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How do you feel when you see pink during the month of October? Does it inspire you in some way, or does it make you cringe? Referred to as Pinktober in the cancer community, October can mean many things to those who have had breast cancer, or are going through treatment, as well as those living with metastatic breast cancer. For some people it is empowering to join walks to raise money, and that may provide a sense of community. For people at different stages of treatment, the constant reminders of their struggles can present emotional trauma. Additionally, Pink is not representative of all breast cancer patients, because men do get breast cancer too.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in 1985 with the goal to educate women about breast cancer and early detection tests so that they could take charge of their breast health. The month has also become dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research and other related causes. In reality, however, it means different things to different people, and I want to share with you various perspectives of this well known awareness month.

Pink Promotions, while not as prominent this year during the pandemic, typically have nothing to do with raising money to find a cure, which is really what is needed. For example, pink beer at bars and restaurants, or various pink products at stores, with funding not actually going to breast cancer organizations. During October some awareness campaigns use sexualization’s or humor, with slogans such as, “save the tata’s,”  “save second base,” or “Feel For Lumps. Save Your Bump.” There is nothing sexy or funny about breast cancer. It is killing people. The promotions and humor can do more harm than good for the cancer community. It can also be frustrating to people diagnosed with other cancers to have so much awareness around breast cancer, while other forms of cancer are not acknowledged. Every person with this disease will have a different opinion on this matter, and their own opinion may even change throughout their treatment, or if the disease should progress.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. Each year in the United States, about 250,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,300 in men. About 42,000 women and 510 men in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer. Black women have a higher rate of death from breast cancer than White women.

I’ve shared with you some thoughts from other patients that I picked up on social media, so now I’ll tell you where I stand. The first October after my active treatment it was hard. It was really hard to see all the pink. I felt like I saw pink at every turn, and at that point all I wanted to do was be normal. After 6 months of treatment, I wanted to immerse myself in everyday life, not the heaviness of cancer. Yet, I couldn’t escape all the messages around me and it made my emotional recovery harder. Now, I see the value in the efforts to raise money for support of those going through treatment and for finding a cure. However, as I’ve said, the campaigns tend to be misguided in how they present themselves.

My goal is to share education in an honest, straightforward manner, not just about breast cancer, but all cancers, because all cancers matter. I want YOU to feel supported.

Admittedly, many of my social media posts and YouTube videos, especially this month, are about breast cancer. This is because it is what I know best of all cancers, and it does not mean that any other cancer is less important. What this means is that when I do put out information about other cancers, it will take more research for me because I’m not living that experience. I invite you to reach out to me and share your story if you are living with cancer, so I may learn. You can email me at hhckatherine@gmail.com.  

At the beginning of this blog I asked if Pinktober inspires you in some way or makes you cringe. My answer is both. Some of the messaging and the pinkwashing done by unrelated companies makes me cringe and is not representative of all breast cancer patients. At the same time, I’m inspired to bring back what this month was created for, and that is education, so that people can take charge of their breast health.

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