By Gillian Sharma
Did you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month? It’s hard not to notice when our attention is drawn to the pinkness of NFL players, toilet paper, yogurt pots, and slippers. Did you know September was Childhood Cancer Awareness month, Leukemia and Lymphoma Cancer Awareness month, Ovarian Cancer Awareness month AND Prostate Cancer Awareness month, or that November is Lung Cancer Awareness month? No? I’m not surprised. None of these cancers are as sexy as breast cancer and so don’t get the same attention. Some of us in the breast cancer community have mixed feelings about “Pinktober”, the whole notion of “awareness”, and the sexual overtones attached to breast cancer.
Many people feel they are doing their bit for breast cancer by buying pink products. It makes them feel good – warm and fuzzy inside. However, very few people take note of what they are actually contributing to when buying pink items. Some manufacturers simply use pink on their packaging as a marketing tool and actually contribute little or even no money. We might think we are giving money when we buy that yogurt. But if you read it carefully, you have to go online and type in some code in order to donate a tiny portion of the cost of the yogurt. Corporations are raking in the money in the guise of donating money to breast cancer.
Then there are Facebook games which are supposed to raise awareness. One year it was posting “I like it on the couch” or the counter or the bed – wherever you leave your purse. What does this do for breast cancer? It is trivializing breast cancer with its sexual innuendos. It reduces the disease to a game. Breast cancer is not a game; nor is it warm, fuzzy, or pink. It is a disease that kills 40,000 women every year in this country alone. Did you know there is no cure? We go through some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation upon initial diagnosis and have to live the rest of our lives wondering if it will come back. We never know – unless it does come back.
What we need is a cure, not awareness. How much more aware do we need to be? Why does it cost money to be aware? All it takes is every mother to teach every daughter to do self breast exams, get an annual clinical exam and mammograms at the appropriate age, and do something about it if you find a lump.
If you really want to do something for all those with breast cancer – and remember it affects 1 in 8, so even if you don’t know anyone now, you will – educate yourself and help find a cure. If you want to donate money, give it to research, not awareness. And if you find yourself thinking about playing those cutesy, pink awareness games, check out this website first: http://www.thescarproject.org Think before you pink.