I struggle with this month every year since my breast cancer.
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.
I rant about this every year in October. Cancer is so more than breast cancer awareness. It is wrong that the “popular” cancers get more “awareness,” research and support dollars than less-known cancers. All cancer patients need support and research for all types and stages of cancer.
October “pink” bothers me. I am quiet during National Breast Cancer Awareness month every year since my first year. I hunker down during this month each year and just try to get through it. I suspect I am not the only one. Am I a bad sport? Possibly. Am I embarrassed? Definitely.
I am a breast cancer survivor and a melanoma survivor. I am upset about the lack of support and research for advanced breast cancer stages and for all other cancer types. I get that awareness and early detection are important for breast cancer survival and I think we get it, but hey, other cancers need answers, too. I am embarrassed by the attention breast cancer gets.
I am a “fortunate” breast cancer survivor because I had an early-stage very ordinary kind of breast cancer. At diagnosis, I didn’t really understand or appreciate that, but now I get it. Even after multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, neuropathy, osteopenia, and more recently, broken bones in my foot, I will still call my own cancer pale pink. I am currently cancer-free and I have pretty good odds that my breast cancer and melanoma won’t come back.
Why is the focus on early stage breast cancer when more research and treatment options are needed for the much more serious metastatic breast cancer? What about all the other cancers out there in advanced and early stages? Don’t all cancer survivors need support? Don’t all cancers need awareness and research dollars? As a pale pink survivor, this is crazy making. I want to hide and sneak through October, and wait for the pink to go away for 11 more months.
During Breast Cancer Awareness month, it’s embarrassing to watch everything from yogurt cartons to buildings turn pink. All stages and types of cancer need patient support, research dollars, treatment and media attention. Let’s think beyond pink. Let’s think beyond early-stage breast cancer prevention and treatment, too. We need solutions to apply when cancer has spread—especially then.
People with late-stage cancers or uncommon cancers would be justified in feeling angry. Those of us with pale pink cancer have a responsibility to help because we know what cancer is—we have been there. We know the pain, fear, and worry even though our experience was different. We can be part of the solution, not the problem, by speaking out about this. Tell major companies that they need to support all 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, make sure most of the money goes to actually pay for cancer patient support or for cancer research.
Lobby for all cancers. Raise public awareness and support. Hospitals and clinics could offer general cancer support groups or provide one-on-one volunteer support for each type of cancer—not just pink. Think past pink. Unfortunately, there are many other colors in the cancer rainbow.