Warning: This is a tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic sort of post. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone.
The Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale is a lie, and it really needs to go. No, it needs to be shredded and replaced with tales of reality. There is a time and place for fantasy, but breast cancer is not it.
What am I talking about when I say the pink ribbon fairy tale is a lie?
Well, here’s an example:
A Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale
Once upon a time, there was a Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale (PRFT) Woman of, shall we say, mature age. (After all, younger women don’t get breast cancer, do they? And men surely never do.) PRFT Woman had been having her mammograms every other year as recommended. She’d been checking her breasts regularly too.
One day in the shower, PRFT Woman discovered a tiny lump. (Because breast cancer always presents as a lump, does it not? Um, no.) Always the good girl, she made an appointment with her doctor, had a diagnostic mammogram to check out the “intruder”, proceeded to have a biopsy and unfortunately, “got the call” and heard “the words”.
But fear not. Hers was a “typical” cancer diagnosis. The catch it early, plan on a year out of your life and then get on with it, honey, sort of diagnosis. She was relieved hers was the “good” cancer.
You might want to read, A “Typical” Cancer Diagnosis, What’s That?
PRFT Woman eagerly pasted on the mandatory Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale smile and surrounded herself with people who only spoke in pink tones and pink sound bytes. She tuned out anyone and anything that even hinted otherwise. And of course, she wrapped herself in pink head to toe and even found time to run (not walk) in races proclaiming to find the cure.
(Btw, I have nothing against the color pink; I still love pink.)
PRFT Woman did, of course, allow herself a few moments of sadness, grief even, when she was wheeled into surgery for her bilateral mastectomy. I mean, that was hard. Even for PRFT Woman.
But again, fear not.
This was her opportunity to get a free boob job, was it not?
After all, breast reconstruction was some sort of perk from this whole deal, her friends reminded her. She was even able to now select the breast size of her dreams.
PRFT Woman’s cancer required chemo, and sure, she lost her hair. But what the heck. It was only hair and it’d grow back, she reminded herself, as did her family and friends. No big deal.
Since PRFT Woman’s breast cancer experience was “typical”, after a year or so, things got back to normal. She got back to normal.
She was as good as new. Heck, she was better than ever. After all, breast cancer had miraculously morphed her into a new and improved version of her former self. Out with the old. In with the new. Who knew?
Oh, I almost forgot. PRFT Woman lived happily ever after because breast cancer, being the “easy” cancer that it is, was an over and done deal. Yes, of course, it was.
Isn’t this how the Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale is supposed to go for everyone diagnosed with breast cancer?
Then perhaps you are doing things all wrong. Perhaps there is something wrong with you. Besides the cancer, of course.
Perhaps your story is not following the right script. There is only one way to make it in this Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale, and clearly, it’s not your way. You better get your hands on a copy of the How to Do Breast Cancer Right manual.
Sure, there are other slightly altered versions of the above tale. There are various adaptations. Some involve genetic mutations (but rarely because that tends to complicate the story lines), different types of breast cancers, different treatment courses or whatever. But a man as the main character? Forget about it. Not gonna happen. And what about stories featuring those living with MBC? Uh, uh. No one wants to hear their stories. Too sad.
Most Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale narratives carry within them similar themes.
Catch it early. Get your treatment plan. Do what you’re told. Smile your way through all of it. Don’t complain. Keep your chin up. Think positive thoughts only. And when your allotted year of typical treatment is up, damn it, find your new normal and then figure out all the lessons you’ve learned. And maybe climb a mountain or two for good measure.
I’m thinking you get my drift.
The above sort of Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale is a distortion of truth; in fact, it’s a lie.
The real breast cancer experience looks and feels quite a lot different. It is grounded in realities such as:
- Breast cancer is not the “good” cancer. (There is no good cancer.) Nor does it always present as a lump.
- Breast cancer is not an opportunity to get a free boob job. Nope. Nope. Nope.
- Men can and sometimes do get breast cancer too.
- Roughly 116 women, and yes, men die every day from metastatic breast cancer in the US alone. 6-10% are diagnosed de novo. 20-30% early stagers will develop metastatic disease at some point down the road.
- Breast cancer is not an enlightenment program. The experience does not automatically morph you into a new and improved version of your former self.
- The typical breast cancer experience (which doesn’t exist as no one’s experience is typical) steals way more than a year out your life. In fact, there isn’t an actual end date unless you’re talking about dying, which I am not.
- Objectifying women and trivializing a potentially deadly disease are both still going on, and neither is one bit funny.
- Breast cancer is not a pink ribbon, nor is it party-like and it sure as heck is not pretty. Not one tiny bit.
I could go on (and on), but again, I think you get my drift.
Sometimes, escaping from reality is a good thing.
Fairy tales have their place, for sure.
Breast cancer advocacy isn’t it.
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Why do you think the Pink Ribbon Fairy Tale persists?
What is one thing that irks you most about the typical pink fairy tale?
If applicable, what is something you want others to know about your breast cancer reality?
If you’re interested in a non-varnished “tale”, read my memoir. No sugarcoating. Guaranteed.