A Tale of One Pink Ribbon

There is much wrong with the pink ribbon, more specifically, what it represents. So actually as I keep saying, it’s not really about pink or ribbons at all. It’s about the overuse/misuse of both that is bothersome to so many.

This post isn’t about those pink ribbons, it’s about one tiny pink ribbon that for some reason I hold onto for reasons I’m not even entirely sure about myself.

Does this make me sound like some sort of hypocrite? Maybe, but I don’t think so, at least I hope not.

Admittedly, before my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis in 2004, I didn’t really give much thought to pink ribbons. Of course I noticed them, but that was about it.

It wasn’t until my own diagnosis that I was directly handed my first “real” pink ribbon. There’s a weird kind of irony in that. I received it on May 3, 2010 four days after my biopsy confirmed cancer. (Yes, I know the exact date as I was journaling feverishly at the time). My treatment path was yet to be determined. I was waiting to find out if I was BRCA2+. The results would determine if I would be having a lumpectomy or a bilateral. Needless to say, there was a lot of turmoil going on at that time.

Also, I was on a mission to get stuff done.

I was in the “coping by doing and keeping busy” mode which often follows a diagnosis. I was frantically cleaning, shopping, getting things organized, going to doctor appointments, reading everything I could get my hands on about cancer and making lists of “more stuff to do” as I attempted to prepare myself and my family for whatever was ahead.

Actually, I had no clue exactly what was ahead much less how to prepare for it, but busy work can sometimes help get you through and give you some sense of control.

One thing on my list of “stuff” to get done was heading to the mall to do some serious shopping for what I had somehow decided would be necessities for someone like me having breast surgery of some sort.

Naturally, I headed for the lingerie department of Macy’s to pick myself out some new comfortable pajamas. I figured someone having a lumpectomy or bilateral mastectomy would require button down pajama tops that would allow for easy entry and easy removal.

Again ironically, on that exact day Macy’s was “celebrating” breast cancer research (keep in mind this was May, but at least the “celebration” was focused on research), so the clerk reached in her little basket sitting on the counter by the register when I walked by heading for the dressing room and handed me a miniature pink ribbon held together with a tiny gold safety pin. I remember thinking, well; no one even took time to sew this thing together…

But here was the kicker. The clerk unknowingly went on to ask, “Would you be interested in a personalized bra fitting today? We have a wonderful bra fitting specialist with us for this very special event.”

I wanted to say, hell no. There’s no need to measure my chest today. I don’t even know if I will have these breasts in a couple of weeks.

Of course, I didn’t say that.

I merely smiled, took the little pink ribbon and said, “No thank you,” and proceeded to the dressing room.

After making my purchases, I walked out of that lingerie department relieved no one could tell yet I had breast cancer. I also remember wondering if thinking such a thing made me a vain person.

Upon leaving, I headed straight for home and probably an unsuccessful attempt at a nap.

That’s how I ended up with my first and only actual pink ribbon.

It was and still is pretty meaningless to me, but I do know one thing for sure, it did not make me feel any better.

Despite that fact, for some reason I’ve kept that tiny pink ribbon. It’s stashed away in the bottom of one of my unorganized drawers. I imagine it will stay there as some kind of reminder, although of what I’m not exactly sure.

So while there are indeed ten things wrong with the pink ribbon (and probably a whole more), I also understand how some women cling to it, or more than likely cling to a certain one, perhaps not that much unlike mine.

I imagine if a stranger handed me a pink ribbon today, I might have something quite different to say…

So there you have it, a tale of one pink ribbon.

Do have an actual pink ribbon or have you ever had one?

How do you feel about pink ribbons?

 

 

26 comments


  • When I was in treatment for my original breast cancer, my mother gave me a little pink rhinestoned ribbon lapel pin. She told me she was at work one day, and admired the pin on the lapel of a customer. She told the customer that her daughter was in treatment and that she was looking for a nice pin to give her (me), and asked from where she had obtained it. The woman took her pin from off her own blouse and handed it to my mom, with the instruction to give it to me. I have saved that pin (no, I don’t wear it anymore) because of the selfless way it came to me.

    • Nancy

      October 31, 2012

      Shelli, What a nice story about two kind gestures, your mom’s and that customer’s. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Teresa Rhyne

    October 31, 2012

    I have lots of pink ribbons and pink ribbon “stuff”–they all mean a lot to me because they were given to me by people who were thinking about me when I was diagnosed and in treatment.And for me, it’s really as simple as that.

    • Nancy

      October 31, 2012

      Teresa, I know exactly what you mean. I received some lovely items as well that mean a lot to me too. But this particular pink ribbon is the only actual ribbon I have ever received. I guess I keep it as a reminder of that time. Thanks for commenting. It’s good to hear from you.

  • Alli

    October 31, 2012

    When I was admitted for one of my several “mini vacations” after my white count dropped to zero thanks to Taxotere I had a roomie on the Oncology floor by the name of Barb. Barb was an amazing lady, very tall, elegant stylish and 78 years old. We soon became fast friends joking cajolling like two teenagers in a semi private room. Barb had Breast Cancer that had spread to several organs. Eating was difficult it was in her esophagus. She wanted things to be over all these extras of chemo and braca radiation on her esophagus was too much. She would say I want them to stop now. She used to wear a tiny pink ribbon with an Angel made from rhinestones. It’s small always on her nightie or lapel. One of her daughters gave it to her. The last time I was her roomie it ended up by sheer luck the second time I was admitted she was there again. Before I left after my brief 10 day sojourn she took my hand gave me the pin told me to wear it and remember her and when it was my turn to give it to someone else. In other words keep passing this pin. I knew this was the last time we’d see each other, I left for home, I received an email from her daughter telling me right after I left Barb went into hospice, she was ready she looked forward to her going she had her hubby waiting for her. I keep the little pin close to me I may not wear it necessarily but it’s always near by… It’s been 4 years since Barb died. I still stay in touch with her daughters. I so fondly remember the two of us laughing giggling like silly school girls the nurse having to come in telling us to keep the noise down to a dull roar……
    Love Alli……XX

    • Nancy

      November 1, 2012

      Alli, That is such a wonderful story. I can almost hear you two laughing and carrying on in that hospital room. I can only imagine how special that little pin is to you. Cherish the fond memories of your friendship with Barb and thanks for sharing a little about her with us here, Alli.

  • Lisa Valentine

    November 1, 2012

    Thanks for sharing this pink ribbon story Nancy. I keep some pink ribbon things that people gave to me when I was diagnosed because it reminds me of them and their care and concern. I now wear a purple wristband that says “Hope” because purple is the color for all cancers. For years, I wore one pink bracelet or another–mainly to think of my two sisters and others near and dear to me who are also BC survivors, and to memorialize those who have died of BC. That is as much pink as you’ll find on me, but I consider that a good pink.

    • Nancy

      November 1, 2012

      Lisa, I didn’t even know that about the color purple. I think it’s lovely you wore the pink bracelet too. Do you still wear it? Thanks for sharing about your “good” pink.

  • Cathey

    November 1, 2012

    While I’ve been in treatment I’ve really come to dislike pink. Thank goodness, it’s never been a staple in my wardrobe. I was given a ribbon pin and a bracelet that I keep because of the thoughtfulness of those who gave them to me, but I will probably never wear them. As you mentioned in “Ten Things Wrong With The Pink Ribbon” (great post!), the meaning has diminished over time.

    • Nancy

      November 1, 2012

      Cathey, It’s certainly understandable how you feel about pink, although the discontent isn’t really about pink or ribbons is it? It’s about their misuse. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  • Renn

    November 1, 2012

    I had the mammogram that would change it all on October 1, 2010 … the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness month. When I left the breast center that day, someone handed me a pink cloth bag with a pink ribbon on it. I thought that was weird. I’d just had my mammogram; obviously I was aware. I brought the bag home and stuffed it on a shelf in my office.

    About 6 weeks later I went in for my biopsy. As I was waiting for the technician to return from speaking with the radiologist, a woman walked into my room, handed me a pink packet of pamphlets and said “There’s really a lot of good information in here!” I thought that was really weird — because no one had mentioned the word cancer to me. All I knew was that I had dense breasts. But, I told myself that *everyone* must be getting this literature because it was Breast Cancer Awareness month. Except it was November. And I was obviously in denial.

    About a week after I got the news that indeed, I had cancer, I came across that pink bag. I threw it away. It just gave me the creeps.

    • Nancy

      November 1, 2012

      Renn, Thanks for sharing your “pink bag” story. It’s interesting that it seemed weird to you to receive it and that you eventually had to toss it out for your peace of mind.

  • Liz

    November 1, 2012

    I’m like Theresa – I’ve been given a range of pink ‘stuff’ along the way with the best of intentions…the kind thoughts behind the gifts was what meant something to me. It would feel weird to be offered one by a stranger, like happened to you – don’t know how I’d react to this! II always ‘out’ myself straight away to people selling pink products at fundraisers, etc,, to save us both the embarrassment that would result if any lectures about ‘awareness’ etc were to be launched into.

    • Nancy

      November 1, 2012

      Liz, Of course when we receive pink stuff from people who care about us, those things mean something else entirely different to us. Usually anyway. But getting that little pink ribbon from the store clerk that day just felt so strange, but yet I keep it. How we each react or don’t react to these things is pretty interesting. In this we are all unique too. Thanks for the comment.

  • Beth L. Gainer

    November 1, 2012

    Great post, Nancy! I admit I have a couple of pink ribbons collected at doctor’s offices. I don’t wear them ( I did right after treatment). It’s amazing how perspectives change from one year to the next, huh? Anyway, I find ribbons in general to be meaningless, but I also understand that, for some, these have great significance.

    • Nancy

      November 2, 2012

      Beth, The problem isn’t with pink or pink ribbons. The problem goes much deeper than that doesn’t it? And yes, our perspectives do evolve and change, but I guess that’s true regarding a lot of topics. It’s interesting you’ve kept your ribbons too, even those collected at doctors’ offices. Thanks for commenting.

  • Laurie

    November 2, 2012

    I was diagnosed with BC March 9, 2010. Went through lumpectomy, chemo, radiation. This past September, they found DCIS in the same breast and told me I’d need a mastectomy this time. I said no, you’re taking them both. As I type this, I am at home, recovering from a double mastectomy on the 24th of Oct. No one in my family has ever had any history of cancer. I had the genetic testing done, and it was negative. My cancer was not hormone receptive, either. I don’t work in a high-exposure environment type of job, so who knows what is causing this. Anyway, as far as the whole pink thing…when I was going through chemo and spent a lot of time in oncology I saw people in much worse shape, from much more invasive cancers, ones with a lot less hope for recovery. I thought about the whole pink ribbon thing. I wondered what all the colors were for all of the different cancers and if someone had more than one type, would people give them multi-colored ribbons? I realize that the ribbon concept was to bring awareness of types of cancers and hopefully promote a drive for people to donate to certain causes. But what do those ribbons stand for when you look at the actual patient? Is it a badge of courage, identified by a color? I think we would do well to make sure that money raised went to research and treatment, rather than more marketing. I see all of the pink attire and jewelry and “stuff” and think to myself, “I have no desire to wear that.” I’d much rather that someone give the money directly to research and treatment, than a vendor of coffee mugs and t-shirts. I know that the intent of “stuff” is to bring awareness to the general consumer. I’d much rather see less stuff and more action and care. One local radio station does “Checkups for Chicks,” taking women to mammogram screenings and inviting survivors to share their stories on the air in between music. They try to send the message home that early detection saves lives. I think this is a great way to do something proactive. Much better than them handing out ribbons, in my opinion.

    • Nancy

      November 2, 2012

      Laurie, First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis, not once but twice. That’s brutal. It’s a lot to handle. It sounds like you’ve been thinking a lot about this topic over time and I think you’ve come up with some valid points as a result of your observations. Thanks for sharing them. I hope you continue healing well. Thanks so much for chiming in on this. My best.

  • Nicki Boscia Durlester

    October 16, 2013

    I received a gold ribbon pin encrusted with pink rhinestones from a three-time breast cancer survivor. We had lunch following my bilateral mastectomy. She gave me a pep talk I will never forget. She passed away last year from what was believed to be residual complications from her own treatment. She was 77. I wore the pin she gave me to her funeral and noticed her daughter was wearing one too. That spoke volumes to me. Corinne Tarica Soriano’s memory will always be a blessing. Her pin is one of my prized possessions. I think I’ll take it out and wear it today. Thank you, Nancy.

    • Nancy

      October 16, 2013

      Nicki, What a wonderful treasure that gold ribbon pin turned out to be. Now whenever you wear it, you think of your dear friend and all she meant to you. That’s just beautiful. Thanks for sharing such a lovely memory with us, Nicki.

  • Helen Smith

    October 16, 2013

    My mother always proudly displayed her pink ribbon stuff, she felt she was honoring her mother and aunt. She always got that sort of stuff for me. My Aunt still buys it too, I guess it comforts us knowing it meant so much to her. Kind of makes me sad this time of year knowing what she went through. All she wanted was to make it to 50 and she was just 4 months shy of that. Even when she was sick we would go on the breast cancer walks. I do think there’s a ton of pink washing out there, but I have several mementos that I hold near and dear because they were so special to my mom.

    • Nancy

      October 16, 2013

      Helen, Pink stuff and pink ribbons certainly mean something entirely different when they are gifts given out of love. It’s touching how you still find comfort and feel a connection to your mother through pink mementos that you cherish. I’m very sorry for your loss, and there continue to be so many…Thank you for sharing your perspectives on this.

  • Elizabeth J.

    October 16, 2013

    When I was going through radiation, my path regularly crossed with an elderly Native American gentleman, who was also receiving treatment. One day he came to me and said he had made something for me. He gave me a pink and white beaded necklace with a pink ribbon made of silver. He told me it was to remind me God was with me and the many beads represented the many people praying for me. Needless to say, that is a pink “ribbon” I have kept.

    • Nancy

      October 16, 2013

      Elizabeth, That gift was a beautiful gesture. It will surely always be a special memento for you to treasure. Thanks for sharing about it.

  • Claudia Schmidt

    October 19, 2013

    Boy can I relate to your “coping by doing and keeping busy” mode which was pretty much how I survived the entire time I was going through chemo and my various surgeries.

    Re the pink stuff, I hate the marketing of it too, but I received quite a few pink ribbon things from people during my chemo (bracelets, necklaces, etc.) which I kept and will still keep even though I don’t wear them. The friends and family who gave them to me gave them with the spirit of love and support that makes them “honest” in my eyes. My beef isn’t with the pink stuff, it’s with the way it hides the real issues and gives women a false sense of security. But, I think until you’re faced with this diagnosis, you don’t really understand that BC is actually not curable, that the only reality is the hope to be NED.

    Your posts on how to educate women on the reality of breast cancer are so very helpful. Thank you for providing this info in such a straightforward and easy to understand way. I will share with others.

    • Nancy

      October 20, 2013

      Claudia, Sounds like your “beef” is much the same as mine! And of course there are all those dollars being spent on who knows what… It’s always worth asking, who is really profiting? Thanks very much for reading, commenting and sharing. I appreciate it.

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