I am starting to hate the color pink. Somehow pink has come to represent breast cancer. Breast cancer is not cute. It is not frilly or girlie or stylish. Breast cancer is ugly and heart breaking and devastating. I guess it would not be very encouraging to use black ribbons to represent breast cancer, but I can't help but think that pink is wrong.
Today I participated in the Strides Against Breast cancer walk. When I look around at all of the pink balloons, pink clothing, pink feather boas I know that it is meant to show fighting spirit and to be encouraging. Still I can't help but think "Yeah, right." I did wear pink and I smiled and soaked up the sunshine. I breathed in the cold Fall air and enjoyed the company of my family, friends and community.
But I participated with mixed feelings. Many outlet stores were open early. They were selling "pink products." Sometimes a portion of the proceeds go to breast cancer charities. Sometimes they don't. Either way I feel exploited. It's all about marketing.....the pink ribbon gets people to buy. Why not make a donation to your favorite breast cancer charity and leave the corporations and shopping out of it? Many pink ribbon products contain carcinogens. Pink ribbon cosmetics and personal care products contain parabens and toxic ingredients. Pink M & M s are delicious, but not exactly part of an anti-cancer diet. One yogurt company tells us to send back the lids from their yogurt to raise money to prevent breast cancer. Their yogurt is full of hormones and sugar. Unfortunately these companies are fooling many people and making a lot of money in the process.
Then there are the speakers. There were breast cancer survivors up on stage and given a microphone. They spoke about "fighters" "warriors" and "winners". Yes, I am struggling with this disease, but I do not think of it as a battle. Are the millions of women who have died of breast cancer "losers"? A positive attitude is a great thing to have. It certainly makes life easier, and probably boosts the immune system. But a positive attitude is NOT the cure for cancer. Women who have died of breast cancer did not die because they didn't wear enough pink ribbons or have enough fighting spirit and death is not failure.
I participate in the Strides walk because The American Cancer Society provides important services and I believe in raising money for their programs. I also love to go sign the "Survivor's Book." Every year I sign the book and write how long I have been a "survivor." I enjoy seeing that number go up. I enjoy telling the volunteer at the survivor's booth that I will see her next year. I enjoy being on my best friend's team every year and using the day to mark the years that we are both living well with cancer. I bring my daughter with me. We both look around at the people wearing signs that say they are walking in memory of their mother. Our hearts sink. We are even more grateful to be together. I talk to her again about healthy lifestyle choices and early detection.
I have mixed feelings, but I choose to be a part of the walk. There are so many positive things that come from it. When I get home the pink ribbons are put away and there are no balloons, streamers or inspirational songs blasting. I go back to the real world of breast cancer. It is not so pretty, but it is the only one I've got. I go back to the life that Strides celebrates and just live.