Actions Not Awareness
Last updated: January 2023
I have a love-hate relationship with October. I like seeing the leaves change color, gearing up for the coming holidays and crisp cool nights. It's also breast cancer awareness month (BCAM). I hate seeing the color pink in every store, random businesses creating profit-making products, and the social media copy-and-paste "games."
It's not awareness
Every year, I become frustrated because this kind of deadly cancer is sexualized. There are cryptic social media copy/paste games, and the one that makes me angry is the call for posting selfies with a pink lipstick or wearing a bikini top. Men and women are going thru awful treatments and painful surgical procedures, and others are dying. It's not a joke to me. Actions that minimize how severe and deadly cancer can anger me. I always get the same answer. Any kind of awareness is good. I might understand if conversations about breast cancer didn't exist, like in the 1970s.
However, in the 40 yrs. the pink ribbon became associated with breast cancer, and the ads for new medications everywhere, saying it's for awareness, it doesn't fly. Am I being angry and insensitive? Isn't any attention good? I cannot apologize for my strong opinions and objections to reducing breast cancer to a cute, sexy marketing campaign. It's a severe and potentially deadly disease that kills many YOUNG women and men every day/every year.
Each year The American Cancer Society publishes statistics regarding cancer in the United States. Earlier this year, ACS estimated there would be almost 300,000 new cases of breast cancer, both men and women combined. They also estimated that 43,780 men and women would die from breast cancer this year.1 That's 120 people every single day. It may not seem like a large number but consider this: 120 people is the equivalent of an Embraer 190 aircraft used by JetBlue and American Airlines crashing to the ground every day or two Greyhound buses full of people crashing.
Is raising awareness crucial to you? Perhaps sharing meaningful, uncomfortable facts instead of participating in Facebook games might have more impact. For example, maybe start a social media fundraiser for a local organization that helps people in need or a larger organization that supports research for the kind of breast cancer that kills - metastatic breast cancer.
Do you know someone living with breast cancer? Offer to be their chauffeur to appointments or their grocery shopping. Send a card or make a phone call to say hello. That will have a considerable impact. You can feel good knowing that you made someone happy.
All in the name of awareness
To raise awareness or money for breast cancer, restaurants may offer a pink cocktail even though studies show that alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer in women.2 I've even seen pink liquor bottles in stores. Last year on Twitter, women were encouraged to post selfies wearing bikini tops or bras for breast cancer. Breast cancer is a disfiguring disease. There is no justification for that. Worst of all are the businesses that create t-shirts or bracelets for BCAM that keep all of the profits. They do it because they know people will unwittingly buy them without realizing that none of the profits - not even a percentage will go to an organization or research. Profiting off a deadly disease is inexcusable.
Am I angry? Perhaps, but I am mad because I care. I don't want to be complacent. I want to be part of the change I want to see from others.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.