The Antidote to Pink Fatigue

© Pam Stephan

October tends to be a stressful month for me. School is back in full swing with a panoply of activities requiring my chauffer skills. My program year at work begins in earnest, interrupted – good and bad – by a series of holidays. While I enjoy the celebration, the office closures don’t seem to change the work demands.

And then there is PINK.

It’s hard to explain why, as a women living with metastatic breast cancer, I don’t jump on the pink bandwagon.

It supports me, right? Well, no. Wrong. Remarkably wrong.



The Stolen Color From My Rainbow

ImageI’ve been pondering this post for about nine months, since October, when our concerns with “pinkwashing” peak each year. That is when it first occurred to me that I resent giving up pink. Today’s release of the new film Pink Ribbons, Inc. prompted my return to the subject. (I already have my tickets for tonight’s showing at the Laemmle.)

I have never been a huge fan of pink. Too girly, maybe or too cheerful for my “take no prisoners” and follow no rules self. But that does not change the fact that pink should be mine to reject, not “theirs” to take away. The color has been usurped by the cause marketing world as a vehicle for selling products, most of which do nothing to impact breast cancer.

As the movie explains, the ribbon didn’t even start out as pink in the first place. It began in the early ‘90s as a peach ribbon, created by Charlotte Haley, whose grandmother, sister and daughter all had breast cancer. Ms. Haley used handmade ribbons to bring awareness to the lack of funds directed toward breast cancer prevention by NCI. She is rumored, ironically, to have rejected Estee Lauder when they approached her about co-opting the ribbon as a broader symbol of anything but her personal awareness campaign. Enter pink…

In the breast cancer world pink may be the most divisive thing of all! Some love it, some hate it, but no one seems to be quiet about it. The division doesn’t help us! We, the breast cancer community, must come together. We must give up the pink war. We must use the vast resources at our disposal to strategically focus on curing breast cancer. We need to prevent disease. We need better treatment. We need prevent metastasis. And we need to prevent people from dying. We don’t need pink.

A few weeks ago I came home with new pajamas. As I was putting them away husband noticed and said, “But they’re pink…” Yes, they were pink! Why shouldn’t they be? I want the beauty of my rainbow back, in all its colors!

How Do We Go Forward?

I should have known better than to go to sleep with a half-written piece in the midst of a 24-hour news cycle on this one. However, I was pleased to greet the news that Komen is reversing its decision to defund Planned Parenthood, and so I begin again.

The news is good, and not for me. It is good for the thousands upon thousands of women’s whose lives depend on the healthcare provided by Planned Parenthood, women whose cancer is discovered or minds set at ease thanks to the breast cancer screenings provided. THOSE are the women we can’t lose site of in this controversy. More

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