Pink October

Submitted to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Sept. 2014

By Gillian Sharma

It hasn’t even arrived yet, but I am already looking forward to when October is over. Not to say there aren’t good things about October – fall colors, my younger son’s birthday, my birthday for that matter. But October is overwhelmingly BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH. Around this time of year, I get the urge to do something. A couple of years ago, I sent an opinion piece to the Daily News. I ranted on Facebook about the sexual innuendo-laden games. Last year, I complained about teens wearing I HEART BOOBIES wrist bands, so they could snicker and say the word “breast.” I refused to wear pink because, after all, breast cancer is not a pink, fluffy, happy disease, but a nasty, insidious monster that kills and disfigures.

Everyone who knows me also knows how I feel about pink washing; how so often, little, if any, money from the purchase of pink products goes to something that matters – like research to find a cure. Do you know what tipped me over the edge last year? A picture a reader sent to the Daily News that was published. You know, on the inside cover. A picture of a teacher who had dyed his hair and beard pink, in honor of BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, as a challenge to his students to donate candy (or money to buy candy, I can’t remember which) for a community event.

This made me stop and think, and it finally dawned on me that October is not about helping those living and dying with breast cancer, or supporting research; it’s all about BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, which is becoming little more than an excuse to buy pink crap, giggle about a sexy cancer, or make money for one’s business.

I want this year to be different. Do you know someone with cancer? I would like to challenge you to do something to make a difference. Instead of buying pink ribbon t-shirts, pink toilet paper, and yogurts with pink lids to “do your bit”, you could make a meal for a cancer patient who is too tired to cook, or offer to drive them to radiation treatment, which can often be a trip down to Lewiston every day for several weeks. You could clean house or pay someone to do it for a cancer patient who is too tired or sick to handle the work, look after someone’s children, or grocery shop. You get the idea. The worst thing you can say is, “Let me know if I can do something.” Offer, then do it.

And remember all the other cancer patients who happen to have an un-sexy cancer, like bladder, lung, or colon cancer. We don’t generally wear ribboned t-shirts for them, or buy yogurts with specially colored lids for their cancer, or have a month long “celebration”. They deserve our time and attention, too.


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