Think before you pink

12 Things You Can Do All Year Long to Support Breast Cancer Educated Awareness

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month (actually all year long now) it sometimes seems as if there is a tug-of-war going on between the I can’t get enough of pink/pink ribbons side and the let’s unravel the ribbons and throw ’em (and pink) all out side. Does this tug-of-war leave you feeling confused?

Do you sometimes wonder how you can or should show your support?

Do you sometimes wonder if it’s okay to buy something wrapped in pink or covered with pink ribbons?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Download my list of ten reasons why the pink ribbon is worn out and share it! Click Here

So, what CAN a person do not only during October, but all year long to support educated awareness?

No matter how you feel about pink or pink ribbons, here are 12 things you can do all year long to help support educated awareness:

1.  First and foremost, “Think Before You Pink” because thinking is always good! Breast Cancer Action® came up with this savvy slogan/campaign a few years back. Please click on the link to learn some excellent and easy-to-remember (excellent and easy – two of my favorite words) questions to ask.

Remember, it’s fine (maybe) to buy something you need or want that is pink or has a pink ribbon. It’s not so fine to buy something just BECAUSE it’s pink or has a pink ribbon or two slapped on it. Big difference in my book. Bottom line – pink responsibly!

2.  Start a conversation with your friend, neighbor, relative or co-worker. Ask them how they feel about pink ribbons, LISTEN and take things from there. I find that acknowledging (without judging, yeah I know sometimes this is hard) a differing opinion from mine is a perfect way to open communication lines.

3.  Learn all you can about the FULL spectrum of this disease, including stage IV, from reputable sites and organizations. I have some listed on my site. Print out 13 Facts Everyone Should Know About Metastatic Breast Cancer via the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network Learn them. Share them! 

4.  Read a blog (or two or three) written by someone with metastatic disease to gain a clearer understanding about what it’s like to live with a stage IV diagnosis day in and day out. Leave them a comment. You can always just say you care and appreciate how they are sharing their story. For a list of some mets bloggers click here. Are you a mets blogger? Let me know and I’ll add you to the list.

5.  Explain to someone what metastatic breast cancer is. It’s appalling that despite all the awareness so many do not know what this means. People not knowing what it means isn’t the appalling part. The appalling part is that despite all these years of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this message has not been delivered.

6.  Whenever you hear the word ‘cure’ coupled with breast cancer, think ‘red flag’. There isn’t a cure for breast cancer as such because it can and does sometimes metastasize many years later. We aim for NED (no evidence of disease).

7.  Be an example. If you know someone in your neighborhood who is dealing with cancer, do something appropriate based on your relationship with her. Provide a meal, watch the kids, deliver some magazines, weed her garden, whatever… Don’t know anyone personally? Volunteer at your local hospital or somewhere else. When others observe, you are going above and beyond raising awareness.

8.  Before you purchase that pink gizmo or bite into that cookie or doughnut saturated with pink icing and/or pink sprinkles, ask yourself – how is this helping? 

9.  Watch the movie Pink Ribbons, Inc. (after reading my review of course). No, the movie’s not perfect; but gosh, it blew me away. It’s now on Netflix and probably other places too. Already seen it? Recommend it to a friend.

10. Read the book, Pink Ribbon Blues (again, after reading my review!) by Gayle Sulik, PhD. (I am proud to call Gayle my friend). This book opened my eyes.

11. Donate to a charity only after you’ve done your research to see if its mission and values mesh with yours. For me, it’s all about supporting research. Pick what matters most to YOU and then donate directly instead of just buying pink stuff. And remember big isn’t always better. Sometimes a small local place is the perfect choice to help those in need in your community.

12. Speak up. Speak out. When something in the awareness hype doesn’t feel right to you (and not just during October but all year long), don’t keep quiet. Questioning and making noise is how change happens. It’s also how we educate others and ourselves, too, for that matter. Be leery of over-simplified messaging in all awareness campaigns regardless of the source. Nothing about breast cancer is simple. We need to stop pretending otherwise.

So, those are a few things I’ve come up with so far for specific things YOU can do to support educated awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month –  and all year long. 

What you do matters. What each of us does matters. What we all do collectively matters even more.

What will you do (or encourage others to do) this October and beyond to help generate “educated awareness”?

I’d love to hear your ideas! Let’s brainstorm!

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12 Things You Can Do All Year Long to Support Breast Cancer Educated Awareness
12 things you can do all year long – original image before modifying via BCAction.org

29 thoughts on “12 Things You Can Do All Year Long to Support Breast Cancer Educated Awareness

  1. Hi Nancy,

    You make excellent points. Just today, I saw a concrete truck with a pink ribbon on it, and I got kind of upset. As you know, right now, I’m trying to separate myself from Pinktober (yeah, like I really could do this) and re-embrace October. Maybe I’m in denial, but I don’t think so. I so often feel bombarded this month, not to mention the gazillion press releases promoting breast cancer awareness deleted from my e-mail’s inbox.

    That being said, I think funding being used toward research is the way to help those with metastatic breast cancer, but I believe other cancers are also worth a cure. (I just posted on my friend who passed away from leukemia about a year ago.) However, breast cancer is so sexualized, something that makes it different from other cancers.

    I have very little time, so what I do is donate to research-based organizations, one of which is Sloan Kettering.

    1. Beth, I agree we need more collaboration and I’m hopeful about the newly formed alliance, but feeling skeptical at the same time. I do think bc is indeed sexualized and the pink ribbon has turned into a sort of bully among ribbons. Good for you for donating wisely. I’m very sorry about the loss of your dear friend.

  2. (PS) I meant to say that our society so wrongly sexualizes breast cancer, and that’s why it’s so hard to stop the notion that it’s a sexy, fun cancer.

    And, by the way, bloggers like you are letting your voices be heard, and that makes a huge difference.

  3. Honestly I’m so weary from both sides . Hopefully people will become a little more aware and really learn where the money goes how things are financed and on the other side there are some that have become almost militant. in one respect some don’t want the bombardment of pink easy enough to understand Yet on the other hand petitions are circulating demanding Victoria Secret make special bras for mastectomy patients. Give me a break… it’s like using emotional coersion to get “our” way.I just lost my beautiful best friend to Breast Cancer yesterday,We grew up together In all honestly right now I don’t give a sh*t wearing Pink or not didn’t help her one iota…. Dying of Breast Cancer hasn’t slowed the pace of anything. We are still being held hostages by the Pharma companies, this month i don’t care next month i may feel better i just don’t know except that too many have died unecessarily.. Sorry for the rant Nancy…XX

  4. What a great list! It seems to me that after awareness, it’s so much about taking action. Talking to friends and neighbors, spreading the word, donating mindfully–and all the things you mention make a difference.

    1. Lisa, I wanted to post about some simple actions anyone can take all year long because most people do want to help and I think sometimes many wonder about what they can or should do. I do believe everyone’s actions matter. Thank so much for reading, commenting and sharing.

  5. Nancy – this is one of the best posts I’ve read about the whole “pink” issue. You’ve framed it in a way that offers solutions, vs. complaints about the way it is. I’ve struggled with how to deal with people’s misconceptions about the marketing of breast cancer but this is a very helpful and useful post, with concrete ways to make your point and hopefully enlighten people. Thanks for sharing.

  6. What bothers me most is not so much the pink, but the widespread idea so closely connected to it, that “awareness” equals prevention. And, by extension, those who are diagnosed with advanced stages (3 or 4) or progress to metastatic cancer, must have done something wrong.

    A lady my church has been praying for (she went to another church in our community) just died of metastasized breast cancer. Her friend that notified those of us who had been praying did so via FB. That was OK because it was so only certain ones of us would see it. But, she included a blurb about “ladies, get your yearly exams and check for lumps to prevent this from happening to you.” I held back from saying anything about that statement (and hope her family does not see it) because a death announcement is just not the place, but it sure comes across as judgmental in the context of someone having just died of metastasized breast cancer. Her death was a tragedy, she left behind a husband and two young children. But, it was in no way her fault.

    Maybe if even half the money raised by all the pink that is poured into “awareness,” was poured into research, some of these tragedies could be prevented. Not through awareness, but through better treatments. And if that were truly the case, I doubt any of us would be bothered by all the Pinkober stuff.

    1. Elizabeth, Well said. There is an undertone of judgment going on and that’s very sad. Again, it’s that over-simplification messaging that’s been going on for years. Like you alluded to, if truck loads of dollars were being delivered on the doorsteps of research, we wouldn’t be so bothered. I’m sorry about the woman in your community who died from mbc. And I agree the “blurb” that woman left was inappropriate for many reasons. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. I have to agree with what Elizabeth was saying. I have had a couple of days to mourn my friend and I still am in mourning expect to be for a long while. But this is such a common untruth if we don’t do this that or the other somehow having Breast Cancer becomes out fault. When are people going to really understand you can do everything right and still be at risk. Absolutely no one in my family had it paternal or maternal side yet here I am diagnosed at Stage 3 Grade 3 which is so damn scary in itself! I did everything right My friend Janeice was a vegan she ate her vegetables took her vitamins no one on her side either but she died this last week. As for all the pinking it doesn’t do squat except make companies richer by selling their junk.. Anyone can sell something Pink under the guises of Breast Cancer donations it is so ethically and morally wrong! My friend had a Lumpectomy did a few sessions of Chemo and Radiation she was Stage 1 and last year had her check up she was catapulted to Stage 4. My friends death made me realize how scared I really am. I don’t dwell on it daily in fact many times I forget until I remind myself with my breastless chest. There is far to much rhetoric and not enough action by the very people who are supposed to be making sure we have a better shot at life. How on earth do we get them to listen to us Not by wearing a Pink ribbon big deal..Everyone wears those it’s the flavour of the month. There are days I just feel like throwing my hands up in the air and just shout F**K You .. but who’s even listening. ? She was doing great and it turned on her 2 weeks ago, She went down hill faster than anyone could anticipate. She left children to mourn her a great husband who feels lost. And she left me too someone that I have known and loved for a better part of my life. We were young and dumb and so full of happy times. She reminded me last Sunday the time we smoked grass — no not the “other” grass regular lawn grass!! We heard people talk about smoking grass so why not we tried it picked some I swiped my grandfather papers. Rolled one lit it and we looked at each other it was wet smelled awful and tasted worse.Couldn’t figure why anyone would!! So much for experiments…. Our first and last “Grass” adventure. She giggled Someone loses a friend like I did every single day I am not unique! Families cry each day and yet the numbers tell the same story there is no change really. And if I hear one more person tell me I can’t possibly know what it’s like to have METS – no I don’t have them but I sure do get it. I will not buy anything pink with a ribbon ever. It doesn’t do any good if the powers that can change the situation sit on their fat asses and enjoy the perks off dying women….. Love Alli….

    1. Alli, I can feel the pain coming through in your words. I’m very sorry for you recent loss. There is a sense of frustration isn’t there? I understand. Thanks for sharing and again, I’m sorry.

  8. You know, I also have pink fatigue, awareness fatigue, advocacy fatigue, travel fatigue, and just plain fatigue fatigue! But people like you keep me going. Very honored to be on your list and to call you friend.

    Gayle Sulik

    1. Gayle, There does seem to be lots of “fatigue” out there and understandably so. Still, if each of us doesn’t keep plugging away at it in our own way, who will and how will change ever come about? Thanks for all the work you’ve done and continue doing. And I had to have your book on this list. It really did open my eyes. I am honored to call you friend as well, Gayle. Thanks for reading, commenting on and sharing this post.

  9. Thanks, Nancy, for a great post. Couldn’t agree with you more.

    I also liked Gayle’s point that we are all fatigued, especially waiting for this month to end! October 13 was one day and October is one month, but once we take a deep breath and relax on November 1, we need to remember our commitment to educate all year round.

    When my kids were young, we talked about ‘teachable’ moments and I like how you pointed out listening and talking to others and offering whenever we can to educate them on breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer.

    Ginny Knackmuhs
    VP, Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (mbcn.org)

    1. Ginny, I agree – the commitment doesn’t end on October 31 does it? And yes, those teachable moments come up when we are open to listening first. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  10. Thanks Nancy for another great post. Trying to educate people on a local level is what I’ve done, talking on the radio next week, writing a column in the local paper. It’s weird, this year it seems that the distraction of Ebola has somewhat overshadowed the focus on pink, at least in the news. Just tonight we were driving to a restaurant and passed a house that had a big pink ribbon in the front window and letters that said, “Fight Like A Girl”. I didn’t want to pass judgment on whatever possessed them to do that, but it looked so stupid and inconsiderate, what do you mean by that? Fight like a girl? How does a girl fight? Fighting what? With pink ribbons? Aaaargh. Who knows maybe they were well meaning people who have a family member with breast cancer. Yes it does get old and tiresome, especially when the tired old phrases and clichés get used, and no one seems to have learned anything new. I hope to make people more aware locally of the need for funding for metastatic disease research efforts and that popular preventive information won’t protect everyone. Turning the tide of underachievement in funding and understanding breast cancer is the price we’re paying for unrestrained pinkification.

    1. Alene, I think you might be right about Ebola overshadowing pink somewhat this year. It’s interesting how you felt when you saw that pink ribbon and read those words, ‘fight like a girl’. I have often asked myself the same questions you wondered about. Thank you for trying to educate on a local level. You’re doing a lot. Thank you for helping to make people more aware of metastatic disease and about the need for more research funding. Thanks so much for reading and sharing some thoughts. And good luck with your radio talk.

  11. Nancy you are indeed a good job on trying to educate women on these issue. From where i come not all people know about this cancer issue. Treatment is very expensive and the existing treatment centres also charge a lot and are there to make money. Be blessed

  12. Thank you Nancy, others are:Support the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Donate: Make a one-time or recurring donation. Volunteer: You can volunteer virtually (online) or in person. Fundraise: You can join an existing event to help with fundraising, create a personal fundraising page, and more. Sponsor: If your company is interested in sponsoring an event, you can work with the NBCF to create a customized campaign.
    Planned Giving: You can remember NBCF in your will.

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