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Ten Breast Cancer Advocacy Quotes to Love – Which One Is Your Favorite?

For a change of pace, I thought it’d be fun, and hopefully inspiring, to share ten of my favorite breast cancer advocacy quotes. I hope you’ll let me know which one is your favorite, share a different one you love or share some words of wisdom of your own. (You know you have some!) Just comment at the end of the post.

Now, let’s get to some of those inspiring words from some amazing activists!

I’ll start with two of my favorites – both from the late activist, Barbara Brenner.

Brenner was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993. She died from complications of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord) in 2013. She was 61. Learn more about Barbara and read my review of So Much to Be Done:  The Writings of Breast Cancer Activist Barbara Brenner.

Being an activist is not for the faint of heart.

No kidding!

Another quote of Brenner’s that’s incredibly succinct and powerful (I’ve shared it in several posts) is this one:

If breast cancer could be cured by shopping, it would be cured by now.

Amen, right?

I love the following and unfortunately, I don’t know who first said it. I first heard it at a Living Beyond Breast Cancer event I attended a few years back, so it might be from one of the doctor speakers there. Important words with an important message for patients, especially those with metastatic disease:

Patients do not fail treatments. Treatments fail patients.

(If you know who first said this, let me know so I can give proper credit.)

I like this next one from my friend Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues, so much I concluded my memoir with it. It’s powerful and so true. I love it.

Cancer is not a ribbon, a screening test, or a leisure activity. It is not a sassy t-shirt, a proclamation of survivorship or a gift worth giving. It is a disease process that ignites what is all too often a cycle of medical surveillance and interventions. For too many, it will be the eventual cause of death.They deserve better than this, and so do we.

Audre Lorde, writer, feminist, poet, activist and author of the Cancer Journals, offered many gems of wisdom in her writings. Lorde was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978. She died from liver cancer in 1992. (I’m not sure if her breast cancer metastasized or if it was a new primary.) My favorite gem is this one:

Your silence will not protect you.

10 Breast Cancer Advocacy Quotes to Love, Which One Is Your Favorite? #breastcancer #breastcancerawareness #pintober #inspiration

So simple and yet, so powerful. I included it at the beginning of my memoir because it’s so meaningful to me. And not just regarding breast cancer activism.

Another Lorde quote I appreciate is the one below. Lorde was miffed after being chastised by a nurse for not wearing her prosthesis when arriving for a doctor appointment. Somehow by not doing that, she was undermining morale, according to that nurse anyway. Can you believe it? Shocking, not to mention darn-right insensitive, cruel even. Perhaps her experience with that nurse was behind the words below, or the ones above, for that matter.

If we are to translate the silence surrounding breast cancer into language and action against this scourge, then the first step is that women with mastectomies must become visible to one another. For silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness.

I simply MUST include the following words of wisdom about the normalization of breast cancer from Barbara Ehrenreich:

The effect of all this positive thinking is to transform breast cancer into a rite of passage–not an injustice or a tragedy to rail against but a normal marker in the life cycle, like menopause or grandmotherhood. Everything in mainstream breast cancer culture serves…to tame and normalize the disease:  the diagnosis may be disastrous, but there are those cunning pink rhinestone pins to buy and races to train for.

And yet another favorite quote from Ehrenreich is this one below about forced positivity – a topic that you likely know by now is one of my hot-button topics. Ugh!

Positive thinking seems to be mandatory in the breast cancer world, to the point of where unhappiness requires a kind of apology…

If you haven’t read Ehrenreich’s book, Bright Sided:  How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, I highly recommend that you do. Only one chapter is devoted to breast cancer. Not surprisingly, it’s my favorite one.

I’m not entirely sure who first said the words below, but Barbara Brenner says them in the movie documentary, Pink Ribbon, Inc. – a powerful film, if you haven’t seen it.

When ordinary people do a simple thing, it changes the world.

Pretty darn inspiring, right?

I love these words from my friend and fellow blogger, Lisa Valentine. Lisa blogs at Habitual Gratitude. Do check it out. She also wrote one of my favorite posts on the blog, The Sum of All My Parts. I love it. If you haven’t read it, you will too. This quote is from that post:

The sum of my parts makes me whole. I don’t feel less of a woman without breasts, just a woman less her breasts.

Profound. Beautiful. And so true. Thank you, Lisa.

I hope you enjoyed this post and the quotes from some amazing women.

I’ll wrap it up with a few words of my own, for whatever they’re worth:

Cancer was not a gift and it didn’t make me a better person. It’s a horrible disease not an enlightenment program.

Now it’s YOUR turn!

Which one is your favorite quote and why?

Do you have a quote that’s meaningful to you that you’d like to share?

What words of wisdom would YOU like to share? Again, you know you have some!

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If you like this post, please share it. Thank you!

Cancer was not a gift & it didn't make me a better person. It's a horrible disease not and enlightenment program. #breastcancer #breastcancerawareness #inspiration #advocacy #pinktober

Three Prongs to Pinktober's Problems
#BreastCancerRealityCheck - Readers Share Realities About Life Post-Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Amy Olsson

Sunday 25th of October 2020

Nancy, Thanks for a great site . I think the quote about positivity resonated with me. After 8 years dealing (no, not thriving) with cancer I tried to join support groups and was shocked to learn that metastatic bc patients were not welcome in groups for early stagers, “survivors “ or rehab programs. I was told flat out that it might frighten early stagers to hear what we go through. I get that actually— It’s appealing to think that you have successfully “battled and won” and you can now get back to your life . But my perspective is different now, and I wish there was a way to unite previvors, survivors and- well, the rest of us.

Recently started a new treatment and my tumor markers dropped. Can’t tell you how many people said— well done! Much appreciated but when (not if) this 7 th line of treatment fails me— that’s when I could use the pat on the back and maybe a shoulder to cry on. At a safe social distance I guess...


Monday 26th of October 2020

Amy, I am sorry a support group made you feel unwelcome. That sort of thing drives me crazy! I mean, come on. Support groups should be supporting all of us. Doing anything else is completely unacceptable. We have to be united. We just have to be. And yeah, those comments. Don't be afraid to say what you said here to those people - if you feel like it, of course. Thank you for sharing your important insights. May your 7th line of treatment keep working for a long, long time.

Lisa Valentine

Wednesday 21st of October 2020

Nancy, I sure appreciated reading this post again, and the mention of my words. They are words I am really proud of and I remember how healing it was for me to arrive at them 2-3 years after my active treatment and surgeries. I love the other quotes you selected to include, and especially am reminded of the wonderful work done by Barbara Brenner with Breast Cancer Action. To be on a list with Brenner, Gayle Sulik, Audre Lorde, and Barbara Ehrenreich is an honor. Thank you!


Thursday 22nd of October 2020

Lisa, You're welcome. I love those words of yours, and I love that guest post you wrote. Your words belong on that list of great quotes! Thank you for reading and taking time to comment. Hope you are staying safe and well.

Carol A Miele

Wednesday 16th of October 2019

Once I was over the shock of a Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis, I decided to make the best of every day I was blessed with. My new mantra became, "If you can't put more years into your life, put more life into your years." I came up with this notion during the writing of my 1st book, 'Metastatic Madness'.


Saturday 19th of October 2019

Carol, Thank you for sharing you mantra, Carol. xx


Wednesday 21st of November 2018

Thanks for this blog cancer is an expérience of dis empowerment and confrontation of abondance.. after jour treatments you would need To overcome and is encounter with the face of death and the traces on your body but everyone is expecting you to reload as if nothing happened... but the meaning of your life is what needs repair now. Mylene

Catherine Foy

Sunday 28th of October 2018

Hi Nancy , All those quotes resonate so much. I really liked the quote from Barbara Ehrenreich on the normalisation of cancer and it being considered a near rite of passage. Unfortunately that may be true for those who are lucky enough to be healthy but when it knocks on your door, it becomes an entirely different reality. Best wishes Catherine


Monday 29th of October 2018

Catherine, Ehrenreich's words really speak to me too. I love how she called out the pink bullshit and didn't mince words doing it. And yes, that entirely different reality - no kidding. Thank you for reading and commenting too.

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