Wearing a pink ribbon is a non-confrontational way of putting a face on breast cancer and inviting the people you encounter to engage you in conversation.
Although anytime is a good time to help people learn about breast cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness Month brings it to the attention of the general public potentially giving you a wider audience for sharing information, support, or assistance. The way you interact with people will affect how willing they are to receive what you have to offer.
For instance, how would you feel if you were walking down the street on your way to run an errand during your lunch break and I stopped you and asked you if you had a mammogram recently? What if I turned to you in the grocery market checkout line and began reciting breast cancer statistics? What would you do if we were sitting next to each other waiting for a meeting to begin and I introduced myself as a breast cancer survivor and began describing my chemotherapy treatment?
Chances are you would feel offended, threatened, annoyed, or some other emotion and would try to get away from me as soon as possible.
Now, imagine you see me adorned with a pink ribbon minding my own business as I walk down the street, stand in the checkout line, or sit waiting for a meeting. Of course, you might not notice my pink ribbon or you could just ignore it and me. But then again, maybe you will see the pink ribbon and it will spark a thought.
Perhaps it jogs your memory and you scrounge around your purse looking for the mammogram slip your doctor gave several months ago. After pulling out the crumpled form along with your cell phone, you call to make a mammogram appointment. Possibly, you are curious and open a dialogue with me by asking me if I am a breast cancer survivor or why I am wearing a pink ribbon (this has happened to me, although not in the grocery market). Maybe a friend who is undergoing breast cancer treatment comes to mind so you sneak out of the meeting and call her volunteering to drop off dinner tomorrow.
Do you see what I mean?
Why I Wear a Pink Ribbon in October
Wearing a pink ribbon during Breast Cancer Awareness Month is personal for me. I am a breast cancer survivor. It is part of who I am, now.
Each morning during October, I attach a pink ribbon to whatever I am wearing for several reasons.
One is that I want to remind the people who see me that breast cancer affects real people devastating our lives and too often killing us. It could be you or someone you love. Breast cancer mostly affects women, but a small number of men get breast cancer, too.
Another reason is that by wearing a pink ribbon, I am inviting you to engage in a conversation with me at a level that feels comfortable to you, but only if you choose to talk with me. It is your choice.
As odd as this may sound, wearing a pink ribbon also acts as a sort of safety mechanism for me. It cautions me that even though I might feel like ranting and raving about toxins in the environment, complacency about cancer in our society, or government agencies failing to protect our health, I realize that throwing a fit is not going to encourage you or anyone else to talk with me about breast cancer.
A Mammogram Saved My Life
Saying “A mammogram saved my life.” is an overly dramatic and not completely correct statement but it does grab your attention.
My breast cancer tumor was buried against my chest wall and was not detectable to the touch. A mammogram first alerted my doctor and then me that I might have breast cancer. The ultrasound that followed the mammogram indicated that I likely had invasive breast cancer and the biopsy confirmed it.
I have shared parts of my breast cancer journey in other posts like Life after Cancer – Volunteering, New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 – Hit the Reset Button, and Life after Cancer – Gardening so I will not repeat myself here. I am grateful to be alive every single day.
Tragically, not everyone who has a mammogram and later receives the dreaded diagnosis “You have breast cancer.” will make it through treatment and live. My heart is full of grief for these women and men and the people who love them.
Having a mammogram could help you or someone you love to survive breast cancer so I urge you to get regular mammograms.
Pink Merchandise Exploitation
Pink everything is everywhere during October.
Companies and even nonprofit organizations cash in on pink and beribboned merchandise. Some of the products you will see for sale include wristbands, t-shirts, key chains, lingerie, coffee mugs, jewelry, tote bags, Christmas tree ornaments, sunglasses, hats, shoes, pens, candy, stickers, bottled water, party decorations, posters, tools, and cosmetics.
Although some companies contribute a portion of the proceeds to breast cancer research or support services for women and men undergoing treatment, many do not.
I know that the plethora of pink ribbons and other pink items is upsetting for some women and men for a variety of reasons. Moreover, the sheer volume of stuff available ensures that you will run across items that may offend you. For instance, I cannot decide which is worse the t-shirt with the statement “Save Second Base” or the button that says, “I have chemo brain. What’s your excuse?”
However, I admit that I have purchased pink Breast Cancer Awareness gear over the years.
In 2012 before my breast cancer diagnosis, on a whim, I bought an Oakland Raiders baseball cap during the NFL’s annual “Crucial Catch” breast cancer awareness campaign.
As a newly minted breast cancer survivor in 2016 needing tennis shoes, I selected a black pair with pink accents and a tiny pink ribbon on the heel.
Before October rolled around in 2017, I carefully selected two pink ribbon brooches that I could see myself alternately wearing for 31 days a year for years to come. I also bought a sheet of pink ribbon stickers so I could attach one to the letter I was writing to Scott Pruitt, who was the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency at the time.
Last October, I attended a Raiders game in Oakland with my sister and my niece. I was wearing a pink ribbon pin and my pink Raiders baseball hat. The Raiders team colors are black and silver so when you are walking around among thousands of people wearing a pink hat you really stand out. Maybe no one noticed, but maybe someone did.
If even one woman or one man who sees a pink ribbon worn by anyone or on anything survives breast cancer because she or he first got a mammogram and then treatment, I am willing to wear a pink ribbon every October forever.
Featured Image at Top: Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Ribbon and Pink Speech Bubbles – Photo Credit Shutterstock/hidesy
- Breast Cancer Awareness – Mr. Pruitt Do Your Job
- Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Complacency
- Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Our Environment
- Life after Cancer – Gardening
- Life after Cancer – Volunteering
- Living Downstream – Book Review
- Love Canal – Book Review
- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
- Silent Spring – Book Review
- Cancer Facts & Figures 2018 – American Cancer Society (From this webpage you can download a report containing data about all cancers including breast cancer.)
- MammographySavesLives – The American College of Radiology (This website provides a broad range of information including survivor stories and a tool for finding mammogram facilities in your area.)
- Mammography – Susan G. Komen (This webpage has good information but the video is antiquated.)
- My First Mammogram Dispelled Every Myth About the Procedure – Borgess Medical Center (This is a video of Heather McGregor getting her first mammogram. Of course, there is variation in equipment and facilities, but this video will give you a good idea of what a mammogram is like. In my experience, the technician does not share images during the exam.)
- National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (This webpage provides information about free and low-cost screenings in the United States.)