countless times since last August.
I feel pretty confident in saying most of us want to help when a friend or family member is diagnosed with breast cancer (or any other cancer). So, what to do?
Be there for them. Be the friend they need. Be the shoulder they need to lean on. Be the person who makes them laugh. Be the person who sits there offering silent support when they need quiet. Just be there.
For some reason, Pinterest suggested this Buzzfeed article to me tonight: 17 Things No One Tells You About Breast Cancer. For me, it’s so true. The language throughout the article is strong, but I’ve described my cancer ordeal using less than polite language with my friends and family, too. Sometimes, those words are the best summation. This year is the first time in my 38 years where I’ve said the f-word numerous times around my mother and didn’t get glared at, my full name said, or a disapproving sigh from her.
A pink ribbon isn’t going to change the fact I’ve spent the last year dealing with breast cancer. A pink ribbon can be a sign of solidarity for those who’ve walked this road, but pink ribbon campaigns need to be more than making breast cancer out to be this cute, bright, happy turn of events. Breast cancer is cancer, and pink washing doesn’t change that fact.