October is the month when we are awash in pink. Pink ribbons, pink shirts, pink hats, pink pins, pink buckets of chicken, and even pink drill bits. The “pink equals awareness” campaign has been overwhelmingly successful in terms of marketing outreach. We all know that pink means breast cancer, but where it fails is where the message is lost about how breast cancer wrecks your life and your body.
When you are a breast cancer patient, you get bombarded with pink no matter what month. The postcard below is something that I picked up in the doctor’s office waiting area where it was left on the cancer patients’ info table. This postcard, in all of its tone deaf glory, implies that losing your hair to cancer treatment is something to ashamed of.
What breast cancer – or cancer of any kind – does to your body shouldn’t be a secret and it shouldn’t be associated with shame. If anything, the effects of cancer should become part of the national dialog. We are beyond awareness. We know that breast cancer exists, so let’s move beyond the rah-rah of pink ribbons and turn that attention toward helping women deal with the devastating effects of breast cancer.
Breast cancer is painful and disfiguring, and is such a big hit to your body image. I am a fairly confident person and yet I struggle with what I see in the mirror after surgery. I got to keep both breasts, which is such a blessing. I am lucky that my cancer was caught early enough that my treatment is a lumpectomy with radiation. Not every woman diagnosed with breast cancer is so lucky.
I ask that you not buy that pink toaster or that pink tie, and instead donate directly to organizations that help women fight breast cancer. I ask that you support Friends’ Place at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. They serve women of all income levels who have cancer and help them deal with how their bodies are changing/have changed. That’s anything from wigs and head scarves for when you lose your hair to chemo, to learning how to dress when you have only one breast. They also collect donations of wigs, breast prostheses, camisoles, hats and scarves for underserved populations and other cancer patients in need.
Part of getting through breast cancer is coming to terms with your “new” body. No one comes through breast cancer looking the same, and therefore feeling the same. The people at Friends’ Place are professionals who help cancer patients through that transition in one piece. Learn how you can support them today.
Read my continuing posts about breast cancer.