PUBLISHED THURSDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2013
Dig out your "Save the Boobies" button, "Real Men Wear Pink" t-shirt and pink ribbon yard stake – it's Pinktober! Unless you've been living under a rock since the first Susan G. Komen for the Cure® (then the Susan G. Komen Foundation) event in 1982, you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, joining the pink sea of survivors at Race for the Cure was uplifting and unforgettable. With four rounds of chemo down and two more to go, I held my bald head high as I struggled to walk a mile, arm in arm with my family and friends. Two years later, Mom and I proudly walked 60 miles to cross the finish line at the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure.
Celebrating as a survivor helped put cancer behind me. Been there, done that. I had survived cancer, and I was moving on with my life. Embracing the "breast cancer survivor" label gave me an excuse to shop for hot pink, this time with a percentage of my purchase benefiting a breast cancer charity.
When we found out last year my breast cancer had returned in my lungs, liver and bones, the same label that comforted me during my initial diagnosis haunted me the second time around. I couldn't even shop for toilet paper during the month of October without being reminded I was no longer a cancer survivor.
Last week a fellow metavivor (metastatic breast cancer survivor) posted on Facebook about "going postal" in line at the post office. When she heard the clerk bragging about dollars raised with the breast cancer awareness stamp, she felt compelled to tell shoppers that while she was grateful for the donation to our cause, those dollars aren't going to keep her alive any longer.
Most people don't know their loved one didn't die from breast cancer...she/he died from metastatic breast cancer--when the cancer cells leave the breast and settle in a critical organ such as the lungs, liver, bones or brain. And even though 30 percent of breast cancers will become metastatic, less than five percent of breast cancer funds are actually directed toward fighting metastatic disease. Because of that statistic, there are a lot of hard feelings about PINK among the metastatic breast cancer community.
As a result, metavivors are advocating for change: we want 30 percent of breast cancer funds directed to fight metastatic disease, because 30 percent of funds should benefit 30 percent of patients.
After much consideration this Pinktober, I have decided to sit on both sides of the fence. I will advocate for change while embracing PINK. I pledge to never again scowl at the football players' hot pink shoes; I will not grumble when a store clerk tries to sell something because a percentage of proceeds benefits breast cancer awareness; and I refuse to scoff at the pink-labeled toilet paper.
Maybe my new perspective stems from believing a positive attitude helps fight my day-to-day battle with cancer, or maybe I'm just riding the high of last month's clear PET scan.(I am officially what some people call "dancing with NED." NED = No Evidence of Disease = WOO-HOO!!!)