There are a lot of things wrong with the pinking of October, more commonly of course, known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). You can read about thirteen things wrong with all the shenanigans here. But the biggest failure of the whole darn month of pink madness (of course, none of this is really about pink at all) has been the near exclusion of metastatic breast cancer in almost every realm of the awareness hype for years and years now. It’s time for BCAM to “grow up” and more fully embrace the metastatic breast cancer community; in fact, it’s way past time.
In a month that is supposedly all about support, how can the segment of the breast cancer community most in need of that very support be the group most frequently shoved to the side lines?
When you think about it, this is not even logical. If we’re being logical, shouldn’t the group in greatest need get the most support?
Or shouldn’t there at least be some balance?
There has been so much emphasis on early detection for so long now that this is what most people hear and remember about the messaging. The messaging that says, catch it early and you’ll be fine. Maybe. Maybe not. Of course, early detection is a good thing, but it is not the whole story as 25-30% of breast cancers (regardless of stage at diagnosis) can and do metastasize later on, sometimes much later on. With all the attention given to early detection, the other end of the spectrum (the late stagers) has for the most part, been left out of the pretty- in-pink-picture-book-like breast cancer stories.
It’s time for BCAM to “grow up” and tell the whole story, which includes telling about the full spectrum of this disease, and at the same time, ditching the stigma so often attached to metastatic breast cancer.
Yes, there is stigma. There is a blame game that goes on when one is not diagnosed early, an unfair and inaccurate assumption sometimes made that if you did not catch it early, it is somehow your fault. If you did catch it early and yet your cancer metastasized, again, the stigma often comes in because sometimes it’s assumed that you must not have followed the how-to-do-breast cancer handbook carefully enough which, of course, is total BS.
This is all so unacceptable.
And how can it be that after all these years of awareness, so many people still know very little, or nothing at all, about metastatic breast cancer?
I say it’s because the complete story of breast cancer has not been shared for all these years, and not just in October. It’s like leaving the most significant chapter out of a book. There is a gaping hole in the story. The same could be said about BCAM. There has been a gaping hole in BCAM’s story for years.
This might be BCAM’s biggest failure of all.
It has been far easier and more marketable for pink ribbon culture to primarily portray the feel-good, let’s-put-a-happy-face on breast cancer mentality. It’s been assumed (wrongly IMO) that most people only want to see the positive, kick-ass, fighter dressed in pink who proudly punches out cancer kind of stories.
I believe most people want more. I believe most people want a truthful, complete, non-edited-down and not overly-pinktified version of breast cancer awareness.
People can handle the truth.
We all deserve nothing less and without a doubt; our sisters and brothers living with metastatic disease deserve more support (of all kinds) than they’ve been receiving in Octobers past. It’s time for that to change. In fact, it’s way past time. It’s time for BCAM to “grow up”.
Because as many of us have said time and time again, breast cancer awareness without mets awareness isn’t awareness at all.
We will not forget.
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When did you first learn about metastatic breast cancer?
If you are living with metastatic breast cancer, do you feel there is a stigma to a stage 4 diagnosis?