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Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land

If you’re like me and have been diagnosed with breast cancer, you will never forget the day you heard those words, you have cancer. You will likely never forget how you were then propelled into the maze of cancer treatment and survivorship. And btw, I don’t like the survivor label, and I avoid it whenever possible, but for some reason I don’t mind the term survivorship. Go figure. 

Somewhere along the way while trying to figure out the maze that is breast cancer, it can feel as if you’ve landed in what I like to refer to as, Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land.

Have you heard of it?

Have you been there?

What and where is Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land?

It’s a “place” where you are expected to enjoy, or at least tolerate, basking in all things pink.

Even if you’ve always disliked pink (I do like pink), suddenly well-meaning people may start sending you pink stuff to wear or pink “trophy” stuff for you to display. You might be expected to support one of those walks or races, or maybe even to consider walking or running in one yourself. If you pass, you might be seen as a bit ungrateful.

You notice it’s now often suggested that you should fight like a girl, kick cancer’s ass, show your tough side, don fighter’s gloves, keep that smile pasted on 24/7/365, relish wearing pink and, of course, just beat this thing. And perhaps it’s even subtly suggested that doing these things might  help you do it.

You are encouraged to be brave, strong, courageous and tough even if you feel you are the exact opposite.

Before you can turn around, it’s October, and you notice everything you want to buy (and don’t want to buy) has a pink ribbon slapped on it.

You hear and see on TV and read articles in magazines about celebrities who’ve also been diagnosed with breast cancer, and often they are proclaiming to have turned their lives around as a result. You listen to what they say because even though they are celebrities, like you, they have been diagnosed with cancer. There’s a bond. You look for the similarities because you want to see them. But usually they are smiling while looking calm, lovely and fully recovered (unlike you), appearing almost grateful to have had this experience, this “gift”. They’ve seen the light and they want you to see it too. They expect you to see it.

It seems everyone expects you to see it.

But you don’t. You can’t. Maybe you don’t even want to see it.

You start to wonder if you’ve missed something. If you’ve been doing cancer wrong all along. You doubt. You question. You wonder what’s wrong with you. Besides the cancer.

And you do this while trying your damnedest to adapt to an unfamiliar body you now occupy and are supposed to feel grateful for.

And you are. But you aren’t.

You miss your old, less “damaged” self and suspect know you always will.

You wonder what and where your new normal is and wonder why you cannot figure it out or find it.

From time to time you might feel angry, depressed, confused, surprised, disappointed, sad, weepy and/or a whole host of other ways. And then there’s the guilt and yes, sometimes the shame.

Suddenly pink feels suffocating.

To grab a copy of my FREE ebook, Pink Is Just a Color, Ribbons Are Just Ribbons: A collection of writings about Pinktober shenanigans, Click Here.

You are in Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land and you can’t find your way out.

Then one day someone, perhaps another “cancer misfit” like you, reaches out. She (or he) accepts, validates, does not judge, but rather listens and offers to help guide you through the maze.

And finally, you do find your way out.

You start to ease up on yourself and learn to go with the ebb and flow of your emotions.

You realize YOUR way of handling YOUR cancer is good enough.

It always has been.

YOU are good enough.

You always have been.

You choose reality. Your reality, not someone else’s, not the over-the-top-pinktified version.

You realize you don’t belong in Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land. You never did. Some like it there and this is fine. But you do not.

You can breathe again.

You are free. Not from the cancer, but from something else…

Goodbye, Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land.

Have you ever “visited” or “resided in” Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land, and if so, what was your impression of it?

How did you find your way out? (If you did and/or if you wanted to)

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Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land #breastcancer #breastcancerawareness #Pinktober

Beth L. Gainer

Thursday 20th of October 2016


This is a great post, and many people choose to reside in this Pink Fantasy Land because it's a lot more secure feeling than actual reality -- being vaulted into hell by diagnosis and treatment and beyond. For a short while I participated in pink stuff, but then I fell out of love with the pink ribbon pretty fast. But darn it, society keeps wanting to pin that ribbon on me again. Oy.


Friday 21st of October 2016

Beth, Some like it there, but it sure doesn't work for me. Or for you. Or for many. Thank you for sharing.


Wednesday 19th of October 2016

When the pink ribbon first came out I was right on board. I was pre-cancer and my pink ribbon announced to the world that I was a sister in arms, supporting those who were unfortunate enough to be diagnosed or living with the disease. I was so smug in my conviction that by simply buying that little pink ribbon, I'd be contributing to a cure. Maybe I even subconsciously thought that my little pink ribbon was a talisman that would ward off the disease in me. Anyway, it's funny how getting breast cancer changes your perspective on things. I don't want to slam anyone who is still in pink ribbon fantasyland because maybe its helping them or their family in some way. If the pink ribbon campaign is raising money for research, getting someone to that mammogram, or giving women a sense of solidarity, well and good. But for me, I'm done with it. I don't need a pink ribbon, or a pink pen, or a pink anything else to remind me that I don't have breasts anymore or that I've put my body through the hell that is chemo. And I sure as heck don't want anybody trivializing what I and others have been through by giving me or trying to sell me that little pink ribbon. Thanks for this great post!!


Friday 21st of October 2016

Lennox, Many of us start out in Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land and eventually decide to leave it. Perspectives do certainly change. And you're right, it works for some, probably many. Just not for everyone. Thank you for chiming in on this one.


Sunday 16th of October 2016

I think I lasted there maybe a month, and then escaped for good. But unfortunately, too many folks around me still occupy it & don't understand why I don't. Grrr. xoxo


Monday 17th of October 2016

Kathi, The "great escape", right? Thanks for reading and sharing.


Sunday 16th of October 2016

Nancy, this post is perfect! Some of the things you mentioned are very familiar. I've gone through different "stages" of awareness. I was once a non-cancer patient -- the type who did not want to be too exposed to this disease but still wanted to show some support in honor of those who have been diagnosed in my family. I was one who did not educate herself about this disease or any other disease that had not touched her. I did the walks and I wore some pink too! I followed what every one else was doing without questioning. Then I started losing people I cared about. I was forced to learn about reality. It took me having to go through the experience to see some truth -- the side effects, the emotional pain, broken relationships, and the realization that once we become citizens of cancerland, we stay there forever. This made me question everything. After being diagnosed, I felt pressured to stay/act positive but I could only handle this during treatments. Once treatments were finished, that was another story. I allowed myself to feel whatever I needed to. I don't pretend. I must say though, that the biggest realization I've had is that having been diagnosed with early cancer was not the biggest problem, the biggest problem is that there is no cure and so I worry always. Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land does not represent my reality and this is how I found my way out of it.

Cancer Curmudgeon

Saturday 15th of October 2016

Luckily I've always been a natural skeptic and never really resided in the fantasy island. I paid BCAM little ind before DX, and just found all the races, warrior women images and so forth mildly irritating. My first 2 Octobers in CancerLand (I was DXd Oct 2010, still in treatment in Oct 2011) I was too tired and fuzzy to care. 2012, that was when I really went nuts and Oct just made me crazy--and that's when I found your blog! These days I find October less of a nightmare than I used to. It's like watching Night of the Living Dead for me (the original): truly a frightening concept, but I've watched it so much that I can mentally tune it out mostly, it only bothers me if I look up and focus on it. And yes, film reference about mindless zombies intentional.


Monday 17th of October 2016

CC, You are lucky you never resided in Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land. Being a skeptic can really pay off sometimes! I like your film reference. It's spot-on. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on PRFL.


Friday 14th of October 2016

Yep, former resident of Pink Ribbon Fantasy Land here....Wow this post just nails it. Yep, upon hearing of my diagnosis, I was flooded in pink ribbon gifts. And I was glad to put on the happy face & "fight like a girl", wear the ribbon, walk the walks....didn't know any better at first. My own was my first & only experience with cancer. So I thought this is how it's done. Then, one day, it was like a light bulb came on....& I was just angry. And I left Fantasy Land & continue to give it the finger. Love this post! xx


Monday 17th of October 2016

Kimberly, I had a feeling you had been there. And yes, that light moment, I hear you. Thank you for reading and commenting too. xx

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