October used to be my favorite month. There was all the excitement of Halloween, obviously, but there was very little that brought me more joy than watching my children jump into that pile of leaves I had just spent three hours raking in front of our house.
I still love October. The shift from an oppressive summer heat and humidity to a cool fall, crisp mornings where you take a deep breath in and look up at a bright sun. There is nothing better.
It’s October and the traditional fall colors are everywhere. We’re not talking about red and orange, but various shades of pink, the color of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Way out in the great sea of retail merchandising, a pink tsunami is building. October 1st, a tidal wave of pink ribbons started washing into almost every store in celebration of the “Pinktober.” What is this madness, you ask? If you’ve never experienced the mighty, rushing wind of pinkness, just walk into Wal-Mart. It is everywhere and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
The first week of June 2016 after I was diagnosed with breast cancer was daunting. 4 months later while still in the midst of surgeries, I was unprepared and caught off guard by what many knew to be Pinktober. My unfamiliarity with the term caused me to do some digging. What was it and how would it affect me? These were questions that needed answers. My curious mind wanted to know.
Understanding Pinktober was fairly easy, and with internet research I found the answers I’d been seeking. Pinktober was a phrase coined by the world in recognition of the most celebrated month of breast cancer awareness which is celebrated every October.
During breast cancer awareness month, medical professionals along with many others, spend time educating the public on early detection, warning signs, tests and procedures relating to the prevention and treatment of the disease. While sharing valuable information, some hospitals and medical facilities also offer free mammograms during this time. And while all diseases could benefit from a specific month of awareness, breast cancer seems to top the charts with publicity and recognition.
Months ahead of time, companies begin preparing to “pinkify” their merchandise in hopes the addition of a little pink ribbon will boost sales. Their intentions, while noble, aren’t always good. That little pink ribbon that appears on everything from packages of toilet paper to boxes of cereal has its own fancy name: “pinkwashing.” If you’re new to Pinktober, you’ve probably wondered about pinkwashing.
Pinkwashing is a phrase coined from two words: pink and whitewashing. Basically, what it means for retailers is dollar signs – and lots of them. Just before and during the month of October, retailers begin pledging a percentage of their income to breast cancer research. Some companies legitimately donate part of their sales to medical research, while others do not.
Pinktober can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first one. Not only does the massive pink wave swoop through the world of merchandising, many famous celebrities ride the wave, too. Breast cancer survivors like Joan Lunden, Robin Roberts, Kathy Bates, and so many others affected by breast cancer do their best to bring awareness to breast cancer by sharing their personal stories. And the month of October, with breast cancer awareness so prevalent in the public eye, gives them a great platform for reaching the public.
For those who’ve experienced breast cancer firsthand, we either love, loathe or tolerate the month of October. Most of us are thankful for a month devoted to breast cancer awareness, but it can feel like we’re drowning in an ocean of pink.
One thing is for sure, that little pink ribbon is a symbol known all over the world. No words need to be spoken. The meaning is clear. Breast cancer can affect men, women and even children. It touches the lives of all races and religions. Breast cancer is nasty business and changes lives forever. And if we can make sure people understand that, while offering information on prevention and care, then I say, “Brace yourself, the tide is rising, the water is gathering at your feet.”
May we all take a moment to remember those who’ve lost their fight with breast cancer and those who are currently fighting now. Pinktober, the month of breast cancer awareness, is the perfect time for remembering the seriousness of a disease with no current cure.
The reason I dislike it so much is because while buying pink spatulas and hairbands shows how much you “support” breast cancer awareness, you aren’t doing that much to help. It’s frustrating to see so many people buying pink chapstick and blindly saying “It donates to cancer!” when in reality barely any of that money is going towards research.
Another thing that makes me angry about this month is that no one wants to talk about the non-glamorous side of cancer. Cancer isn’t dressing up in a pink tutu with face paint and attending a football game with your friends. Cancer isn’t pink, it isn’t girly, and it isn’t pretty. It destroys families, lives, and childhoods. It’s a monster and has flips a family’s life upside down the day of diagnosis.
Amazingly, all this money being donated by your spending habits in October has not led to an increase in lives saved. Probably because companies that promote themselves to be a breast cancer charity don’t always spend their money on research. Susan G. Komen only spent 15% of funds raised in 2011 for research for a cure. On average, only 2% of these types of funds go to curing or finding treatments for metastatic, or terminal, cancer. Currently the average rate of survival for women with metastatic cancer is around 18-24 months. And yet only 2% of profits are going to this.
Pinktober is frustrating to me. It feels like companies and organizations are profiting off our personal pain to make billions of dollars, and everyone is feeding into it thinking that they’re doing good. Honestly, you’d be better off taking the $20 you’re going to buy from a breast cancer shirt you found at Walgreens and donating that directly to a charity like Breast Cancer Research Foundation that donates 91% of its donations to awareness and research. Post and talk about getting yourself checked, donate money to a charity that actually does something, or help someone get educated. Because those that say “it will never be me”, or “I’m too young”, the majority of women get diagnosed over the age of 50, but my mom was only 35. It can happen to anyone.
And posting that pink ribbon to your Facebook page? Yeah, that does nothing. Seriously, is there anyone left on the planet who isn’t aware of breast cancer? Like, seriously, we need a whole month of pink ribbons and inspirational Facebook posts to make us go “oh wow, I had no idea you could get cancer in your breast until I saw that pink ribbon in my news feed”? Seriously?