Guess what month it is? Guess... what... month... it... is... October! That's right, it's October. From day one (rent day, boo) to 31 (Halloween, boo!) and all the days in between. Why is October special? Yes, that's right, it's pink ribbon awareness month, um, I mean Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sigh.
I'm not fond of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Here's why: I have breast cancer. Hundreds of thousands of women and men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. We're aware that breast cancer is out there. What most people aren't aware of however, is that there are different types of breast cancer, some more rare than others. Like mine. If you've been following my blog you'll remember that I have inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), which is the most aggressive, most misdiagnosed, and most underfunded of all types of breast cancer.
Why is it the most misdiagnosed? Because while everyone out there is proclaiming October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, no one is really telling people what to be aware of. Yes, go get your mammograms, but keep in mind that IBC doesn't always show up on a mammogram. Did you know that? Did your pink ribbon pen tell you that? No? Absolutely continue to do self exams every month, but remember that IBC rarely presents with a lump. Oh, you didn't know that either? What, the information wasn't absorbed into your brain from your pink ribbon hat? How about that mug you bought? Did it tell you that IBC grows so quickly that symptoms may appear overnight? No? I'm not surprised. How the hell is a "Save the Tatas" mug supposed to save a life? In truth, it should say, "Save your money, go home, get naked (at least from the waist up, waist down is optional, whatever floats your boat), and check yourself not just for lumps, but for ALL the signs and symptoms that could possibly indicate breast cancer."
Check yourself for lumps, of course, and then stand in front of a mirror and look for any of these symptoms of IBC:
1. One breast larger than the other (more than usual if you have naturally asymmetrical breasts).
2. Changes in skin, such as redness, which may look like a rash, or discoloration, which may look like a bruise, or a cat scratch.
3. Appearance of bumps on the breast, which may look like a bug bite.
4. A dimpling or pitting of the skin (called peau d'orange, as it seems to resemble the skin of an orange).
5. One or both breasts are warm to the touch.
6. One or both nipples are inverted.
OK great, you've been reminded to check yourself sometime during the month of October. But cancer doesn't follow a calendar. It has no idea what month it is, and it wouldn't care if it did. You need to continue to check regardless of the time of year, or the color of the month.
I'm going to step down from my soapbox for a second to fess up to being part of the problem. I recently bought a pair of socks with the pink ribbon, and one dollar, just one dollar, going to the American Cancer Society. In all fairness, I did need socks.
But please, don't be taken in by all the pink, and think that by purchasing that ribbon clad item, you're supporting breast cancer where it needs it the most. Research. More often than not, no money, not one cent, of the pink crapola you buy goes where they want you to think it goes. If you really want to support your loved ones, ask them which type, and which subtype, of cancer they have. Then ask what the official foundation for that type of cancer is, and send the money there. If you must buy ribbonwear, wear it knowing the responsibility and power that symbol has, that most people have forgotten. Awareness is old news. Funding for research is what helps save lives. The price you pay for your ribbon will be much higher if we don't look beyond the merchandise, and colors, and start sending the help where it's really needed.