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Does the Pink of Breast Cancer Awareness Month Make Women With Cancer Feel Worse?
October is the traditional breast cancer awareness month. You will see pink ribbons, pink t-shirts, pink clothes of all kinds worn by both men and women.
In fact, this year 2010, professional football teams in the National Football League incorporated pink into their football uniforms. Big linemen and running backs put pink cleats on their football cleats; quarterbacks and receivers wear pink wristbands and carry pink towels as part of their gear.
Why pink? How did the pink ribbon movement begin? And most importantly, does it really help women who already have breast cancer? Or do they feel worse?
How Pink got into the cancer business
Ribbons were used to express the wearer’s solidarity with an identified cause from the beginning to the end of the 20th century. Yellow ribbons are used for troops in war. Red ribbons for those with AIDS. Pink ribbons (and the color pink) show support for those diagnosed with breast cancer.
In the fall of 1991, Alexandra Penny, editor-in-chief of the women’s health magazine Self, and Evelyn Lauder of the cosmetics company Estee Lauder had the idea to create a tape. The cosmetics giant distributed the strips to stores in New York.
Charlotte Haley, who was battling the disease, produced the peach ribbons. She sold ribbons to support cancer prevention. After discussing the possibilities with Lauder, Haley and their lawyers, a “new” color was chosen, pink, which has become an international symbol of awareness.
Does pink really help women with breast cancer?
There is a lot of criticism about the “pink moon” and its long-term effects in the fight against breast cancer.
Critics say the promotion of pink ribbons as a symbol is not credited with saving lives. Others believe that the pink ribbon will fade from popular use and become just a fad. October has become the month when “pink” sales explode. Companies that sell pink goods and make token donations to affiliated charities.
Gail Sulick, a medical sociologist, wrote Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health. She found that while the “pink ribbon culture” has brought much attention to the disease in the United States, it has not improved women’s health. Based on eight years of research, analysis and hundreds of interviews with women who have had the disease, Ms. Sulik found that cancer rates are rising, the cancer industry is thriving, corporations are profiting from the disease, and those with this cancer are stigmatized with a pink ribbon.
How does seeing pink make women with cancer feel about themselves?
How every woman feels when she has a serious illness and everyone around her says: “Be aware of breast cancer”. In October 2009 after Cheryl was diagnosed with DCIS, level 0. That October was a tough month. Pink was everywhere and she was very aware of cancer. She was diagnosed with it.
Yes, early detection was very important because we had to deal with less severe symptoms. However, the awareness month itself did little to support it. Whenever Cheryl went shopping, pink was everywhere. She felt terrible, like she couldn’t rest to live a normal life. There were reminders everywhere that she was not normal – that she had this cancer. She just wanted to hide.
Writing notes of support, using words of affirmation, and spending more time together did much more for her mood than pink ribbons and t-shirts. Using the Treasuring mindset and approach helped Cheryl feel loved, valued and appreciated from within.
So my questions to you, dear reader, are: What does October Breast Cancer Awareness Month mean to you? How do you value women with the disease? What do you write or say to them? And if you yourself have breast cancer, what would you like the important people in your life to write or say to you?
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