These Things Are Not Tied with a Pink Ribbon (Breast Cancer Awareness Month)

September 29th, 2011 § 11 comments

I hate October now. I don’t even like the color pink anymore. I get cranky in the last days of September when I start seeing everything from toilet paper to staplers colored pink and sporting a pink ribbon. It’s not that I don’t want attention called to the disease that affects so many people including me; it’s more that I think the focus has gotten misplaced. I don’t support Susan G. Komen Foundation anymore; I think they have lost their way. There is good research going on in many places, but I have come to question the line between commerce and research with Komen’s support of everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken to alcoholic beverages to its own perfume while simultaneously trying to prevent anyone else from using the phrase “For the Cure.” What happened to thinking we are all in this together, trying to achieve the same goals?

Last year I tried to think about awareness and what it means to me. I wrote this and it quickly became my most-read blogpost. It still describes how I feel, it still expresses some of the emotions I have.


I wish I had the energy of my youth.
I wish I had the body.
I wish I had the fearlessness, the spunk, the drive.

I wish I could have a conversation with that young girl,
bright-eyed and full of wonder.
I wish I could tell her what lay ahead.

I wish I could tell her to gather strength, and wisdom, and patience like a squirrel gathering acorns for the winter.
“Save those things up,” I’d say, “you are going to need them… every last bit.”
I wish I could share the perspective I’ve gained along with all of the love.

But I can’t go back to that time,
I can’t go back to that place.
I can’t rewrite what’s happened,
I can’t do it all again.

I guess I must have done something right along the way for when it came time to fight I did,
and I did it well.
But that struggle took its toll on me and I am quite sure I will never, ever be the same.

You tell yourself “they’re only breasts.”
You say, “I don’t need ovaries, I’m done having children.”
But that obscures the truth.
The truth is that it does matter,
they do matter.
They say my uterus is atrophied.
It almost sounds funny when you say it.

“Who cares? What does that matter?”
It does. It does. It does.
To get rid of all hormones gives me a better chance at avoiding a recurrence, but there is a price to be paid.
No estrogen matters more than I ever thought it could.

It feels worse than taking injections to suppress my ovaries, worse than taking Tamoxifen. Those were easy. I had no clue what was ahead.

I wear the skirt, I put the makeup on, I walk the walk.
But I do not feel like a woman anymore.
I’m proud of what this body has done for me:
3 beautiful children,
surviving cancer,
healing the broken bones, the infections, the autoimmune diseases.
There is no week without migraines,
no cold winter day without icy implants.

Beneath the pretty lies ugly,
the ugly truth of cancer
and what it has taken from me.

While some may be able to go on,
move on,
I cannot.
My body will not let me.

These things are not tied with a pink ribbon.

These things last longer than a month.
This is part of awareness.

This is part of what breast cancer can do.
This is what it has done to me.

§ 11 Responses to These Things Are Not Tied with a Pink Ribbon (Breast Cancer Awareness Month)"

  • Becky Sain says:

    I still think this is beautiful.

  • Kate says:

    Ditto. My favorite article on this topic, of which I’m certain you are familiar, is Barbara Ehrenreich’s Welcome to Cancerland. Also, consider promoting #Pinkwashing. And thank you for posting this again

  • Pamela Carlson says:

    So good.

    For me, this time of year is not just a generic reminder; it’s also when I was diagnosed with DCIS in 2007. I don’t quite hate the color pink, but I don’t wear it much in October.

    I agree about the Komen Foundation–perfume? KFC? No, no.

  • joannefirth says:

    Thank you for reposting this amazing piece. I cried when I read it last year. I’m crying as I read it now. Tears replace words sometimes. xo

  • JoAnn Kirk says:

    I stopped supporting the Komen Foundation when I read how much the CEO makes. Then I read that only 29% of the money donated gets used for research. That infuriates me.

    Besides, I have an orphan cancer with no money, few studies, no answers. That really makes me resent PINK month.


  • Pam Parker says:

    Thanks so much for this heartfelt, moving post. I’ve recently written too about my loathing of the pink pushers. Thanks for sharing. Good luck to you. And, peace.

  • Kristina Riggle says:

    Today, this very day, is one year since my beloved mother-in-law died of a cancer that doesn’t get a month or color or ribbon. I’ve been afraid to talk about my resentment about all the pink ribbons because I don’t want to hurt my friends who have been hurt by breast cancer, by making them think that I’m criticizing their pain, or putting their grief lower on some kind of heirarchy. Some dear friends lost their mother to breast cancer just a few months after my husband’s mother died.

    So thank you for helping me feel I’m not alone.

    This is why my family supported the Relay for Life last year. Cancer is a scourge no matter what the flavor.

  • marci says:

    great post. all of it. i can so relate. i dread pinketypinkpink october month too. for so many reasons. am glad you wrote about it.

  • Rachel Martin says:

    I too am a DCIS survivor – diagnosed at 39 and although I seem fine now, I will never be the same and remain in annual fear of it’s return. I have never liked pink. As a Native New Yorker, I wear black all the time and often stick out like a black thumb in this suburban Mecca. I am a loner but never have I felt more alone then when on that operating table or when receiving radiation. And you’re right – it all does matter. I keep on truckin’ for me, for my kids. But you can’t tie it up in a pink bow to make it all better.

  • Eileen McNerney says:

    Thank you! I was paranoid today about loss and a recurrence of cancer . . . I found your blog my miraculous accident. I’ve thrown out all the pink doo-dads that were given to me during my cancer treatment. Still . . . I can see that life has made me stronger than I know. Your reflection made me feel not so alone . . . onwards to tomorrow!

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