For a long time after my diagnosis I was not part of the pink ribbon club. Breast cancer awareness month felt more like a big pink marketing machine that served as a constant reminder of the cancer I longed to forget. But then I started to read editorials and blogs and overhear conversations centered on what I call "Pink Envy."
I'm sure you have heard the comments about the amount of attention breast cancer receives over other cancers and that some cancers have higher mortality rates and should therefore get more attention. And let's not forget about heart disease, the true number one killer among women. Instead of passing up the pink labels in the market, I started to read them and do my own research.
According to the National Lung Cancer Partnership, 82,000 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year and 68,510 will die from the disease. Yes, the mortality rate is deplorable; however, according to the Komen Foundation, nearly 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and about 40,000 will die from this disease. While the mortality rate is lower, the rate of diagnosis is two and half times greater. The mortality rate was much higher when we weren't raising awareness as well as funds for research, treatment, and early detection.
I started to become a bit defensive when I was told that too much money was being directed toward "my" cancer and not other cancers. While I take no ownership for breast cancer, I do know that advances made through breast cancer research have also been a benefit in treating other cancers. As we continue to make advances in breast cancer research, we are finding that various drugs work for more than one type of cancer and we are working on ways to move forward and apply various therapies to various forms and stages of cancer.
In many ways, the advances in breast cancer research have a ripple effect through the cancer community as a whole. In fact, the more I researched, the more I realized that breast cancer awareness month is truly all about empowerment. We have empowered ourselves and others to talk openly about breast cancer. The awareness has empowered an increase in regular screenings for early detection. The awareness and fund raising has empowered the medical community to research further into breast cancer. Each advance in finding a cure empowers us to reach a little further and then further still.
Whether you embrace the pink or not, somebody is out there buying up the pink-labeled soup faster than you can schedule your annual mammogram. Next time you hear complaining about breast cancer awareness, tell them that when they or someone they know is being treated for another type of cancer, that the drugs being administered were developed to fight breast cancer and through research found to be effective for other cancers as well.
Next time you hear a complaint about the color pink, smile as you remember that research for breast cancer resonates through the entire cancer community. Next time someone whines about the barrage of products on the store shelves, remind that person that one of those 200,000 women diagnosed could be a mother, sister, wife, or someone else they love. Next time anyone complains about how their cancer doesn't get the same attention as my cancer, remember that all cancers are our cancers and any contribution we make to one effects us all.