Every October I find myself wondering what's next. I find myself wondering what outlandish new breast cancer awareness campaign will surface. I wonder what new product will emerge transformed into its new temporary, tacky, pink version.
It's Breast Cancer Industry Month and the pink floodgates have opened. And again we ask: what have all these pink ribbon products and promotions done for women living with and at risk of breast cancer?
Pink ribbons are for breast cancer, dark blue ribbons are for colon cancer, and so on. But cancer is more a disease of genes than one of specific tissues, so the specialization of our research and educational efforts based solely on a given cancer's tissue of origin could have detrimental aspects.
It may surprise many people, but aside from the deadline, little has changed in breast cancer over the past 50 years. Breast cancer awareness is at an all time high. Yet there is an appalling lack of results to show for all of it.
The story of the pink ribbon is the story of how breast cancer prevention has been marginalized and the power of people to stand up to corporations. Few people know that the pink ribbon began as a peach ribbon for prevention.
You all remember that little government shutdown a handful of weeks back don't you? Doctors in lab coats stood behind members of Congress as we all worried about children currently battling cancer and those newly diagnosed.
An alarming 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime. That represents a 40 percent increase in just a generation. If the NFL teams on those pink-ribboned fields were losing that badly the fans would be booing and the owners would be swapping out coaches and players.
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, and check yourself not just for lumps, but for ALL the signs and symptoms that could possibly indicate breast cancer."
Individuals living with stage IV/metastatic breast cancer don't like October, all the pink hoopla and the countless pink ribbons that appear everywhere. They feel they do not fit the image of the strong, brave and positive-minded warrior in pink.
I now see October as PINK. I envision rows of white cupcakes with pink butter cream icing. After all, I was diagnosed October 4th. For me, October 4th has become my second birthday and I celebrate that day every year.
I saw the people who have held my hand, poked me with needles, taken my vital signs and treated my cancer, and I saw them for once in a non-medical way. They were not in white coats and sneakers or scrubs -- they were laughing, eating and drinking cocktails.
What's wrong with the pink ribbon anyway? I've been asked this question more than a few times. It seems like a fair question, so I thought I'd share some thoughts about why the pink ribbon has lost its appeal to many, including me.