By Bridget Hallock, a Breast Cancer Action Community Leader
I get pink-fatigue big time, especially in October. The non-stop awareness, pink ribbons, and cause advertising gets to be overwhelming, and my post-cancer PTSD kicks into high gear. I feel the same way when I attend a walk or race.
The almost festive atmosphere, pink for miles, and warrior mindset is in some ways upsetting to me as it reminds me of all that has changed, all that I’ve lost personally, and all the friends I’ve lost due to metastatic disease. Please don’t get me wrong –I appreciate all the people who work tirelessly raising funds for support and research. I appreciate it and know that I am alive and well because of it!
Though I appreciate the sentiment, sometimes the reality of all the pretty pink ribbons can seem like an assault and it can be a constant, in-your-face reminder of all that cancer has taken away from us survivors. Plus, breast cancer is neither pretty nor pink. It is dark, ugly, hurtful, scary and devastating.
I am connected with many people through social media who have metastatic disease. These women tell me they feel ostracized by the awareness campaign and walks/races. The atmosphere at these events is focused on beating cancer, fighting until you win, surviving, kicking cancer’s a$$, etc. Where do these women fit in?
They don’t get to win, they won’t beat cancer as they will always fight it, and the relentlessly positive atmosphere at walks and races is claustrophobic, overwhelming and oppressive. 30% of us with early disease will end up with metastatic disease. The walks and races are meant to bolster the spirits of those with early stage disease, but it is metastatic disease which kills, not early stage.
The walks and races are also meant to raise awareness, but aren’t we already aware of early stage disease? Aren’t we all aware that screening exists? Shouldn’t we focus more on preventing the cancer from happening in the first place, and creating more treatment options so those with metastatic disease can have a longer quality of life?
If any of you are feeling like me and want to know what you can do to help, are feeling sad that you can’t do anything to take away a cancer survivor’s pain, or wish you could stop the damn cells from growing out of control, then I have a suggestion for you: donate to research and advocacy.
Don’t just mindlessly “pink” by purchasing something with the pretty color and ribbon, or attend a walk or race that propagates the myth that this event will help survivors beat cancer. Instead choose a reputable charity, an organization doing work that you respect, and give them the resources they need to make a difference, like Breast Cancer Action. It is because of research that I am alive and cancer-free today, and it is through research and advocacy by organizations like Breast Cancer Action that I hope my children will never have to deal with cancer.