Why As a Survivor, I Hate Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October used to be my favorite month. There was all the excitement of Halloween, obviously, but there was very little that brought me more joy than jumping into that pile of leaves my father had just spent three hours raking in front of our house.
As I got older, I still loved October. The shift from an oppressive summer to a cool fall, crisp mornings where you take a deep breath in and look up at a bright sun. There is nothing better.
Somewhere between leaf-jumping and cool morning walks to work, I became assaulted in October with Breast Cancer Awareness Month (#BCAM if you’re following along on social media) and it’s ruined October for me forever.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful. As someone who was treated for breast cancer in 2011, I truly appreciate every person who donates time and/or money toward breast cancer research and programs designed to assist women (and men) dealing with this disease, but it’s reached a point where it almost feels meaningless.
Somewhere along the way, the pink ribbon shifted from being a symbol of support to a marketing ploy. A friend recently sent me a picture of pepper spray branded for BCAM, and I’ve seen products ranging from sugary snacks to hair dryers promoting “Pinktober,” and every time I see it, I make a mental note never to purchase anything from that company ever again.
The pink ribbon, at least the way that I had interpreted it, used to stand for research, for innovation, for finding a cure — for supporting women. Today, it feels like it has jumped the shark and now means “selling this T-shirt, selling this phone case, selling this yogurt that is full of sugar and is not good for you to begin with.”
My opinion may be an unpopular one, but has anyone ever stopped to think that a woman going through treatment might not want to see a display at their local drugstore that consists of a pink hair dryer, pink shampoo bottles and a pink hairbrush as she just watched the first strands of her hair fall out in the shower that morning from chemotherapy?
They don’t want to eat your cereal because it’s in a pink box, buy that hammer because the handle is pink and they most certainly do not want to wear your BCAM pink scarf with skulls on it. They want to feel better. They want you to stop looking at them with pity and they want you to stop using their fight to sell your products.
Statistics say that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, and chances are you will know someone who has to battle this disease, so instead of buying pink cookies, why don’t you make that woman some cookies, bring them to her and ask how she’s feeling? Instead of buying products that say they support breast cancer charities, why don’t you donate to that charity directly so you know where your money is going?
The bottom line is that I have no idea what pink products my friends and family may own, but I do know every single person who reached out while I was going through chemo, through radiation, through it all, and that is more impactful than any pink ribbon I see around town.