Loving (and Hating) the Pink Ribbon: How to Truly Honor a Breast Cancer Survivor


Untitled designOctober is breast cancer awareness month. It would be nearly impossible for you not to know this. Come October, it’s quite difficult to go anywhere without seeing pink ribbons flying, buildings lit up in a rose color hue and companies eager to show their commitment through creative, yet often self-serving cause-marketing campaigns. One of the things that is frustrating to me as a young survivor of breast cancer is that the truly staggering facts about this disease often get lost in all of the pinkmania. Here are a just few: 

  • 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • 20-30% of breast cancers will become metastatic. There is NO cure for metastatic breast cancer.
  • Median survival of metastatic breast cancer is 3 years.
  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in young women under 50.

Sobering right? Breast cancer is a serious disease and while often treatable (especially when detected early), it is the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH for most of the women who are reading this blog today. I say this not to scare you, rather, I’d like to inspire you, not to buy another pink t-shirt, or put a pointless Facebook status update in your feed, but to take action. Take true meaningful action for yourself, your children and your friends and family who may be dealing with this terrible disease. 

What you can do to honor a breast cancer survivor this month:

  1. Those of us who have had to deal with the treatment for this disease want nothing more than to ensure that none of our loved ones have to deal with it either. There are a few simple steps you can take:
    • Do a self examine regularly. It takes 30 seconds in the shower ONCE A MONTH and it could save your life! Not sure how to do a self-exam? Click here for instructions. If you feel something weird, GO TO THE DOCTOR. Don’t tell yourself that it’s nothing or not a big deal. Get it checked. 
    • Understand your risk factors and medical history. When it comes to breast cancer, genetics really does play a part. Talk to your doctor during your next visit and ask him/her if you should get screened. 
  2. Ask a breast cancer survivor what would help them out this month. Even if they aren’t in active treatment, many survivors deal with side effects
    #EFF Cancer Picture by Aedan Photography
    Picture by Aedan Photography

    for years after their treatment ends. It can be difficult to ask for help, so reach out. Maybe it’s a meal, maybe it’s babysitting for a couple hours so she can take a break, perhaps its just a visit. Reaching out makes a difference no matter how you do it. 

  3. Think before you pink. Understand that for many survivors of breast cancer, October can be a challenging month. While no one would argue that awareness of breast cancer is important, those of us who have had the disease don’t really need to increase our awareness. During the month of October it is impossible to get away from it. Radio ads, billboards, even NFL football teams. Pink is everywhere and for some of us, it is a constant reminder of a very traumatic period of our lives and brings up a lot of emotions. Being sensitive to that and maybe even checking in with the survivors in your life to see how they want to “celebrate” is another way you can support them this month. 
  4. Donate money and/or time. There are a number of different organizations that support women and their families as they battle breast cancer. Getting involved with these groups is a great way to honor the women (and the men) who have battled this disease. 

It is important to remember that some of us love that pink ribbon and some of us don’t want the reminder. Some of us love doing the cancer walks and some of us just want to get on with our lives. It’s all okay. The most important thing is to talk to your friends and family who may be going through this and ASK THEM what would be the most supportive action for you to take. Each person’s journey is uniquely their own. Follow their lead and you can’t go wrong. 


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