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As “Pinktober” approaches, I’m spreading the message that breasts are not needed to live a full life after breast cancer surgery.
“Pinktober” is approaching, and it’s hard to believe another year has gone by. Every October, the same old, regular merchandise gets rebranded pink and starts appearing in stores, popping up in our social media feeds and we are suddenly bombarded with a full month of breast cancer awareness events and fundraisers.
There are many mixed emotions for me when it comes to Pinktober.
Living with metastatic breast cancer I don’t feel like a winner. My disease is incurable. I don’t feel like a survivor, although I guess I could be considered a thriver at eight and a half years. Mostly, I am coexisting with my cancer, and a lot of the time I am alone and misunderstood, especially with the common misconception that breast cancer is “the good kind of cancer.”
Last October, I participated in my first ever breast cancer awareness walk with my Flattie peers for Stand Tall AFC (Aesthetic Flat Closure). I was lost amongst a sea of pink pom-poms, loud noises, cheering and excitement with people whose knowledge of metastatic breast cancer came from pharmaceutical advertisements.
As a metastatic Flattie, the whole experience left me feeling like I didn’t have a place and I couldn’t relate to the enthusiasm and toxic positivity surrounding me. I know I won’t be beating my cancer.
After last year’s event, I didn’t think I would participate in a walk again. Yet when I was asked by my Flattie friends to become an ambassador this October for Stand Tall AFC and start a team in Ventura, California (my hometown) for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides walk, I said yes. I realized it’s not about me. It’s about bringing awareness to those aspects of breast cancer that are often not the focus of breast cancer awareness month.
On Oct. 8, I will be walking for two reasons: to continue to give a voice to those who have died of metastatic breast cancer and to advocate for aesthetic flat closure by using these large events to reach a wider audience.
Stand Tall AFC was created a couple of years back when my Flattie friends were denied a booth at a large breast cancer event. Flat was not welcome. Reconstruction was at the forefront. Instead of getting upset with the organizers of the event, these Flatties decided to band together and become even more visible by registering for walks and events across the country during the month of October, the ultimate goal being to unite and empower others by spreading the message of body positivity and women’s health after mastectomy.
Members and supporters of Stand Tall AFC are not walking to fundraise or for breast cancer awareness (everyone is aware). We are walking to advocate for flat closure to be presented as an option equal to reconstruction for anyone facing a mastectomy.
There are people in today’s times who think if you don’t have reconstruction, there’s something mentally wrong with you. We are trying to change these preconceived ideas and reiterate that a mastectomy is not a “free boob job” or a “boob job with a tummy tuck.”
Mastectomy is a major surgery with life-changing consequences, no matter which surgical reconstruction option is chosen. With one in eight people being diagnosed with breast cancer, there are more than 100,000 mastectomies being performed each year, according to Bringham and Women’s Hospital,and aesthetic flat closure needs to be offered as a surgical option.
While everyone else at these mainstream events will be wearing shades of pink, we will stand out and stand tall by wearing tee shirts with the likeness of Dr. Wendy Sage, the one-breasted character of “The Simpsons.” We will have brochures, posters and information on hand regarding aesthetic flat closure to distribute to anyone who is interested.
This Pinktober, Flatties will be showing up in droves all over the United States, Austria and Ireland at breast cancer awareness events and walks. There are close to 40 teams signed up as of now. Stand Tall AFC’s theme this year is “Takin’ FLAT to the Streets,” and we are doing just that. There will even be a caravan of Flatties with a 53-foot truck complete with a Stand Tall AFC banner, driven by Brita Nowak, showing up at multiple walks including Nashville, Tennessee; Asheville, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Atlanta.
This October, if you happen to be at a walk and see one of us in a Simpsons shirt, come say hello, or better yet, join us at a walk in your area or start your own team.
I am proud to be a part of Stand Tall AFC’s campaign. We are a grassroots organization but are getting larger by the day. We are stronger together and working hard to change the narrative. No breasts are needed to live a fulfilling life.
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