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Darryle Pollack

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What Color Is Breast Cancer?

Posted: 01/11/10 02:35 PM ET

Black. Of course. But also fire engine red. And periwinkle blue.

The colors were showing up as Facebook status updates. Turns out women were supposed to put only the color of the bra you were wearing at that moment. And somehow this meme was supposed to be connected to breast cancer awareness.

I sat there looking at my status box--struck, and stuck--not sure if I should play the game or spoil the party.

What color is cancer? What do you say if you don't wear a bra anymore because you don't have breasts?

Some survivors were playing along; Some were offended. I could see both sides. Early in my journey, after losing my breasts, every Victoria's Secret ad was a stab in the chest. By now, 14 years later, my emotional scars have faded like the real ones.

The colors circled the globe overnight. Controversy erupted in the blogosphere. Activists correctly complained that this was awareness without action. No one could agree on whether this helped or hurt the cause. No one stepped forward to take credit--or blame--for starting the meme.

Here's my theory--someone somewhere started this as a game--fun, flirtatious, frivolous. Someone else along the way felt it needed some substance, added her own spin--and clicked on a light of awareness.

And the story became more than colors--it's numbers. People are talking about breast cancer; many women went beyond the meme and took action on their own. In one day, Susan B. Komen saw its Facebook fan page jump from 135 members to 135,000.

And this meme makes Breast Cancer awareness not pink, but green--for a grassroots movement that springs right out of the social media space.

I never did fill in my own status box. As an artist and a survivor--I think all color is wonderful--and so is all the conversation.

 

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