Tag Archives: Pink October

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!

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*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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Follow the Money Trail$: Keeping your Contributions Local

I had the chance to speak at a local fundraiser last night. Because we are on the cusp of going from Ovarian Cancer Awareness month to Breast Cancer Awareness month, I thought I would share what I read last night and tell you why it is so important to make charitable donations to your local community whenever possible. I feel SO incredibly lucky living here in the Hudson Valley of NY, to have the supportive programming of the Health Alliance Foundation Oncology Support Program. You don’t know what exists out there until you really need it.

Here is what I shared…

“My neighbor was recently diagnosed with cancer. Unlike me, he has no family; he is an older gentleman who lives alone with his dog. When we spoke, I could tell he was confused and overwhelmed by all the information his doctors threw at him. He has to travel 2 hours each way to get to some appointments. I could see in his face that he was sinking and I was grateful to be able to throw him a life preserver. I told him about the Health Alliance Oncology Support Program, about the social workers who will sit with him and come to appointments with him. His face lit up when I mentioned the possible assistance with gas and groceries. We didn’t even get into the healthy lifestyle and exercise classes, cooking and gardening programs, and great writing and art classes too. I know there are so many people like my neighbor who may struggle without the support of family and a network of friends. The Oncology Support Program is there for people like him.

I didn’t really come into the OSP fold when I was freshly diagnosed. I turned to writing my blog, Melissa’s Healing Hope, as a way to process and heal emotionally. I tried attending a group at OSP early on, but ­­ didn’t identify myself as a survivor because I hadn’t survived anything yet, that dark cloak of surgery and treatments still about to fall. While the ladies in the group were very kind, I felt out of touch as a younger person with cancer.

It was after treatment ended that I found myself back at the Oncology Support Program. With a head full of soft peach fuzz, I struggled to make my post cancer life fit into something recognizable. I wondered who I was now and how to continue living with this cloud of fear and uncertainty looming over me as a survivor of hereditary breast cancer. At that time I was acutely feeling the lack of a young women’s support group in the area and considered starting a group of my own when I learned that a new Young Women’s Support group had just formed at the OSP. ­I found harbor there. There was safety and a normalizing just being with people who KNOW… who get the sacrifices of being a younger person with cancer, who know the exquisite pain of uncertainty. In this space I began to no longer feel like I was barely surviving, but found my new footing as a Thriver!

Instead of getting lost in the “What-If’s of a post cancer life, what keeps me going is my mission to give back. I give what I have and that is my time. I do this through my work as a Life Coach holding space for other people’s search for a fulfilling and meaningful life, and in sharing my voice through writing. I have recently started to co-facilitate that same young women’s support group that was my safe harbor, and just this week completed the Nurturing Neighbor training program that offers peer mentorship to other people diagnosed with cancer. I can never un-do this cancer experience, and I will never be who I was before all of this, but I like to think that I now have this gift of experience and authentic compassion, that I can show up and be there for others who are diagnosed with cancer or met with other life challenges, so they won’t feel so isolated and alone.

But there are other ways, very tangible ways to give. Giving gives back to the Giver. When you support the Oncology Support Program through the Health Alliance Foundation your charitable contributions improve the lives of people living with cancer here in the Hudson Valley. Thank you!”

…So where is the need at and who is answering the call right in your own backyard? Find out how you can help. I have previously written about shady foundations  who pocket large percentages of charitable contributions. What I love about the Health Alliance Foundation is that 100% of the donations go directly to the local people it serves, so that residents of the Hudson Valley hopefully never have to choose between having a treatment or skipping it to pay the electric bill.

Thank you for taking the time to read this!

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