The Pink Dawning of October

Ah well, another October is here. For many of you, it simply means the start of Fall, apple picking, tailgates (Go Blue), and sweater weather. But for those of us affected by breast cancer in any way, we often recognize October as “Pink-tober”, or what you might call Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Stores will have massive displays of pink merchandise, the pink ribbon will be everywhere, the NFL will slap some pink shoes and gloves on their players, and there will be pink walks/runs/bikes and more begging for your participation and your hard earned money. I am all for raising awareness and money for this cause and this community, but this month, I encourage you to be smart and avoid being pink-washed. 

What is pink-washing, you ask? Look no further than Urban Dictionary, “The act of using breast cancer to guilt consumers into buying a product which, if it had not been for the advent of aiding the cure for cancer, they would not have bought.”

Basically, pink-washing is the premise that you buy something that you may or may not have already been planning to buy, simply because it’s pink or has a pink ribbon on it and you think you are supporting something good. The reason this is such a problem is because more often than not, companies will simply slap a pink ribbon on their product and say that a portion of proceeds will go to “breast cancer awareness”. Uhhhhh…. What does that even mean? Aren’t we pretty darn aware now? Where does that money actually go? 

If you can’t easily tell where the money is going – don’t buy it. If it’s less than 30% of the market sale price being donated – don’t buy it. Is it going to an organization that you are unsure where their funding goes? Do some research and then consider whether or not you want to support that purchase and organization. Use Charity Navigator to learn more about organizations that bring in more than $1 million annually – be critical in looking at where their money goes.

Throughout this month, and any month really, consider supporting organizations that specifically fund research for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Two organizations that provide a significant emphasis on research are Metavivor and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Metavivor specifically raises money for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research, which is significantly under-funded. MBC is the only type of breast cancer that kills, yet it receives only 2-5% of research dollars. 

Let me be very clear – early detection DOES NOT SAVE LIVES. Research does. Early detection is wonderful because catching this disease early means you will have more options for treatment. Where did those treatment options come from? RESEARCH. The fact remains that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and approximately 1 in 3 of those women will later be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. If we do not find a cure for metastatic breast cancer, people will keep dying from this disease. 

Since my diagnosis in April 2018, I’ve had the privilege of knowing and meeting many young women living with MBC. However, in the last 9 months alone, I’ve had 2 friends find out that their early stage cancer had metastasized, and I’ve lost 3 friends to metastatic disease. This is completely unacceptable. 

I will openly admit – prior to my diagnosis I likely fell victim to pink-washing a time or two. I also completely bought into the myth that early detection saves lives. I thought that if I ever had cancer, as long as I caught it early I would be fine and not have anything to worry about. I cannot stress how wrong this is. Just because I caught mine at stage 2 doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods. That statistic of 1 in 3 becoming metastatic breast cancer sits with me every single day. I know better now, and I want to do better now – for myself, for my friends, and for everyone that may be affected by cancer in the future. 

If you are considering donating this month, and you want your donation to go toward vital research, consider supporting these organizations:
Breast Cancer Research Foundation

If you want your donation to go toward programming for the community, consider supporting:
The Breasties
Recovery on Water

There are many worthwhile places to donate, volunteer, or refer family/friends to – just do your research and make educated decisions. You can always find me on Instagram at @affirmationsfromcancer, and I am more than happy to chat!

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