October is the traditional month for breast cancer awareness. You will find pink ribbons, pink t-shirts, all kinds of pink clothing worn by both men and women.
In fact, this year in 2010, professional football teams in the National Football League incorporated the color pink into their football uniforms. Burley linemen and linebackers put pink cleats on their football shoes; Quarterbacks and receivers wear pink wristbands and carry pink towels as part of their gear.
Why pink? How did the pink ribbon movement start? And most importantly, does it really help women who already have breast cancer? Or make them feel bad?
How pink got into the cancer business
Ribbons have been used to express the wearer’s solidarity with identified causes from the early to late 20th century. Yellow ribbons are used for soldiers in war. Red ribbon for AIDS victims. Pink ribbons (and the color pink) express support for breast cancer survivors.
In the fall of 1991, Alexandra Penney, editor-in-chief of Self, a women’s health magazine, and Evelyn Lauder of the cosmetic company Estée Lauder, had the idea to create a ribbon. The cosmetics giant distributed those ribbons to stores in New York City.
Charlotte Hailey, who battled the disease, created the peach-colored ribbon. She sold ribbons to help prevent cancer. After discussing the opportunity with Lauder, Hailey and their lawyers, they chose a “new” color, pink, which has become an international symbol for awareness.
Does pink really help women with breast cancer?
Criticism has been loud about the “pink month” and its long-term implications for fighting breast cancer.
Critics say the promotion of the pink ribbon as a symbol has not been credited with saving any lives. Others believe that the pink ribbon will fade from popular use and become just a fad. October has become a month when “pink” sales explode. Companies that sell pink merchandise and make a token donation to a related charity
Gail Sulick, a medical sociologist, wrote Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health. She found that the “pink ribbon culture” that brought illness too much attention in the United States did not improve women’s health. Based on eight years of research, analysis, and hundreds of interviews with women with the disease, Ms. Sulick found that cancer rates are rising, the cancer industry is thriving, corporations are profiting from the disease, and those who have this cancer are stigmatized by pink ribbons.
How does looking pink make women with cancer feel about themselves?
How does any woman feel when she has a serious illness and everything around her says, “Be aware of breast cancer.” After Cheryl was diagnosed with DCIS in October, 2009, a stage 0 stage. October was a difficult month. Pink was everywhere and she was very aware of cancer. He has diagnosed it.
Yes, early detection was very important because we had less severe symptoms to deal with. Still, the awareness month itself did little to support him. Whenever Cheryl went shopping, pink was everywhere. He felt horrible, as if he couldn’t get a break to live a normal life. The reminder was everywhere, that she wasn’t normal – she had this cancer. He just wanted to hide.
Writing notes of support, using words of affirmation, and spending more time together did more for her soul than pink ribbons and t-shirts. Using a treasuring mindset and perspective helped Cheryl feel loved, appreciated and valued within.
So, my question to you, dear reader: What does October Breast Cancer Awareness Month mean to you? How do you treasure women with illnesses? What would you write or say to them? And if you yourself had breast cancer, would you want the important people in your life to write or tell you?