Coming to Terms With Pinktober


One breast cancer survivor learns to finally accept breast cancer awareness month.

It’s almost the middle of September, and my inbox is already filling with emails about breast cancer awareness month. I’ve received ads for all sorts of beautiful pink paraphernalia and I’ve been so tempted to click on those links to find the latest and greatest breast cancer t-shirt, mug or bracelet. And while all these items do bring awareness to breast cancer, they can become an irritant to those who’ve suffered through the trauma of their own breast cancer ordeal.

The first October after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was happy to be part of breast cancer awareness month. “Pinktober” almost felt like a secret sorority that I’d just been asked to join. The following year, after I’d gone through surgery to have both breasts removed, been through extensive radiation treatments and developed lymphedema, I was a little perturbed when those breast cancer awareness flyers started popping up everywhere. I didn’t want to see them in my mailbox. I felt betrayed when they appeared in my email inbox. Friends and family thought it was their duty to forward all sorts of pink goodies to me via Facebook or other social media outlets. Sometimes, I’d receive pink gifts from well-meaning friends who thought I might be overjoyed to add a new pink ribbon-laden trinket to my ever-growing collection. That was then, this is now.

This year, I’m over it. I know that no matter what I do or say, Pinktober is going to come and go as it has since Susan G. Komen and other prominent women have worked so hard to make sure breast cancer is brought to the forefront of our awareness. Now that I’m in a current state of NED (no evidence of disease) I don’t mind so much if every retailer I visit has the breast cancer ribbon slapped on everything from underwear to sippy cups. It’s OK. Really. No longer do I struggle with the materialism of marketing — it’s a given. October will henceforth and forever be known as breast cancer awareness month, or, as those affected by the disease in some way will come to know it as, “Pinktober.”

I guess I should be grateful for that little pink ribbon and all the work that’s gone into helping others become familiar with its symbolism. It’s become universal. There is no need for words to accompany the pink ribbon logo. Even children know what that symbol represents. So, I feel the need this year to tip my pink ribbon hat and salute the creativity and diligence of merchandisers everywhere.

October won’t be something I dread this year. I know there will always be the need for breast cancer awareness. If a little pink ribbon can help teach others about the need to fund and fight for more research regarding breast cancer, then I’m all for it. I won’t whine and complain when a distant relative ships me an insulated mug adorned with a hot pink ribbon. I won’t cringe or smirk when my hubby holds up a new t-shirt asking me if I’d like to have it. I’ll graciously accept these gifts in the way they’re intended, a symbol of love and compassion for all I’ve endured over the past three years. “Pinktober,” I’ll embrace you and I may even promote you if I can find something suitable to photograph and post on Instagram. Let me check my storage room, I’m sure there’s got to be something in there, something beribboned with pink.

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