Cancer is more than cancer awareness and it isn't just about the "popular" cancers.
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Sometimes October “pink” stinks. I am quiet during Breast Cancer Awareness month each year. I hunker down and just try to get through it. Am I being a bad sport? Maybe.
As a two-time cancer survivor, including breast cancer, I lament the lack of support and research for other stages, grades and types of breast cancer, and all other cancers. Yes, awareness and early detection are important for breast cancer survival but
other issues with cancer are important too.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, one of my doctors told me I was very fortunate — to have an early stage garden-variety of breast cancer. I didn’t feel fortunate, though, not at all. I didn’t appropriately appreciate or comprehend his remark at the time. Now I get it. Even after surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and neuropathy, I am still going to call this cancer pale pink. As far as I know, I am not currently living with cancer and I have pretty good odds that breast cancer won’t return. (My melanoma is a different story for another day).
Why does breast cancer, especially early stage breast cancer, get so much attention, especially in October? What about metastatic breast cancer? What about all the other cancers in all the other parts of the body — and their early and advanced stages? Aren’t all cancer survivors in need of support? Aren’t all cancers in need of research dollars? To a pale pink survivor, this just feels crazy. I want to slink quietly around through October and wait for the pink to go away for another year.
I know I am not the only early stage breast cancer survivor who is bothered by this. It is actually kind of embarrassing, especially during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to watch everything from yogurt cartons to building construction materials turn pink for a month. Some of us put our heads down all the way through October. Come on people, think beyond pink. Think beyond early stage breast cancer prevention and treatment. We need solutions when the cancer has spread — especially then. We need research to cure that too.
People with late stage cancer and uncommon cancers are justified in feeling angry and bitter. Those of us who have pale pink cancer have a moral obligation to help. We know what cancer is — we’ve lived it too. We understand the pain, the fear and the worry. Let’s be part of the solution, not the problem.
How can we address this? Make major companies aware that they need to get on board in supporting other types of cancer research. As pale pink survivors, support organizations and research institutions and hospitals that finance, research and treat all
cancers. When you purchase pink products, pay careful attention to how many research dollars are truly getting donated by big businesses to help fight cancer.
Lobby for all cancers to be addressed. Raise public awareness and support. Hospitals and clinics could offer support groups or provide one-on-one volunteer support for each type of cancer — not just breast cancer. Every cancer would also benefit from strong online presences including websites and Facebook.
You would think we, as a society, are equally supportive to all cancers but we are not.
Think past pink
. Unfortunately, there are many colors in the cancer rainbow.