October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I was diagnosed in November last year so this is my first time experiencing it with breast cancer. I’d not really given it much thought before. But as it approached this year I became aware of the collective sigh of frustration coming from the breast cancer community on social media.
Raising awareness of breast cancer is to be applauded. Early detection can massively improve your outlook. Don’t be lax in checking your breasts like I was and only discover there’s a problem when the cancer has advanced to stage 3. It’s also an ideal time for busting myths about what a ‘cancer patient’ looks like, what they go through and how they feel.
But unfortunately a lot of the coverage is hijacked by pretty, frilly, pink frothiness. A pink ribbon on your t-shirt, dressing in pink for a day, buying a pink cupcake at work. It’s all a sugar coated view of breast cancer and that can be a bitter pill for those of us dealing with it day to day to swallow.
Even more cynically there are some companies who seek to jump on the big pink bandwagon as its scampers by leaving a trail of glittery prettiness in its wake. They see you want to do your bit to help further the fight against breast cancer and they are more than happy to take your money for their breast cancer themed goods. It’s just a good idea to check how much of that money is going to a legitimate breast cancer charity that is doing good work in raising awareness, helping people living with the disease or researching a cure.
Here are a few questions you should be asking before you part with your money in the hope of helping the breast cancer cause:
While there has been some great coverage of breast cancer so far this month, for example on photographer Ami Barwell’s project to photograph women who’ve ACTUALLY HAD BREAST CANCER sharing their scars:
There have also been some not so great articles. Take this one that rather incensed me in the Daily Mail yesterday, though the Mail is by no means the only or even the worst offender! I also have no quarrel with Asda for selling t-shirts to raise money for Breast Cancer NOW and Breast Cancer Care. (Though I do take issue with calling the campaign ‘tickled pink’ – the last thing you feel when you’re in treatment.) I have no issue with Amanda Holden et al giving their time, I presume for free, to raise awareness. The problem is nothing in this coverage actually helps to raise awareness?! There is no mention of how to spot breast cancer or of what it’s like to live with breast cancer. The celebrities are described as ‘undeniably cool’, ‘flirty’ and ‘loving life’ and while posing in their t-shirts they ‘coquettishly glance’ at the camera or ‘place their hands on their derriere’…. You really couldn’t get more of a juxta-position with what breast cancer is about than this piece. I shared it on Twitter yesterday and you could describe the reaction from the breast cancer community as ‘undeniably outraged’, ‘pissed off’, ‘hating pinktober’ while they ‘rolled their eyes’ at it and ‘placed their hands over their visages’. You get the drift. Here’s a taster of the responses…
There are plenty more examples of this kind of pink propaganda across the media. And the charities also need to get on board with this. Make sure Breast Cancer Awareness Month is doing what it says on the tin. It might be an idea to use REAL women with breast cancer to tell their stories. They are the most powerful way of ramming the message home. Breast cancer is not pink and it definitely ain’t pretty.
If you want to see what breast cancer is really like then search the hashtags #BreastCancerRealities and #BreastCancerRealityCheck on social media. I’ll wager there’s not a pink ribbon in sight.