I have a love/hate relationship with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago in September, just two weeks before the beginning of October, which I had previously never thought of as breast cancer awareness month. Two weeks after my diagnosis, my life became a pink nightmare. As I struggled with treatment options and testing, breast cancer ruled my life. I was constantly worried and upset. The reminders at every restaurant, grocery store, on tee shirts, etc. seemed like a cruel joke.
I remember at one point a few weeks after diagnosis, I took a package of English muffins out of the fridge and they had the pink ribbon and logo of a charity on them. I lost it. I called my mom crying, saying that I didn’t want to eat “breast cancer English muffins.” I know I was traumatized and irrational, but at that moment, making breakfast alone in my apartment, I wanted five minutes where I wasn’t reminded of my breast cancer.
I also felt like, on some level, these companies were profiting from my misery. When given the choice in a store of buying the English muffins (or whatever it is) with the pink logo, or without, at this point even I buy the one with the logo, hoping some money is donated to breast cancer research somewhere. But is it? How often are companies using the pink ribbon to increase sales and exploit a great cause?
The following Octobers have been a mixed bag. I realize that this month of advertising, signage, donations, charitable walks, and awareness saves countless lives and I am truly grateful for this. But on a personal level during this month, I am faced with repeated breast cancer reminders, from pink Facebook profiles, to servers at restaurants wearing pink clothing. It’s difficult to sit in a chair with pink balloons tied to it in honor of breast cancer awareness month and swallow my dinner.
For me, every month is breast cancer awareness month – October is “breast cancer reminders are everywhere” month. I have often wondered if other survivors have felt this way. Every year, this month does get easier to face, and I am more grateful for the awareness and donations and the lives they save.