Thursday, October 10, 2013

why i've grown to hate october

As many of my longtime readers know, October is a special month for me. It's both breast cancer awareness month and it's the month of my mom's birthday. Confused about why I'm grouping these two events together?

Let me explain.

13 years ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through a lumpectomy and six months of grueling chemotherapy before going into complete remission. She has been cancer free since. October became not just the month that we could raise our voices about her disease and how others could help, but it became an appropriate way to celebrate her new lease on life. I loved October. It served as a symbol of hope and strength for our family.

Except for now, I hate October.

Don't get me wrong. I still love my mom's birthday and I still participate in raising awareness and funds for breast cancer/cancer research. It's what everyone else does that makes me hate this month. The pink washing. The Facebook statuses. All of the ridiculous things that people do in order to "raise awareness" for this disease. You can't go anywhere without the color of Pepto Bismol being shoved in your face in the name of finding a cure.

But here's the truth: none of that stuff raises awareness. None of it helps find a cure.

People know that breast cancer exists. They know that mammograms and self exams can help prevent it. Only that's not what breast cancer is all about. That's just scratching the surface of how we can (and should) be talking about this disease.

We need to change the mentality of "it won't happen to me." "I'm too young." Or, "I'm a man." Or, "no one in my family has it." We need to encourage those who say they don't have time to get checked or help those who need financial assistance in making it to the doctor or paying for that mammogram or getting tested for the BRCA gene mutation. We need to do a better job teaching women (and men) to do self exams. We need to educate the public on rare forms of breast cancer - types of breast cancer that have different signs and symptoms. Companies needs to stop hawking products, shelve their pink packaging, and dedicate that money, time, and energy directly to the non-profit organizations they partner with.

And we especially need to get off of Facebook and start taking meaningful action. As I wrote on my blog page last night, fake pregnancy announcements are disrespectful to the thousands of men and women left infertile each year because of cancer and/or cancer treatments, and Facebook statuses don't raise awareness or help the cause.

But the people behind those Facebook statuses can.

Each of us has the power to do something that can truly help. It could be a monetary donation to your favorite cancer charity (please don't forget your local organizations!). It could be volunteering to drive a patient to and from a chemo or radiation session. It could be learning how to do a self exam. Whatever direct action you choose to take this month, big or small, I can promise you this:

It will make a far bigger impact than sitting behind your computer and updating your Facebook status.

6 comments:

Dawn said...

I think there should be more awareness/attention for all forms of cancer. My father is a stage 4 colon cancer survivor and when I had my colonoscopy they found a polyp that would have been cancerous in two years. A colonoscopy wasn't even on my radar. Last month was childhood cancer awareness month, but I feel like all of the focus is on October commercially when all forms of cancer really suck.

I don't mean that breast cancer awareness is unimportant. I just sometimes think other forms are sort of left behind.

Anonymous said...

Do you realize how negative you are? All you seem to post about is how people do things wrong... they talk about breast cancer the wrong ways, they use the wrong words to adopt highways, they treat you wrong during your infertility, they underestimate how much infertility costs, they say all the wrong things, etc. It's become very off-putting. Based on your blog, you seem to think almost everyone does almost everything... wrong.

Emily said...

I completely agree, Dawn. Breast cancer has so much of a presence, and there are tons of other cancers which could use the same kind of campaigns. Lung cancer, brain cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer to name but a few. I feel as though all the focus is on breast cancer, when other types of cancer are under-researched and often have a worse prognosis.

Sushigirl said...

I really hate the bizarre Facebook status campaigns. All of them; the foreign travel one annoyed me almost as much as the fake pregnancy thing.

On a happier note, check out this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxQdfB-no50 This was publically funded and features a very popular and down to earth local celebrity talking very frankly about breast cancer (it is aimed at women, though). It isn't scary or sentimental and is very matter of fact, and this campaign led to a massive number of self-referrals to doctors.

New Zealand decided not to run this campaign because it featured nipples!

Katie said...

I completely agree, Dawn and Emily!

Anonymous: I'm very sorry you feel that way. Please feel free to read someone else's blog if you don't like mine.

Amanda said...

Pink washed world mixed with blood and bones. Ugh makes me want to barf a rainbow.