Doris Cardwell received a life-changing diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer in 2007. While undergoing treatment, she co-founded a mentor program for the cancer center treating her. She also created community events to educate, encourage and empower people regarding cancer. Doris was the first Survivorship Community Outreach Liaison for her local cancer center. She is an advocate, educator and encourager on issues facing cancer survivors. Doris is a wife, mother, empty nester, survivor of life and lover of all things coffee. An avid speaker and blogger, she is available at www.justdoris.com.
"All cancers deserve the attention that breast cancer gets in October. To my brothers and sisters with 'non-pink' cancer and other diseases: it does not mean we don't care."
I had a rare form of breast cancer. When all things pink landed in my lap upon diagnosis, I felt uncomfortable. For many reasons, the least of which being I didn't like pink.
I was uncomfortable because for all the information given, very little of it applied to me. It didn't apply because my type of breast cancer was rare. I didn't want cancer to become who I was; I am a person and cancer is a disease. I was more than a disease, I was a wife, a mother, an active community member.
Fast forward to twelve years later. I feel better about pink: it raises money to meet needs and fund research. But, there is this other thought that troubles me. All cancers deserve the attention that breast cancer gets in October.
I have many ladies in my life affected by ovarian cancer. Ovarian is often called the silent killer, because it is usually diagnosed in the later stages. Many people have no idea that the awareness color for ovarian cancer is teal.
I have met and lost many friends with blood cancers, brain cancers and a plethora of other diseases. ALS is brutal. I know someone who fights tirelessly for more research and dollars to find a cure. It affects her family. Why is it that breast cancer gets so much more attention than others?
Please don't misunderstand; I am thankful for the dollars directed to research. I am thankful for the education on early detection. But I can't help but wonder why breasts garner more attention than lungs, throats or brains. Not to mention the fact that men and women are dealing with metastatic breast cancer. There is nothing pretty or pink about that.
I said all of this, at the risk of being misunderstood, to say this: All cancers and diseases deserve our attention, dollars and support. Sickness is sickness, and while good things can come of it, it is never fun. Raising money, supporting those we love, fighting for what affects us is all important. It is worthy. It is needed. It helps. But don't forget that there are many fighting who hate October. Sometimes those dying from it hate what feels like fluff or the glamorizing of the disease. Those who have lost a loved one may feel sad. Those with other cancers or diseases may feel like their disease is not as important.
I celebrate each October that I am here to live my life. I am aware of and remember those who are not. I continue to encourage those with other cancers. I continue to work on survivorship issues for all cancers in October. I give money to support other diseases. One doesn't need to cancel out the other, they can coexist.
If people in your tribe or group have metastatic breast or another cancer or disease, be aware. October is a wonderful month with many benefits. But it also can bring some negative feelings and emotions as well. Be sensitive to the needs of those around you.