What I Want 'Pink Haters' To Understand

by Marla Khan-Schwartz

October is typically a month that showcases 31 days of pink ribbons, endorsements from various agencies that become “all pink,” and the message of breast cancer awareness seemingly shoved down your throat. Opinions usually come out of the woodworks in full force regarding agencies that may not place the majority of their funding towards research.

I have to admit, I felt that way for a long time as well. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe that breast cancer was a big deal, but rather I just didn’t know enough about it or the disease to understand why there was an entire month devoted to this cause. I became aware of breast cancer on the day I was diagnosed with it at the age of 35. All of a sudden, all of the pink ribbons, the fundraisers, the walks, and the constant information that I had neglected to pay that much attention to, quickly became my reality.

When you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you eventually become an expert in awareness. That awareness plagues you daily. You are constantly aware of your past and present, but apprehensive about your future. As a matter of fact, I find it hard to look past my life more than two weeks from now. When you’ve had cancer, it becomes very difficult to see yourself in 30 years because you are not sure if you will be around. Being in remission is not a guarantee of life and therefore not a guarantee of your future.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month eventually meant something to me. I equate it to a birthday celebration in a sense. It’s a time for me to remember the treatments that I endured, and celebrate being alive. It’s a time for me to remember those that have been lost to this terrible disease. It is also a time for me to plug my own opinions to my friends and family on social media and elsewhere about the importance of prevention, primary care and maintenance.

Research is important and essential when we hope to find a cure for breast cancer. Donations are a huge part of funding for research; however there can be a lot of concern about how much money goes directly towards research. I understand the concern and I encourage you to look into agencies that fund 100% of your dollars towards research or find out what percentage of your money goes towards research and where the rest of it goes. In some cases, some agencies state that they “support breast cancer research,” and decorate their products with bright pink ribbons, but do not give a dime towards the cause itself.

Once you have had breast cancer or know someone who has had breast cancer, the cause becomes more than just funding for research. Many women struggle with depression, anxiety and an overall lack of support once they are diagnosed. There are few to turn to at times that may fully understanding, and the internal angst that can ensue is relentless. Eradicating cancer in your body does not take away the lifelong psychological impact it may have.

Many agencies that ask for funding are also supporting groups, online forums and symposiums for women to find support amongst one another. No matter what stage you are in, metastatic or not, these groups of women can be essential during breast cancer maintenance. You may think all of the walks and the pink are unnecessary, but know that all of us that have been directly affected do not typically walk around in pink tutus and dance in spiritual circles on a regular basis or have a goal of being obnoxious, but rather we do it because we are able to.

Sometimes just being amongst others who have been affected by breast cancer is empathetic enough. Seeing pink splattered all over television for a month does not seem that bad anymore. It reminds us that we are here.

If you are bitter about where your money is going, do your research and find an agency that meets your needs. Don’t just turn a blind eye. Giving money to agencies that fund for support groups, symposiums, free mammograms, and other preventative activities is essential. We need funding for research towards finding a cure, but there are many other facets of breast cancer that need to be funded for as well.

This month is not meant to annoy you, but is meant to throw this awful disease in your face for 31 days so that you are aware that not only can your seemingly perfect life be impacted at any point by a diagnosis to you or a loved one, but that it can also bring people together that have endured the journey. It’s about solidarity, strength and perseverance.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women under the age of 40. There is no guarantee that I will be around for many years to come. I will continue to support the cause to find a cure for this awful disease but take care of myself at the same time with the resources that are available. Breast Cancer Awareness Month lasts for 31 days a year but for many, like me, it will span the rest of my life.


A Reformed Pink Hater