Where’s the Awareness in Pinktober?

It’s that dreaded PINK Month again—October, and I’m wondering where the Awareness is in Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

Awareness is NOT in merchandising, in little pink ribbons and pink coffee cups, and key chains and bracelets. Putting more plastic ephemera out into the world is not helping our world to heal, nor will it miraculously produce a cure. Follow the money trail on those pink proceeds. The last thing a woman undergoing cancer treatment needs is a pink ribbon gift. A pink ribbon isn’t a badge of courage. For me it was an ugly, mocking reminder and a label separating me from the rest of humanity. Wikipedia has an interesting entry on Pinkwashing.

Where is the Awareness—to speak of breasts and breast cancer for only this month of the year? The obligatory programming and interviews begin like clockwork starting October 1st, and yet cancer knows no such schedule. Cancer will reach into so many of our lives, and affect the lives of 1 in 8 women!

I hope that Awareness is in the fingers. That you know each curve and bump and nodule, every detail of your personal landscape and return for self exams again and again. Know your family history. Be proactive in your screenings. Free screenings may be available for you if you don’t have insurance.

I hope that Awareness gives voice to more questions, that each person becomes their own best advocate—that questions fall upon compassionate ears, to doctors who will hear the gravity and concern between words.

I hope that Awareness leads your charitable contributions, that you follow the money trail and avoid top heavy charities that pump millions into administrative costs, and use tools like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch. Decide if you want your money to go towards research and finding a cure, support services for cancer patients, helping support families, or education and public awareness. Seek to support people and organizations in your own local community as well.

Awareness is knowing that a mere 2% of funds raised in the name of Breast Cancer go to people with metastatic breast cancer. Metavivor.com states this:

“100% of breast cancer deaths occur because of metastasis, and almost 100% of people whose breast cancer has metastasized will die from it. In the United States alone, this means that more than 40,000 vibrant lives are lost each year.

          Despite these stark realities, the popular breast cancer fundraising movements give on average only 2% of their research funds to researching metastasis. Instead, their primary focus is on prevention, which does nothing to help those already diagnosed, and early detection, which does not impact those facing the ultimate death sentence of stage 4 breast cancer. And while only 6% – 10% of initial breast cancer diagnoses are metastatic, 30% of patients diagnosed with earlier stage breast cancer will eventually develop stage 4 breast cancer and die.” (continue)

Awareness is knowing that the language of war is not appropriate for someone who is weary from cancer. To talk of ‘battle’ and ‘fighting cancer’ does not resonate with everyone. It implies winning and losing, such as, “Oh, she lost her battle to cancer” and suggests that if only she had fought harder or longer, the outcome would have been different. Let us shift the language to Healing, and being present and honest about what Is. One cancer patient put it this way, “…instead of reaching for the traditional battle language, [life] is about living as well as possible, coping, acceptance, gentle positivity, setting short-term, achievable goals, and drawing on support from those closest to you.”

Awareness is knowing that projecting on someone how ‘Brave’ and ‘Inspirational’ they are is exhausting to uphold and sometimes deflating. It’s alright if you don’t know what to say. Don’t shy away. Compassionate silent presence is OK, as is the question, “What do you need?” or, “I am here for you.”

Each journey through cancer is a personal one, and some may gather strength or a sense of purposeful focus from clutching a pink ribbon key chain, or celebrate life with a pink ribbon tattoo. That’s cool. But let us look beyond the pink, beyond the month of October, and keep our Awareness on what brings healing, education, advocacy and support. Let’s put our money and energy in those places!


*MELISSA EPPARD was diagnosed with an aggressive form of hereditary breast cancer in 2014. Now a ‘Thriver’ she coaches people through difficult transitions, and helps others live their best lives at any age or stage. She seeks to ignite the spark of purposeful living and creative fire in everyone she meets, and lives by the belief that what you nurture will grow! www.MelissaEppardCoaching.com


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