My Love/Hate Relationship with Pink October
We are entering PINK OCTOBER… a tricky tricky month for breast cancer patients and survivors alike. Local fountains will spew pink water, landmarks will be draped in pink banners, and sports teams will swap out standard jerseys with hot pink t-shirts. The message is loud and clear: October = BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH.
Certainly if all this pink stuff helps women remember to schedule their annual mammograms and pink décor and t-shirts save lives, I’m ALL IN.
But – at least for me, as a breast cancer survivor – Pink October is a rough month. I don’t actively LIKE being reminded of the misery of my treatments, and in some weird way, all the pink-ness throws a lot of pressure on us breast cancer survivors to show up and be spunky. We’re expected to grin and brag about how cancer can’t keep us down, we’re FIGHTERS. And while that is absolutely true – we ARE warriors – the expectation to perform the role of PINK SURVIVOR can be a lot.
It’s one of the reasons I’m not a fan of “kicking cancer” tote bags and coffee mugs. They might be good for folks once they are DONE with their treatments and on the road to recovery. But they can be hugely problematic for patients in the middle of treatment, hurting, exhausted, and mentally drained.
Those t-shirts and tote bags are not always inspirational. In fact, they can be the opposite – like pressure filled pointer fingers, making patients feel the need to appear sunny and cheerful when they feel anything but. They imply a sort of expectation for patients to be a picture perfect rockstar spouting motivational quotes and dancing to tic tok videos. Sure, there will certainly be a small portion of patients who love that stuff and genuinely find it meaningful – but be careful – most of us do not. How do I know? We ASKED patients about this exact dynamic in our 2020 market research and the results were loud and clear – the vast majority of cancer patients do NOT want or like cancer themed motivational gear.
If you are a breast cancer patient or survivor this Pink October – hang tight – it’s 31 days long. But the good news is that you’re rewarded with miniature Hershey bars and candy corn on the last day of the month!
And if you are an adjacent member of the club (friends and family members of breast cancer patients) – maybe think twice before outfitting yourself head to toe in pink this month. There are far better ways to support cancer patients – of course our favorite is to buy them a Balm Box! But, cards, messages, meals, cleaning the kitchen, running a load of laundry, and making grocery runs are going to be far more meaningful and appreciated than pink t-shirts and tote bags.
Happy Pink October everyone – we can do this!