I posted most of this last year, but it’s important enough to reiterate. I know it’s long, but please stick with me. As of tomorrow, Oct 1, it will be breast cancer awareness month. I have a lot of mixed feelings about this. For one, I know some people with other types of cancers who would give anything for a dedicated month during which people made an effort to be aware of what they are going through and learn more about their disease. In that respect, I’m grateful.
Here’s the problem that I see. I understand that it is helpful in a PR/branding kind of way to associate a symbol with a cause so that the general public has something to easily use and hold up to show their support for that cause. In this case, the symbol for the cause is the color pink. It becomes an issue, however, when the symbol itself overshadows the cause, which is what I see happening with breast cancer. The cause – stopping people from dying from breast cancer – is getting forgotten amidst all the pink (the symbol). Many companies, too many, make pink products and organize pink events under the guise of supporting breast cancer, when in reality little – if any – of those profits actually go towards BC research or support services. People then buy these products and go to those events thinking that they are helping the cause, often with the best of intentions, when in reality their good intentions are being taken advantage of.
October shouldn’t be about the symbol – pink – it should be about learning the actual facts about breast cancer, fundraising/supporting breast cancer research, remembering that people are dying from this, and learning more about what those of us with breast cancer actually go through – and all of that should include metastatic stage 4 breast cancer.
If the color pink could effectively be used as a symbol of all of that, I’d be all for it. I actually appreciate that we have a month dedicated to breast cancer, but let’s please make that month more about the disease and patients and less about selling all things pink when the profits don’t support the cause.
Also, a word about “awareness.” There’s quite a bit of backlash in the BC community about this word, because people argue that everyone is already aware of breast cancer, and therefore these awareness campaigns are a waste of time and money. I think that maybe, the words “awareness” and “education” are getting mixed up. Yes, we are aware that breast cancer exists, but most are not truly educated about the disease. They are not aware that an estimated 30% of early stages will metastasize, that breast cancer can present in many, many different ways and at all ages (and in men), that the average lifespan of those with MBC is still just 2-3 years. Or, that after years of campaigns, only 3-5% of the money that we raise for breast cancer in the US actually goes towards researching metastatic breast cancer – the stage that kills.
We may not need more “awareness” in the dictionary definition sense of the word, but we are in desperate need of more education regarding breast cancer. If October could be a month during which people learned the real facts and truly worked toward improving/extending the lives of those affected by breast cancer, it’d be my favorite month.
If you are interested in donating to worthy non-profits or purchasing from companies that are truly invested in the cause, here are a few suggestions:
- METAvivor – 100% of donations go toward stage 4 MBC research grants
- The Cancer Couch Foundation – every donation is matched penny for penny – which means your donation is doubled – and 100% of that goes toward stage 4 MBC research grants
- The Pink Agenda – they focus on educating young professionals about breast cancer and have also contributed more than $2million to bc research, including metastatic research
- The Magenta Love ToteSavvy – this is a product, not a non-profit, but it is the best purse organizer on the market, whether or not you have kids, and 100% of proceeds of this product go straight to METAvivor
If you don’t have money to spare – participate in Novartis’ #KissThis4MBC campaign, which donates $15 to MBC research for every *public* selfie or boomerang posted on social with the hashtag #KissThis4MBC